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International Socialism, Summer 1966


Bert Bensen

Both Sides Of The Wall


From International Socialism (1st series), No.25, Summer 1966, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Prisoners and Their Families
Pauline Morris
Allen & Unwin, 50s

This is a report of interviews with 800 married prisoners and their wives to assess effects of imprisonment on family functions and relations, to assess differences between ‘star’ and ‘recidivist’ prisoner families, and to find out what family and agency resources are used and how adequate they are.

There is a good deal of vulgar or administrative clinical psychology in the book. A typology of family psycho-social structure is set out that is meaningless. However, if it was adopted in the welfare service then it would create some new staff jobs and new forms would have to be made to assess families and record their types.

The results are exhaustively set out and discussed. Yet so much of what is reported is technically unreliable and probably irrelevant that without a parallel discussion of prison and the community with a conscientious effort to relate this to the findings, much of the results can be passed off as a further example of technocratic Nosey Parkering into private misery.

Useful information seems incidental. NAB officers may fail to carry out their responsibilities, or (perhaps more frequently) they show favouritism in applying NAB provisions to prisoners’ families. The ‘one letter a week’ prison rule is criticised because it prevents urgent communication at times of family stress. This rule is objectionable for other reasons and can be discussed in ideal terms without so much empirical buttressing. Yet it is one of the major reflections about the prison system as distinct from findings about the subjects themselves.

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