News & Views

09th Oct, 2018

'Disconnected' by Dr Natalie Booth

Exploring provisions for mother-child telephone contact in female prisons serving England and Wales.

Dr Natalie Booth is a Lecturer in Criminology at De Montfort University in Leicester. Her research explores how families experience prison sentences in their daily lives, and how they stay in contact during this difficult period of separation. Her doctorate, at the University of Bath, aimed to better understand the experiences of mothers in prison and family members (caregivers) looking after female prisoners children.

Through the voices of fifteen imprisoned mothers, Natalie has written an article published in Criminology and Criminal Justice which examines the different ways that the mothers had attempted to stay in contact with their 39 children whilst in custody.

In female prisons serving England and Wales, prisoners can have contact with their family members through prison visits, telephones and letter-writing (postal and in some prisons, via email). To date, academic research has tended to focus on how families stay in contact through prison visits which means much less is known about other forms of communication, including telephone contact. The new findings draw attention to the importance of telephones for sustaining frequent and meaningful mother-child contact, and highlight the limitations of current provisions in female prisons.

The mothers revealed the difficulties in re-connecting with their children, and re-establishing telephone contact in the first weeks of their sentence. They also talked about the difficulties in affording to telephone from prisons, the benefits of in-cell telephones and the way in which their Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) status affected their access to prison telephones. The article discusses the critical implications that prison practices and facilities can have on the frequency and quality of mother-child telephone contact. We must remember at the heart of these communicative issues are mothers and children separated by a custodial sentence but often wanting and hoping to stay a part of one another’s lives.

Natalie’s doctoral research findings about mother-child telephone contact have been published in SAGE’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Journal, available here:

 Follow Natalie on Twitter: @NatalieBooth17

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