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Families Shamed: The Consequences of Crime for Relatives of Serious Offenders

NCJ Number
Rachel Condry
Date Published
228 pages
This book attempts to understand how, when a serious crime is uncovered, relatives of offenders are drawn into the shaming processes that follow, and exactly what it is that underlies these processes, it also attempts to understand what relatives did with the shame and stigma they experienced and how they moved forward and the various ways they managed their experiences.
Utilizing the story of a group of relatives of serious offenders between 1997 and 2003, the experiences of relatives appeared to be mediated by the kin relationship they shared with the offender, the offense type, and the gender of the offender. The gender of the offender was found to be significant in several ways. Relatives of female offenders tended to contextualize the offense using actor adjustments constructed around denials of full responsibility. Participants in the study spoke of their time in court as particularly traumatic, and a time when they were often lacking in support. In some cases, relatives were in fear of, or subject to, attacks from the victim’s associates. After the court process, serious offenders’ families often become prison visitors for many years. However, recognition of the needs of prisoners’ families has developed considerably in recent years. In most cases, participants in the study wanted to support the offender, and further wanted to encourage the offender to address his or her offending behavior. However, these adjustments, in most cases, did not attempt to fully absolve the offender of blame. This book tells the story of serious offenders’ families, the difficulties they face, and their attempts to overcome them. It focuses on how relatives make sense of their experiences, individually and collectively; how they describe the difficulties they face; whether they are blamed and shamed and in what manner; how they attempt to understand the offense and the circumstances which brought it about; and how they deal with the contradiction inherent in supporting someone and yet not condoning his or her actions. The accounts in this book have been partial and one-sided, restricted to the families’ stories of crime and its consequences. These stories often reflect progress and a sense of moving forward from an initial point of devastation. Appendixes 1-2, references


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