Forensic Psychiatry
Dads behind bars see Prison as a chance to Think
Mar 31, 2005 - 9:05:38 PM

Dads behind bars see prison as a chance to think about the needs of their children and an opportunity to re-bond with them.

Over the last few years, issues about fathers living apart from their children have been in the spotlight, and with the growing prisoner population in this country, fathering from prison is emerging as another context in which to understand the contemporary experience of fathers. In fact research indicates that 25% of young men in prison are fathers or expectant fathers, so there are growing concerns about the impact of paternal imprisonment on child and family welfare.

Dr Van Lesson conducted interviews with 43 prisoners, with 21 cases also involving telephone interviews with partners. She also held a focus group with a further group of prisoners.

She found many prisoners viewed prison as a fresh start which gave them the space to think about the needs of their children and the opportunity to re-bond with them either through visits, telephone calls or letters.

Despite the physical boundaries imposed by a prison environment, many dads reported feeling emotionally closer to their children since imprisonment. There were many instances of dads expressing that they did not want their children to go down the same route as they had and finish up in prison, and that they needed to become better role models on release.

Dr Van Lesson states: "This research shows that not only do we need to start taking account of the impact of offenders on society, but we also need to start looking at the impact their imprisonment has on their children. In the UK the prison service is well placed to integrate some prison based rehabilitation initiatives with family life and positive parenting becoming part of the wider release plan for prison Dads. Most importantly, findings from this prison based research have implications for being able to motivate prison Dads to stop re-offending in the future".

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