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‘Clinging On’: Prison and the Changing Landscape of a Family

Families in Motion: Ebbing and Flowing through Space and Time

ISBN: 978-1-78769-416-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-415-6

Publication date: 25 October 2019


The title of this chapter was inspired by Martin, a prisoner the author met while conducting fieldwork. Martin remarked that, despite the common rhetoric around prisoners ‘maintaining’ their family ties, the reality was that during imprisonment it became more about trying to cling on to them. Imprisonment is perhaps one of the most brutal disruptions a family can undergo, leaving them little choice but to adapt to this enforced transition. Immediately, the spaces where family life can happen narrow severely and become dictated by the prison environment and the plethora of rules that regulate it. The immediate physical separation, onerous restrictions on physical contact and the heavily surveilled nature of family contact during imprisonment constricts space for emotional expression, often rendering romantic relationships clandestine and fatherhood attenuated. Further, the temporal space for family is reduced as limited opportunities for visits lead prisoners to eschew contact with wider family members and prioritise their ‘nuclear’ family. Drawing on empirical research conducted at two male prisons in England and Wales, this chapter then, will detail the complexities of how families navigate this transition and the limitations on what family can mean in the prison environment. The chapter will conclude with the implications of these restrictions for the ultimate transition when prisoners return ‘home’.



Hutton, M.A. (2019), "‘Clinging On’: Prison and the Changing Landscape of a Family", Murray, L., McDonnell, L., Hinton-Smith, T., Ferreira, N. and Walsh, K. (Ed.) Families in Motion: Ebbing and Flowing through Space and Time, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 39-55.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Marie Anne Hutton