For this Freedom Friday I want to emphasize the importance of a father’s example in the life and liberty of his son. Many, if not most, young boys want to be like their father. They wear his shoes and imitate him in many ways. This tendency is wonderful if the father is setting a good example, but it is horrible if the example is a bad one.
However, not all boys follow the bad example of their fathers. I know several young men, all nearing middle age, who saw the bad examples of their fathers and chose to live differently. All of them also chose to keep and improve their relationships with their fathers. So, sons do not always follow the bad examples of their fathers, but too many sons do.
Samantha Melamed posted an article titled “Father. Son. Cellmates. Generations of Philly Families Are Incarcerated Together.” It is an amazing article about a topic I had not previously studied. The author includes the pictures and personal stories of several sets of fathers and sons who are – or were - in prison together. She says that there are even grandfathers, fathers, and sons in prison together, and the sons have young sons at home just waiting to follow the father’s example. Melamed shares the story of one father and son and then writes the following.
Their story is, in some ways, not an unusual one. All around them are inmates who come from the same neighborhoods, the same city blocks or even the same households. Father and son hail from one of the most heavily incarcerated communities in one of the most incarcerated cities in the country. And just as crime gravitates to certain neighborhoods, it also clusters in families. According to one criminologist’s analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 5 percent of families account for more than 50 percent of all arrests.
Numerous studies have found that individuals whose parents have committed crimes are at least two times more likely to be perpetrators themselves. Sexual offending runs in families. So does violent crime.
The author writes that family reunions are held in the waiting rooms at prisons as various members of the family come to visit those in prison. This is sad! Family reunions should be taking place in beautiful, friendly, and fun locations, not in prisons. Yet, this is the way that some families live. The author says that the Department of Corrections in Pennsylvania does not keep track of family relationships. However, someone is trying to keep the records.
But Darryl Goodman, who was locked up with his own father at Graterford before dedicating his life to helping at-risk young people, has been piecing together a data set with help from inmates at the 25 prisons around the state. By his most recent reckoning, (and it’s hard to keep up, as inmates constantly are being moved) there were 243 fathers in state prisons with their sons. At Graterford alone, he counted 41 father-son pairs, including 17 sets of cellmates. He found seven families in which a father, son and grandson were all locked up together.
The author writes that some fathers try to parent their sons once they are in prison. I would say that they waited too long to accept the responsibility of parenthood. A loving and responsible father’s presence in the home can make all the difference in the world in the life of their son.