Distance Matters: Parenting in Prison

Where prisons are matters – not just for the local inhabitants of surrounding areas concerned for their house prices or their employment prospects, but for the families of the incarcerated who face problems in visiting prisoners when they are held at distance from home, and for imprisoned parents who want to see their children.

In New York, USA, two politicians have recently introduced bills that would establish a pilot program for 60 parents to be incarcerated near their children. According to a piece in the NY Daily News, although more than 73% of incarcerated women in New York are mothers and roughly 100,000 New York children have a parent in prison, the state Department of Corrections makes no provisions for parents when it assigns them to prisons across New York state.

The impact of distance on the experience of imprisonment, particularly for mothers with young children, is the focus of  a recently completed project looking at the experience of women in Russia’s prison system, and is discussed in a forthcoming book, as well as in a recent paper which describes Russia’s geography of punishment.

While carceral geography has tended to concentrate on the impact of the spatial distribution of places of incarceration on the communities which host or surround them, research into the impact of distance from home and family during imprisonment would complement the wealth of research within criminology and prison sociology into the ‘collateral’ effects of  incarceration.