When the Innocent are Punished

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


When a person commits a crime and is punished with imprisonment, it can be a very tough ordeal for the relatives. This is certainly the case when parents are imprisoned and one or more children are left behind. In a sense, the short glimpses of the various “family scenes” in the previous chapter and the children’s own stories and emotional reactions tell us almost everything. The naked, straightforward and almost archetypical accounts of loss, fear and anxiety clearly illustrate how imprisonment can affect some prisoners’ children particularly hard and have extensive negative repercussions on their daily life, well-being and future.


Police Officer Prison Population Parental Imprisonment Prison Officer Prison Staff 
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    Robert J. Sampson makes a similar point in “The Incarceration Ledger. Toward a New Era in Assessing Societal Consequences”, Criminology & Public Policy 10, no. 3 (2011), 819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Like many others, I have previously been inspired by Foucault and have written about prisons and technologies of power. See, for example, Peter Scharff Smith, “A Religious Technology of the Self — Rationality and Religion in the Rise of the Modern Penitentiary”, Punishment and Society 6, no. 2 (2004a), 195–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Using the term collateral damage in this context is inspired by Oliver Robertson, Collateral Convicts: Children of Incarcerated Parents. Recommendations and Good Practice from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Day of General Discussion 2011 (Geneva: United Nations, March 2012).Google Scholar
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    See the final report from the project: Lise Garkier Hendriksen, Janne Jakobsen and Peter Scharff Smith, Børneansvarlige I Kriminalforsorgen — Fokus på de indsattes børn (Copenhagen: The Danish Institute for Human Rights, 2012).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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