Welfare authorities being primarily concerned with the well-being of the imprisoned husbands and only secondarily with that of their wives and families, a conflict of interest arises to the disadvantage of the latter. In societies where there is no social security system, communal sympathy and protection may be shattered. The chance of marriage disintegration is exacerbated by the separation and the artificial arrangement for prisoners' wives at visits, where free movement is impossible and noise makes conversation difficult. The wives become integrated into the penal system and are to some extent punished for an offence in which they took no part. They are also alone to bear the family worries and responsibilities with little or no financial aid, often they are socially rejected. The family may become the subject of a kind of social ostracism that destroys friendships, breaks fraternal blood relationships and makes good-neighbourliness a rare exception rather than an accepted mode of behaviour, particularly towards those related to political prisoners. It is almost as though these families suffer from a contagious disease and no one who can possibly avoid it wants to become contaminated.
In many cases, the families of political detainees are actively harassed by local military units who force them out of their homes and deprive them of their belongings. Often wives loose trace of their husbands, either immediately after arrest or as a result of transfer from one place of detention to another. Their fear of their children's security renders wives particularly vulnerable to pressures exerted upon them by military officers.