Problems of Prisoners’ Families: The Hidden Costs of Imprisonment

Kathleen J. Ferraro, John M. Johson, Stephen R. Jorgensen, F. G. Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This research examines the differential effects of imprisonment on the inmate's family—the hidden familial costs of imprisonment. Lengthy interviews were conducted with adult members of inmates’ families in a sample drawn from a maximum security prison, and 46 of these are analyzed here. Problems with income, employment and child care were severe, pervasive, and subject to only minor changes over time. These affected spouses more than other family members. Deterioration of relationships with family and friends were also noted by many, showing a greater tendency for adjustment over time. Some of the strongest perceived effects of imprisonment on the family members were emotional, including problems of expressing and dealing with feelings, and problems of experiencing enjoyment in life. Social ties complicate the punitive consequences of incarceration, which stands in tension with a system of justice that is oriented to the individual rule violator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-591
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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