The Richmond-Times Dispatch had a story last week about fatherhood from a slightly different perspective than we’re all probably used to. These dads are in dispensing fatherly advice…from prison! Click here for the whole story.
But basically the prison started a fatherhood class to teach inmates who have children how to be better parents and become more involved in their kids’ lives. The thought is that by showing these inmate dads what they’re missing by being away from their kids, they will see the error of their ways and they will be less likely to commit a subsequent offense.
“We were convinced that if we can strengthen the relationship our male residents have with their children, it will give them another reason to make the right choice and not engage in criminal behavior,” said Alonzo Pruitt, undersheriff at the jail.
Look, I get the idea behind this and in theory it works great. After all, prison is supposed to be a place for reform rehabilitation. But I have a few problems with it.
First of all, I love how Pruitt calls them “residents.” They may be residents technically, but they are inmates. They are criminals. And considering how difficult it is for a person to actually receive jail time these days, you have to really screw up and you have to do it repeatedly. Second, how much is this little program costing the taxpayers? I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but with dwindling funds every little bit counts and I wouldn’t want to be spending it on deadbeat dads who are in jail.
But the biggest problem I have with it is if these men didn’t already know they had responsibilities as to their kids, then what makes you think they’ll change their ways now? I mean c’mon, even criminals aren’t that stupid. When you become a father — even if you weren’t planning on it — that should be a life changing event. You’re responsible for another human being. And if you shirk that responsibility and decide to go hold up a liquor store or sell drugs and you get put away, then you are of the lowest common denominator and call me a cynic, but I’d be surprised if a fatherhood class from behind bars is going to do the trick.
But hey, it does present a unique chance for these fathers to pass along life skills they wouldn’t ordinarily receive. For example:
- Homemade tattoos. These inmate dads can teach their young kids the ins and outs of prison tats. Which ink to use, how to sterilize the needle and which designs won’t get you jumped.
- How to fit in socially. With all the different cliques in prison it’s important to network with the right people. We’ve all watched Oz and American History X right? You need to mesh seamlessly with the black guys, the white supremacists, the Mexicans, etc. This teaches diplomacy and conflict resolution as you try not to get your throat cut.
- How to make a proper shiv. Some kids have the Boy Scouts where they learn to tie knots and make a fire. These kids will learn how to fashion utensils and other jail house contraband into proper knives so they can properly defend themselves. Can’t you just picture Christmas when Jailbird Daddy gets his kid a little starter shiv to take to the playground? Heartwarming isn’t it?
- How to be fashionable. C’mon now, those orange jumpsuits are a fashion statement if I’ve ever seen one. I hear Versace is currently working on something as we speak.
- The importance of education. Jail house dads stress to their kids that if they work hard and put their minds to it, they too can receive a GED from behind bars on the taxpayers’ dime.
- Smuggling goods. This could be a real life saver. You never know when you’ll have to stash something quickly and efficiently away. And if you don’t trust pockets, you’ll need to know which bodily orifice is best to hide that contraband.
Or — and this is a crazy thought — just stay out of prison in the first place and be a proper role model to your kid. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re in a prison and THEN you decide to become a good father, it might be a lost cause.