Kirsty Deacon

Kirsty Deacon crop
PhD Student

Working Title of PhD: Young people’s experiences of the imprisonment of a family member

Year commenced PhD study: 2015
Institution: University of Glasgow
Funding Source: What Works Scotland
PhD Supervisors: Prof Fergus McNeill and Dr Sarah Armstrong

Synopsis: My research will explore the issue of familial imprisonment for young people aged 13 to 25 who have, or have had, a parent or sibling in prison. Specifically it will consider what “family” means to these young people and how they experience family when a member is in prison. It will also consider how the young people deal with the effects of familial imprisonment and what services and supports are in place, or may be required, to help them manage this experience.

The first stage of my data collection has involved spending 16 months as part of an arts collective known as KIN which is formed of eight young people aged 16-25 who have experienced familial imprisonment, along with staff from a third-sector organisation Vox Liminis (partners in the KIN project along with Families Outside) and a range of artists. I am gathering data from in-depth semi-structured interviews with the young people as well as from discussions with the group where I have fed back initial thoughts and concepts arising from the existing academic literature and the young people have shared their thoughts and reflections around this.

The second stage of data collection is expected to involve young people aged 13-17 who work with a third-sector organisation which works with families affected by imprisonment.

Keywords: Familial imprisonment, Young people, Family

Appeal for Participants from Kirsty Deacon

My research is looking at young people who are aged 13 to 25 and have experienced the imprisonment of a parent or sibling.  I am interested in finding out about these experiences and am hoping to explore what family means to this group of young people and how they experience family when a member is in prison.  I am also looking at how young people deal with the imprisonment of a family member and what support, if any, is available for them.

If you would be interested in taking part in my research and sharing your story with me, or know someone else who might, it would involve around an hour of your time.  It would involve being interviewed, though actually this would just be more of a conversation, where you can tell me about whichever parts of your experience that you think are most important.

This could be about:

  • What is it like when the person first goes into prison?
  • What is it like visiting them in the prison, talking to them on the phone or writing to them?  You might not have visited or kept in touch with your family member while they were in prison though and it’s also okay to talk about what that was like as well.
  • What is it like being at school if teachers and other pupils at the school know that your family member is in prison?  Did you get any support at school, or from other people or organisations?
  • Has your family member missed out on things like your birthday or Christmas when they’ve been in prison and what is that like?
  • If your family member has now been released from prison, what was that like for you?

These are just some examples. There are no right or wrong answers and anything that you would like to share would be very valuable.  I want to add young people’s voices to the work going on in this area and hopefully try and improve the experience and support available for children and young people with a family member in prison at the moment but also in the future.

Anyone involved in my research can choose to remain anonymous and would be given a substitute name in my PhD thesis and any other reports that I might write about my research.

If you think you might be interested in taking part or would like more information please give me a call on 07780 236 326, 0141 330 5126 or send me an email on

This research has been approved by the College of Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee at the University of Glasgow. If you have any questions about ethical issues you can contact the College of Social Sciences Ethics Officer Dr Muir Houston on