My book: Maternal Sentencing and the rights of the Child

Published by Palgrave as part of its Socio-Legal series, this book brings to life the experiences of children affected by maternal imprisonment, and provides unique, in-depth analysis of judicial thinking on this issue. It explores the experiences of children whose mothers are sentenced to imprisonment in England and Wales and contrasts their state-sanctioned separation from their mothers in the criminal courts (where the court may not even be aware of the existence of a child) to the state-sanctioned separation of children from their parents in the family courts, where the child has legal representation and their best interests are the court’s paramount consideration. Drawing on detailed empirical research with children, caregivers, and Crown Court judiciary, Maternal Sentencing and the Rights of the Child brings together relevant literature on law, criminology, and human rights to provide insight into the reasons for the differentiated treatment and its implications for children, their caregivers, and wider society.

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Shona Minson’s work has already had remarkable impact and helped strengthen the rights of prisoners’ children in England and Wales significantly. When reading this meticulously researched book one understands why. This is an impressive cross-disciplinary undertaking combining criminological, sociological, and legal research on the children of imprisoned parents, human rights, and the sociology of punishment. It clearly demonstrates how sentencers need to consider the impact on children when their primary carer is imprisoned, and how upholding the human rights of these children is the right approach when doing this

Peter Scharff Smith, Professor of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo, Norway

With its powerful look at children’s rights in adult sentencing processes, children’s accounts of their experiences of maternal incarceration, and insights into judicial thinking, Minson’s book is unique in its innovation, scope and clout as it tackles these questions and those raised above. The book will be relevant to academic and practitioner audiences across criminology, social work, child rights, law and social policy. It provides a valuable impetus for the Children of Prisoners Europe network to make further inroads in advocacy on the importance of child-sensitive sentencing processes and the application of imprisonment as a measure only as a last resort, thus fostering truly preventive action for children across Europe

Liz Ayre, Executive Director, Children of Prisoners Europe)

This meticulously researched work is a must read for anyone interested in family law, parental incarceration, and the rights of children. Dr Minson expertly weaves together multiple data strands to examine children’s differentiated treatment with regard to custodial placement that stem from having a mother in the criminal justice system within the courts of England and Wales. Policy proposals in the final chapter of the book hold global lessons for us all in terms of the need to amplify the voices of children with a parent in prison, educate legal and judicial practitioners regarding how families are impacted by maternal incarceration, reduce the number of imprisoned women, and the essentiality of considering women’s status as a sole or primary parent to her children during criminal sentencing

Joyce A. Arditti, Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Virginia Tech, USA

The rights of children whose parents are or have been in prison have been neglected in the human rights literature. This important book addresses this gap, providing not only rich insights into the experiences of these families but practical recommendations going forward. It is a must read for all scholars of children’s rights and all those interested in the impact of the justice system on children

Laura Lundy, Professor, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK

The forcible separation of a child from his or her parent is among the most formidable and fraught powers a state can brandish, so it is shocking that so little scholarship has explored this process in the context of the imprisonment of parents and caregivers. Thankfully, the comprehensive and ground-breaking research of Dr Shona Minson is bringing much needed attention to this hugely sensitive and important issue

Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology, Queen’s University Belfast, UK)

Capturing the failure of criminal courts to consider the best interests of children affected by maternal incarceration, Shona exposes causes of fundamental injustice ranging from nonsensical legal lacuna and shocking judicial blindness to gender and childhood perspectives.  A vital and critical indictment of the criminal justice system with examples to follow for meaningful change which should be on every jurists’ desk

Felicity Gerry QC, London and Melbourne Professor of Legal Practice, Deakin University, Australia