Families, imprisonment and penal power: a radical analysis

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This paper is concerned with the exercise of penal power over families affected by imprisonment, and the implications for legitimacy and inclusion. Imprisonment imposes harms upon families, however theories as to how this shapes attitudes towards the justice system and feelings of citizenship are still developing. This paper brings together insights from prison sociology and Lukes’ radical conceptualisation of power to argue that prison rules are the most ‘solid’ dimension of power which families encounter, and therefore it is the day-to-day decisions of officers which are most likely to be challenged. However, by excluding families from decision-making spaces, and shaping beliefs about what actions are possible and desirable, the justice system also exercises power over families in more diffuse ways which, while they provoke less resistance, are just as damaging to citizenship and inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-294
Number of pages17
JournalJustice, Power and Resistance
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • families
  • imprisonment
  • penal power
  • radical analysis


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