32 Law Context: A Socio-Legal J. 147 (2015)
Children of Imprisoned Parents in Scandinavia: Their Problems, Treatment and the Role of Scandinavian Penal Culture

handle is hein.journals/lwincntx32 and id is 155 raw text is: 




        Children of Imprisoned Parents

        in Scandinavia: Their Problems,

            Treatment and the Role of

            Scandinavian Penal Culture


                      Peter Scharff Smith


   In some ways, the issue of prisoner's children seems to be one of the
   major Gordian knots facing the practice ofpunishment and imprison-
   ment today. How can we punish parents committing serious crimes
   and still respect the situation and rights of their children? This issue
   has begun to attract attention during recent years, after having been
   more or less neglected throughout most of the history of the prison.
   Empirical research on, reports on, and advocacy for children of
   imprisoned parents have, for example, been produced in Scandinavia
   during recent years by researchers, NGOs and children's Ombudsmen.
   Based on this research as well as on personal observations and new
   empirical data, I will in this article take a closer look at the situation
   of prisoners' children in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I will look
   into how many children who experience parental imprisonment and
   the problems they often face especially in Denmark where most of the
   Scandinavian empirical research has been done. I will also describe
   some of the recent initiatives, reforms and good practice, which has
   been introduced, or is currently in the process of being introduced, in
   the Scandinavian countries. One example is the children's officers,
   that is, prison officers with special training who are responsible for
   enhancing the possibilities for improved contact between children
   and their imprisoned parents. Finally, I will discuss to what degree
   specific Scandinavian penal practices might influence the conditions
   experienced by prisoners'children. As I will show, there are examples
   of Scandinavian practices, which can both enhance and worsen the
   situation of prisoners' children.'


                        I INTRODUCTION
Historians usually agree that prisons have existed since the 16th century
as institutions specifically constructed to incarcerate a significant number
of people for prolonged periods of time.2 In much of this time, and espe-
cially during the last approximately 200 years, the effects of imprisonment
have been discussed intensively. The many discussions on the effects of

     The perspective in this article will mainly be sociological and criminological. For
     a broader analysis which, for example, includes a legal human rights perspec-
     tive, see Peter Scharff Smith, When the Innocent are Punished. The Children of
     Imprisoned Parents (Palgrave, 2014).
2    See, eg, Peter Scharff Smith, Moralske Hospitaler. Det Moderne Faengselsvaesens
     Gennembrud 1770-1870 (Forum, 2003) 25.

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