“Keeping in Touch” Young People’s Experiences of Having a Family Member in Prison: Research Briefing 1

Published: May 2019


This research briefing is by Dr Kirsty Deacon (Glasgow) and was produced as part of the Scottish Justice Fellowship. 


It is estimated that around 20-27,000 children experience the imprisonment of a parent each year in Scotland. No official data is collected on this group however – something which can result in them being overlooked in policy and practice. This figure only includes those with a parent in prison not those who are impacted by wider family members’ imprisonment – including that of siblings.

This research briefing outlines the experiences of young people who have a parent or a sibling in prison – specifically around keeping in touch with this family member. While children experiencing parental imprisonment are increasingly being considered in academic research and in policy and practice, the specific impact on, and experiences of, young people as a particular subset of children overall has escaped attention. The experiences of children and young people with a sibling in prison have been overlooked completely. This briefing paper fills this gap in two ways:

1. It details the experiences of young people in particular (defined here as aged 11-25) with a family member in prison.

2. It explores the impact of the imprisonment of siblings and/or parents, with a specific focus on keeping in touch with the imprisoned family member.