Investigating the rising population in UK prisons

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Investigating the rising population in UK prisons

The prison population in the UK has increased dramatically in recent decades The number of incarcerated men and women in England and Wales rose over 65 between 1995 and 2009 going from 49500 to 82100 Ministry of Justice 2009 A comparable increase over a similar time period has also been seen in the USA the prison population increasing 53 from 1053738 in 1994 to 1613656 in 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics 1995 2010 In England and Wales this can be partly explained by tougher sentencing for drugrelated crimes and violent offences against the person as well as a higher recall rate of offenders to prison due to the breach of their release agreement Ministry of Justice 2009 similar trends can be seen in the USA Hanlon et al 2007

Increasing prison population means that proportionally more parents go to prison and research has shown that there is a correlation between parental incarceration and negative outcomes for the offspring Huebner and Gustafson 2007 Foster and Hagan 2007 There are however no official records on prisoners families in the UK Murray 2005 or in the USA Miller 2006 and the available data is often unreliable due to the incompleteness and duplication of records Miller 2006 Lack of methodologically strong research means that the needs of prisoners families may be neglected it is important to investigate how imprisonment affects this vulnerable group and which policies could ameliorate their situation Dallaire 2007 Incarceration may affect all family members including parents siblings and more distant relatives yet the developmental influences are greatest on the children of prisoners and therefore for the purposes of this essay I define family as a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit OUD 2011 I aim in this essay to discuss the effects of imprisonment on prisoners family members during incarceration first by exploring the current theoretical framework that helps to explain the consequences of parental incarceration and then by investigating the effects of parents imprisonment on children and the wider family mainly drawing on studies carried out in the USA and the UK There is an important difference in the observed impact between maternal and paternal imprisonment on the family and I will discuss this before finally identifying the limitations of existing research and suggesting how research could inform policies to help prisoners families

There are three main theoretical frameworks that try to explain the devastating consequences of parental imprisonment on their offspring strain theory socialisation and control theory and stigmatisation Strain theory discusses how the deteriorating situation of family left behind by an imprisonment negatively affects a child According to strain theory the imprisonment of a parent may lead to difficulties in the familys financial status whereby the remaining caretaker has less time and money to spend on the child Hagan and Dinovitzer 1999 Children are forced to grow up faster as they need to take on new roles of responsibility this may deter them from education and subsequently increase the influence of delinquent peers on their behaviour Huebner and Gustafson 2007 Also as the burden of supporting the family has fallen into the hands of a single person the imprisonment can cause an already financially and emotionally strained family to suffer further exertion making the separation from the parent more traumatising than if the same event had occurred in a stable supportive family environment Hagan and Dinovitzer 1999 However parental incarceration may have a good effect on offspring if the parent was abusive and neglectful Hagan and Dinovitzer 1999

Socialisation and control theory focuses not on the remaining support for the growing child but instead looks at the effects of the absence of the imprisoned parent on the development of the child According to this second perspective the incarcerated parent cannot contribute to the family li

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