Keeping it together

Prison and family life

Featured in

  • Published 20190806
  • ISBN: 9781925773798
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

HAVE YOU EVER thought about what it would be like to have a loved one in prison? Would you stay in contact with them to support them, or would you sever all ties? What if that person was the mother or father of your child? How would that shape your family’s life?

The number of adults in prison in Australia has reached an all-time high of around 43,000. More than one in four of those identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. There are now more children with a parent in prison than ever before. Current estimates are that one in twenty Australian children will experience the incarceration of a parent before adulthood, and this figure is much higher for Indigenous children – standing at one in five – due to the appalling over-representation of First Nations peoples in prison. Despite these staggering numbers, families are typically left to navigate the fallout of the sudden departure of a parent – and the transition into and then out of the correctional system – on their own. These families may come from some of the most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged populations in Australia. For most, this disadvantage becomes further entrenched by the incarceration of a family member.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Susan Dennison

Susan Dennison is a professor and deputy head of school (research) in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, as well...

More from this edition

As if children mattered…

EssayProportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families...

White justice, black suffering

ReportageDad began this job in 1989 in the days of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He was not the only black prison guard on staff – in fact, at one point, Rockhampton’s jail had the highest percentage of Indigenous employees in the state. And yet, there were even more Murris locked up. The first thing that shocked Dad was just how many were inside, and over the next two decades he would see many of his own relatives coming through the gates.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.