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Families Shamed: the consequences of crime for relatives of serious offenders

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Rachel Condry| 
Willan Publishing (1 May 2007)

This book examines the experiences of relatives of those accused or convicted of serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape and sex offences. A broader literature exists on prisoners' families, but few studies have looked specifically at those related to serious offenders, or considered their experience other than as prison visitors. Many of the difficulties faced by 'mundane' prisoners' families are magnified for the relatives of serious offenders, first by the length of sentence, and secondly by the seriousness and stigmatising impact through association of the offence itself.

Families Shamed draws upon intense qualitative research which combines long, searching interviews with the relatives of serious offenders with ethnographic fieldwork over a period of several years. The book focuses on how relatives made sense of their experiences, individually and collectively: how they described the difficulties they faced; whether they were blamed and shamed and in what manner; how they 'understood' the offence and the circumstances which had brought it about; and how they dealt with the contradiction inherent in supporting someone and yet not condoning his or her actions.

This is the first book to tell the story of serious offenders' families, the difficulties they face, and their attempts to overcome them. At the same time, a focus on offenders' families also draws our attention to the ways in which women are affected by crime, illuminating the broader effects of crime and the criminal justice process on the proportionately greater number of women involved. It contributes also to wider debates about the social organisation of the meanings of crime, and questions the tenability of some core policy assumptions about offenders and their families; the relationship between the state and the family, and its bearing especially on expectations about family responsibilities.

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Press cuttings

Thinking allowed, BBC Radio 4 (4 July)
Dr Rachel Condry, research fellow at LSE, has spent several years attending a self help group for the families of serious offenders to find out how serious crimes - such as murder, manslaughter, rape and sex offences - have affected their lives, and how they have been treated by friends and family. Her research has revealed that the relatives of the accused had strong feelings of shame and stigma. Rachel's findings have now been published in her new book entitled Families Shamed.

Stella Magazine - Daily Telegraph
The sins of the sons (3 June)
Shunned by neighbours, vilified by the press, the relatives of convicted murderers and rapists serve their very own 'sentence'. The criminologist Rachel Condry [LSE] meets the mothers and wives of serious offenders, and asks why women in particular shoulder so much blame.

BBC World Service
Outlook (8 May)
Dr Rachel Condry appeared on the programme discussing her recent book Families Shamed.