Book review: Maternal Imprisonment and Family Life

Date01 December 2020
AuthorDr Claire Powell
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterBook reviews
PRB968948 454..459

Book reviews
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
Book reviews
2020, Vol. 67(4) 454–459
ª The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520968948
Maternal Imprisonment and Family Life
Natalie Booth
Policy Press; 2020; pp. 160; £45; hbk
ISBN: 978-1-4473-5229-7
Reviewed by: Dr Claire Powell, Research Fellow, UCL GOS Institute of
Child Health, UK
Given the recent tragic loss of two babies in women’s prisons (see Devlin and
Taylor, 2019; Taylor, 2020) maternal imprisonment has had a moment in the
public eye. A small number of researchers have been focusing on mothers in
prison. To this, Natalie Booth has added her sensitively researched work on the
experiences of caregivers of the children of female prisoners. Booth brings family
theory to criminology and offers us an engaging and at times heart-breaking
account of the challenges that caregivers face when left with imprisoned
women’s children to care for.
Booth frames the impact of a mother’s prison sentence as a ‘family sentence’
and she shows us how these caregivers occupy a ‘disenfranchised social status’.
These are powerful concepts that emphasise the lack of support for and the
stigma around taking on the care of prisoners’ children. While these families’
experiences may sound familiar to anyone working or researching in this area,
the power in this work lies in the detailed quotations, together with a thoughtful
use of theory, that offers the reader a nuanced and comprehensive view of the
Booth’s focus on the caregivers helps to de-individualise the narrative around
crime and punishment so that we recognise the wider social implications of impri-
soning mothers. Using Morgan’s (2011) theory of family practices, we can see how a
traditional focus solely on imprisoned mothers and their children obscures the impact
on the caregivers, their own children and their wider family and friends. The level of

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