Breaking the family prison cycle

mark-halseyThe cause, extent and impact of intergenerational incarceration in South Australia will be investigated in the country’s first comprehensive study of the phenomenon by Flinders University criminal justice academic Mark Halsey.

Professor Halsey (pictured) has just secured more than $700,000 from the Australian Research Council’s prestigious Future Fellowship fund to explore the nature and extent of intergenerational incarceration across different ages, races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds.

From 2012 to 2017, Professor Halsey will survey all people, including juveniles, in SA’s custodial facilities on a single day and on the basis of such data conduct 120 interviews across 30 families to discern the scope, origins and impacts of intergenerational incarceration among that cohort.

“Best estimates suggest that about 4 to 5 per cent of all children in Australia and 20 per cent of Indigenous children have a parent incarcerated at any one time,” Professor Halsey said.

“However, we don’t know precisely how far back the problem of intergenerational incarceration reaches nor do we fully understand the social, cultural, educational and economic impact of such,” he said.

“There are particular families whose members turn up in prison time and time again yet there is very little research dedicated to understanding intergenerational incarceration nationally or internationally.

“While this study will have a more concerted focus on traditional familial lineages (for example incarceration of grandfathers, sons and grandsons), it will also look at the way intergenerational incarceration weaves its way across families.

“For instance, there will be people in prison who might say: ‘My dad didn’t go to prison but my uncle or aunt did and that had a profound impact on me’.”

Professor Halsey said the key overall aims of the Generations Through Prison project include development of a national database on intergenerational incarceration and measures to prevent the disproportionate recurrence of incarceration in particular familial lineages.

“Based on my past and current research, I know the juvenile and adult custodial systems capture certain families disproportionately over time,” he said.

“Two of the most important questions which arise from this situation are why does this happen and how might we best intervene?

“It is perfectly possible that incarceration is accepted as the norm in some families – I’m interested in how this fairly fatalistic perspective emerges and what might be done to attenuate the problem.

“At the end of the day I want this research to influence public debate and policy so that efforts can be targeted to help people whose lives are adversely affected by generations of imprisonment.”

Professor Halsey was one of three Flinders researchers to win a 2012 Future Fellowship, an annual program which supports and creates opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers.

The trio will share in a pool of $2.18 million over the next five years, with the 2012 round seeing a total 209 Fellowships worth $151 million awarded nationally.

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2 thoughts on “Breaking the family prison cycle

  1. I have studied Forensic Nursing and I too am very interested in this area especially the impact of incarceration on significant others as well as those who have intellectual disability and find themselves in the justice system. I would love to read the outcome of the study. I currently study the Grad dip in Mental Health nursing which is my 6th degree before moving to a PhD to do with another area of incarceration impact related to intellectual disability.

  2. Congratulations on the ARC Grant
    I am the Population Health Manager in Country Health SA LHN ( CHSA). Through the State Primary Prevention Plan 2011- 2016 the portfolio has identified the health and well being of prison inmates, paroled and non paroled people, and their families as a vulnerable populations and in particular Aboriginal and Refugee populations. I have previously worked in NSW and was involved and managed a fabulous program through an NGO but in partnership with many stakeholders called ‘Home for Good. The basic premise of the program is to reduce recidivism rates support exiting prisoners with accommodation, support, program referral, drug and alcohol issues to name but a few. In short this program was able to reduce the recidivism rate significantly.

    CHSA has commenced a number of initiatives, had a number of conversations in this area and particularly with the mental health teams across country SA
    Of the 7 or 8 corrections facilities in SA there are 5 or 6 sitting in country SA jurisdiction.

    I woulsd clearly like to have a conversation with you in the near future and see if there are opportunites to further this work in partnership


    Kate Saint

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