Vote: Publish pending minor changes.
The author has done an excellent job executing a study on the role of family support groups for incarcerated family members. The article is well-framed, cited, and analyzed. The authors draw from the literature on “disenfranchised grief” to understand family members’ experiences in support groups. There are a couple of areas that could benefit from additional citations and ties to existing literature, but these are minor. I commend the author on an excellent (and well-written!) study.
The goal of the manuscript entitled ‘“I Had Nowhere to Go”: Disenfranchised Grief and Support Groups for Families of Incarcerated Individuals’ is to examine the experiences of people involved in support groups for those with incarcerated family members. The author uses interview data from 13 respondents in the United States to examine this topic. The author finds that support groups provide significant spaces for people to experience coping and grief and to share their experiences with others.
The introduction is well-written and cited. The author makes a clear – and convincing case – that while family support has been linked to recidivism and that studies have examined how family members “do time” on the outside, a dearth of research has understood the mechanisms through which support groups may help family members of incarcerated loved ones.
Only a minor point of clarification: A citation pointing readers to “policy responses” in the first sentence of the second paragraph would be helpful.
INCARCERATION AND FAMILIES
This section is well-detailed, although some of the trends are a bit old (though the major thrust of the argument still holds). For example, the point that incarceration rates are higher for Black males than white males is well made (first paragraph). However, the information provided is about 20 years old (2004). While rates are still disproportionate, these trends have changed. See, for example:
The author provides an excellent overview of the influence of incarceration on partners and the role of stigma and relationship changes as a result.
FRAMING INCARCERATION IN TIMES OF LOSS AND GRIEF
The author borrows from the literature on “disenfranchised grief” to provide a theoretical framework for their understanding of the role of support groups for incarcerated family members. Drawing from similar literature from support groups of medical conditions is well explained.
Overall, the literature review is relevant and well done – the author makes a convincing case for the need for this study and situates it well within existing scholarship.
DATA AND METHODS
The author did not include support groups who only support children. While this makes analytical sense given the scope of the study, it is probably worth noting this as a limitation – or at least exploring this a bit more – in the discussion section. Children are, of course, an important component of “family” for family support groups.
Using a grounded theory approach, the author highlights the numerous ways support groups assist family members. Using quotes from respondents, the author highlights how these experiences are particularly salient for family members. This section is well done, and I have no specific feedback.
The discussion is well done. However, I think it would benefit readers if the author returned a bit more to the idea of “disenfranchised grief,” which is not explicitly highlighted in the discussion. Of course, this comes across in the preceding section with various quotes from different respondents (e.g., “They don’t feel no judgment,” “Because I am not here to judge,” “I felt totally isolated and alone,” “I was laying on the couch crying”). A specific tie to the concept of disenfranchised grief and the prior literature reviewed (e.g., the literature on AIDS/HIV) would help tie the literature reviewed to the findings of the current study. How do the findings of this study mesh with the studies reviewed in the literature? How do these experiences of shame, isolation, and stigma represent disenfranchised grief? Certainly, this discussion is there, but bolstering it even more would be an excellent contribution to the paper.