Jailbird Daddies

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.

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9 thoughts on “Jailbird Daddies

  1. Some where in the depths of my hangover fogged mind I’m sure there’s an intellectual response to this. However, in an effort to liven up my table at our annual meeting, I decided we were going to turn it into a drinking game. Anytime a speaker said Affordable, Green or Housing, we drank, lmao. Best annual meeting EVER!

    I’ll have to come back to this when my eyes stop trying to detach themselves from my head.

  2. Good god JEE, those are the buzzwords du jour right now. You must still be drunk. But as always, I look forward to reading whatever you put out there because even if I don’t agree with it, I know it’ll be presented well (and with biting sarcasm!).

  3. I think you are dead wrong here.

    This is a reasonable way to try and help not just the fathers, but the kids. When these guys get out, they will still be parents. Teaching them how to be better at it might just help at least a small number of them avoid the same mistakes that got them there. Prison is about rehabilitation as well as punishment, and I hardly expect the guys participating here are in for murder.

    And maybe up here it is really hard to land in jail – but not so down south! Go to Florida, screw up, and see how quick you land in jail! The south is a different world with regard to this type of situation. And just because they did something stupid (depending of course on what it is) does not make them the lowest life form on the planet. Some people do deserve second chances. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you will (and I know you will) but this kind of thing is definitely a worthwile program to try.

  4. theoldguy,

    I’m not against second chances. But chances are if they’re in jail, they’ve had second, third and fourth chances. No one has put them in jail for jaywalking. They’re done something extreme to end up there, even down south. And chances are they’ll get another chance when they get out. So this isn’t about a lack of opportunity for these men to turn their lives around.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re the same person who was adamantly opposed to prisoner chain gangs doing cleanup work around the Town of Norton years ago because it sent a bad message to kids. So you think kids will be scarred for life by seeing prisoners in chains performing free work, but if they go visit daddy at the prison then that’s a good thing? Kids won’t be affected by that???


  5. I agree with the Old Guy…he is a bleeding heart liberal;-)

    But seriosly he is right. These \residents\ are fathers for good or for bad and they are not all \deadbeat dads\. A second chance to be a better father and learning the skills to get there might be the best thing for these currently absent fathers many of whom are visted by their kids every week anyway.

    Maybe these are not the jaywalkers we are talking about but their are not the serial rapists either.

  6. I was against bringing people out in public in chains, not about the kids seeing them. If a prisoner is so dangerous he/she requires chains, then they are too dangerous to be out among the public. That was noting more than a sherrif looking for publicity.

    And the kids who visit Daddy in jail already have been exposed to they system. The kids who see the chain gangs aren’t seeing Daddy (hopefully) but others.

  7. You forgot that the inmates can also teach their kids proper shower room etiquette (i.e. raping the new guy). That is sure to come in handy during high school phys ed.

  8. That funny. They can also learn how to wear their pants around their knees. Prison garb is popular at school these days.

  9. If only one man has his eyes opened to the responsibilities of parenthood, it’s worth it.

    If only one child benefits from a renewed relationship with their parent, it is worth it.

    Hell, I know law abiding citizens who could use quite a few parenting pointers. I’m all for anything that has the potential to add stability to a child’s life and strengthen their chances of receiving stable parenting.

    The reality of prison life is some where between the dramatization of Oz and the warm fuzzies of Shawshank Redemption. We cannot, as a society, make the mistake of treating all inmates as though there isn’t a spectrum of behaviors and personalities in our prison system. The social climate of most prisons stack the odds against rehabilitation. Any thing that helps to even those odds is beneficial for all parties involved.

    Maybe if they’re taught to be open and honest about their circumstances with their children, those children will be less likely to repeat their mistakes.

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