Scenes from Family Life

  • Peter Scharff Smith
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


One Saturday night in Denmark, Malene, Carina and Tenna’s father was arrested. Carina explained that her little sister had hardly woken up before a police officer ordered a dog to jump up onto the bed to sniff out drugs: “My little sister screamed as loud as she could. We had to leave the room so the officer could check it for drugs. When we were on the way out of the room, he opened my drawers and began throwing my underwear and other things all over the place. It was so insulting, I felt like I was the criminal.” The father was arrested, and the girls (who were 18, 16 and 14 years old, respectively) were left behind — apparently without the police having contacted any family members or the social authorities, or even asking if the girls had somewhere to go. Seven days later, the eldest girl visited their father in prison. Tenna, the youngest, didn’t want to go along. She was still very upset and mostly stayed in bed for the two months following the arrest. After three and a half months in remand custody, the girls’ father was sentenced to three years. Malene and Carina had a poor relationship with their mother and her boyfriend, so they continued living in their father’s house. They worked as much as they could after school and studying, but despite their efforts, the house was put on a foreclosure auction after six months. The girls then moved into an apartment, and Carina applied to the municipality for financial assistance. She received half of the rent for three months.1


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  1. 2.
    Annelie Björkhagen Tureson, Mor i fängelse — mödrer och barn berätter. En analys av ungdomars resiliensprocess (Gothenburg, Sweden: University of Gothenburg, 2009), 11.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Interview quoted from Janne Jakobsen and Peter Scharff Smith, Børn af fængslede. En informations- og undervisningsbog [Children of Imprisoned Parents. A Handbook for Relatives and Professionals] (Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur, 2011).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    The interview quote is from Else Christensen, Forældre i fængsel — en under-søgelse af børn og forældres erfaringer [Parents in Prison — A Study of Children’s and Parents’ Experiences] (Copenhagen: The Danish National Centre for Social Research, 1999), 37 f. It is not apparent who was responsible for 1½ and 2½ months passing by before the visits were established.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Scharff Smith 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Scharff Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Danish Institute for Human RightsDenmark

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