From Research to Reform: Improving the Experiences of the Children and Families of Incarcerated Parents in Europe

  • Peter Scharff SmithEmail author


The degree to which prisons influence the families of those imprisoned is a relatively recent “discovery,” which calls for significant penal reforms. Experiencing a family member’s incarceration can be positive, for example, when the incarcerated individual was violent or abusive. However, it is much more likely that a family member’s incarceration can lead to negative effects such as economic hardship, change in family structure, health problems, and child behavior changes. Starting with the Convention on the Rights of Children, researchers and programs began to address the standards of the rights of children and discuss ways in which this standard can be applied to practice. In Denmark, during a time in which politics focused on penal populism, conversations which centered around the impact of incarceration on children were key to the begining of a series of research projects intended to inform prison reform efforts. First, a project conducted from 2007 to 2010 focused on how the children of incarcerated parents were treated by the state representatives who they encountered during their parent’s incarceration. A second project suggested that while prison experiences can largely vary from place to place, the problems that children of incarcerated parents experienced are all very similar, which created a platform for a dialogue of reform. The third project focused on alleviating some of the problems that children of incarcerated parents experience, such as training children’s officers to anchor the child’s perspective in the prisons. Over the past few years, Danish prisons have adopted key recommendations from these projects, including training children’s officers, creating child-friendly visiting facilities, and funding the transportation of children who would like to visit.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Sociology of LawUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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