Chair: Friedrich Lösel

Mind the Gap: the potential and reality of relationships between (ex)prisoners, their partners and families

Building: B
Room: 21


Author: Dennison Susan, Griffith University

Lisa Broidy, University of New Mexico, Kirsten Besemer, Griffith University
Title: Families as Potential Re-‘Turning Points’ in the Desistance Process: a Longitudinal Qualitative Study
Turning points are seen as important junctures in the desistance process and can include new prosocial relationships. There is also evidence that people are less likely to reoffend if they can access support from existing family relationships upon release from prison. However, most prisons do not adequately support family relationships and families are not usually included in re-entry programs. Therefore a person’s release from prison can be a source of heightened family stress which is counterproductive to desistance. This paper draws on interviews with caregivers of children with a father in prison to address three research questions 1) To what extent, and in which ways, do families plan to encourage the desistance of fathers when they leave prison? 2) To what extent do families’ plans and expectations match the re-entry experience? 3) What role did families play in desistance efforts post-release? The study includes two waves of data from 26 Australian households experiencing paternal incarceration. Initial interviews took place during the father’s imprisonment, with follow-up interviews four to five years later. Results are discussed with respect to the extent that family plans for prisoner re-entry were consistent with known drivers of desistance. We identify anticipated and unanticipated challenges families experienced in enacting their plans. We discuss the effectiveness of strategies and ways for correctional services to work with families to facilitate desistance.
Keywords: desistance, prisoner re-entry, families, paternal incarceration
Author: Lanskey Caroline, University of Cambridge

Friedrich Lösel, University of Cambridge, Lucy Markson, University of Cambridge, Sophie Ellis, University of Cambridge, Jennifer Barton-Crosby, University of Cambridge, Karen Souza, City University.
Title: Change and Stability in (Ex)Prisoners' Families Over Time: Towards an Understanding of Resilience in Families Who Have Experienced Paternal Imprisonment
Little is known about the long-term impact of paternal imprisonment on family patterns and relationships. To address this issue, this paper presents findings from the Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) study on changes to the structures and relationships of 51 families in England who experienced paternal imprisonment seven years' previously. This prospective longitudinal research study, funded by the ESRC, builds on the project ‘Risk and Protective Factors in the Resettlement of Imprisoned Fathers with their Families.’ The earlier project collected two waves of data from fathers, mothers and children aged 4 years and above, once during and once shortly after the father’s prison sentence. The present study is collecting a third wave of data from the families approximately seven years after the father's release. Emerging findings indicate that over this time the majority of family groupings have changed and approximately 22% of fathers have served another prison sentence. Drawing on quantitative descriptive data and qualitative case study data, we discuss reasons for stability and change in prisoners’ families’ structures and relationships including contact with the criminal justice system, domestic violence, and substance addiction. We consider the contribution of these early findings to understanding resilience processes in (ex)prisoners’ families including the process of supporting the father’s desistance from crime.
Keywords: parental imprisonment, prisoners' families, resilience, desistance
Author: Dodds Charlotte, University of Surrey

Title: A Comparison of the Experiences of Male and Female Prisoners’ Partners: Early Findings From a Mixed Methods Study at Six English Prisons.
Research has shown that the partners of prisoners experience an array of adverse effects upon their loved one’s imprisonment, with the absence affecting them psychologically, socially, and financially. Yet, the bulk of these studies has focused on the experiences of female partners of male prisoners. Adopting a mixed methods approach, this study compares the experiences of the partners of male and female prisoners, filling a void in the literature, and exposing the realities of individuals in a current or previous relationship with a prisoner. Through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, this research explores whether there are variations in the experiences of different types of intimate partners i.e. those in relationships with imprisoned women or imprisoned men, in either heterosexual, or same-sex relationships. The research challenges whether the ‘typical’ effects of having a partner in prison are experienced in the same way for these different groups. Implications for visitation and resettlement policies in prison will be assessed in light of these findings.
Keywords: prisoners' partners, sex and gender, prison visits, resettlement
Author: Ellis Sophie, University of Cambridge

Caroline Lanskey, University of Cambridge, Jennifer Barton-Crosby, University of Cambridge, Lucy Markson, University of Cambridge, Friedrich Lösel, University of Cambridge
Title: Transience and Transition: Retaining Participants in the Families and Imprisonment Research Study. What Lessons Can Be Learned?
This paper reviews the challenges of longitudinal research with families affected by paternal imprisonment. It describes lessons learned and strategies adopted in the Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) study; the first study in Europe to collect multiple waves of data from individual (ex)prisoners, their partners and children. It aims to 1) enhance longitudinal research with prisoners’ families by highlighting specific challenges and solutions, 2) discuss the unique challenges of sampling family sets and 3) consider challenges/opportunities for longitudinal research presented by technology. The FAIR study adopts a mixed methods design exploring the impact of paternal imprisonment on resilience-related outcomes for 51 families over three time points in a 7 year period. This paper presents data on retention rates; the success of different recruitment strategies and fieldwork experiences. It gives particular attention to families from ethnic minority groups. Emergent themes are the practicalities of locating participants; the salience of interpersonal communication and relationship building; and ethical decision making regarding tracking and recruitment. Specific strategies for minimising attrition are suggested.
Keywords: prisoners' families, longitudinal research, retention strategies
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