Contemporary Research and Analysis on the Children of Prisoners: Invisible Children

In March 2017, researchers, advocates and NGOs from twelve countries came together in Rotorua, New Zealand, for the first conference of the International Coalition for the children of incarcerated parents. The Coalition had been formed the previous year to recognise that similar issues faced the children of prisoners all over the world. From the first arrest until release from prison, the system is stacked against the child. Justice systems are all about punishing individuals, and are, as one conference speaker noted, ‘child blind’.

The papers in this collection cover many of the themes in the wider literature on the children of prisoners. Advocacy themes include moving towards child-friendly prison systems, using mass incarceration to influence wider social change, the effects of pre-trial detention on families, the particular issues in Hawaii, and how arrest and detention procedures harm children.

A set of papers reflect contemporary research and analysis on the children of prisoners. One paper sets out ‘12 guiding principles’ for working with children and families of the incarcerated. Others look at how babies and young children react to parental imprisonment, as well as children who are resilient in the face of it. Two papers consider women: one on mothers involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospital and the other examining the difficulties in maintaining family ties when a mother is sent to prison. Another contribution looks at an initiative between university and community set up to ‘expand knowledge and inspire change’ for the children of prisoners. One paper examines the difficult issue of supporting families where a parent has been convicted of a sexual offence. Also discussed in this volume are the Tyro programme that works to break the cycles of self-destruction for the children of prisoners and case studies of prison staff ‘making a difference’ in child and family visiting.


Liz Gordon, PhD, LLB, MRSNZ is a former university academic and a former politician in New Zealand. She now runs Pukeko Research Ltd, a private research organisation operating within the community and government sectors. She is an Adjunct Fellow at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, and President of Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou, a national organisation working with the families of prisoners. Her research focuses on intersectional work in the areas of justice, social policy and education, particularly exploring inequalities and poverty. In 2017, she organised the first conference of the International Coalition for the Children of Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP), which was held in Rotorua, New Zealand.

"This new book, edited by Liz Gordon, brings together scholars, researchers, practitioners, advocates and those with lived experience, to highlight a sadly hidden issue in communities across the globe - the plight of children who experience parental imprisonment. What is provided is an excellent introductory text, for those wishing to develop a broad understanding of some of the history and well as the current situation for this group. As such, the book will be of interest to those working with children and families, as well as students of social work, criminology and law. The authors are drawn from a wide range of international settings, which allows the reader to get a 'feel' for both the variations and the similarities in the experiences and responses. The chapters present a range of perspectives, drawing from research conducted, as well as reflections from practice. The overall text gives a clear indication of the range of negative outcomes for children, highlights gaps in our current understanding and responses, and notes areas of specific concern, but also clearly notes good practices and the importance of a strengths-based framework."

Dr Catherine Flynn Department of Social Work, Monash University

"This clever and thought-provoking resource covers all the main themes around children of prisoners’ research and includes some practice perspectives. This is beneficial as the book further provides an in-depth internal perspective, by bringing together top researchers, practitioners and experts in this field. The book provides a 360-degree view of issues which children of prisoners may face daily, making it a vital resource for all wanting an overview of how parental imprisonment may impact children globally. Lastly, the book has a great amount of theory, provides a contemporary approach to working with prisoners’ children, policy recommendations and tips for reducing recidivism.  Therefore, it is a suitable resource for academics, students or even to be used as a course book in criminology, social work or community / policy sociology."

Ivana Mlinac, University of Auckland

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-0359-3

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-0359-5

Release Date: 4th December 2017

Pages: 290

Price: £61.99

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