Skip to main content

Conceptualizing the effects of imprisonment on families: Collateral consequences, secondary punishment, or symbiotic harms?

Rachel Condry and Shona Minson, Theoretical Criminology

(January 2020)
Conceptualizing Effects of Imprisonment on Families article cover

This article explores how American society might best understand the effects of imprisonment on families and why this is important to a full understanding of prison as a form of punishment. As the article discusses, the effects on families have broadly been understood within previous literature in one of two ways: either as ‘collateral consequences’, or as a form of secondary punishment extended to the family member.

In the article, the authors suggest that the first of these descriptions is at best insufficient and at worst subordinating and marginalizing, while the second is inaccurate when family members have not committed an offense.

They offer instead the concept of ‘symbiotic harms’ which they define as negative effects that flow both ways through the interdependencies of intimate associations such as kin relationships. The authors argue that characteristics of these harms can be more fully described by a term which encompasses their relational, mutual, non-linear, agentic, and heterogeneous properties.

Resource Type
Journal Articles