Families and Prison

Persons in prison do not just suffer from incarceration, but their family members are also affected, particularly children. By taking a family system perspective past difficulties, hurts, and transitions due to a family member being incarcerated can be healed and peace and justice restored in the family. Researchers find that stronger ties between inmates and families and close friends during incarceration leads to decreased recidivism, improved mental health for all, and greater likelihood that the family will hold together after reentry. During post re-entry, family acceptance, encouragement and emotional support are associated with fewer negative dynamics in relationships, and increased likelihood of employment, and decreased drug use.

While teaching family psychology at men's prison in Texas, Linda found that helping the prisoners have positive and more just perspectives through the understanding of family dynamics led to important healing. It was amazing how one small insight, or one letter could have a major positive effect, both for the individual, and their family relationships. The same was true for mothers in a Wee Ones Nursery (WON) program - mothers keeping their babies with them in prison. Mothers in prison are worried about their children and many have difficult relationships with their children's caregivers. This program is the subject of a film, Babies Behind Bars. Here is another brief film, Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents, which is helpful for understanding the child's point of view.

A tenet of Family Systems Theory is that any change in any relationship effect the whole system; so each positive shift has multiple ramifications. Thus even one small change can support the current and future health of all family members, and as families are healthier positive peace and justice is supported within the larger community.