April is the month of second chances, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made in criminal justice reform. As we continue to focus on second chances for nonviolent criminals, April offers us the opportunity to consider second chances for fatherhood in the lives of children whose parents are incarcerated.
American prisons are full of fathers separated from their children, housing an estimated 800,000 incarcerated parents, 92% of whom cannot be a stable force in their children’s lives. Most of these men are fatherless themselves, perpetuating a cycle of broken families.
America is home to more than 1.7 million children with a parent in prison, or 2.3% of all US residents under the age of 18. According to a 2021 report by the Department of Justice, the average age of children with a parent in prison is between 9 and 10 years old.
This means that there are nearly 2 million children growing up without a father to discipline or encourage them. The truth is that fatherlessness is one of the most accurate predictors of social outcomes in a child’s life. Data suggests that children with a father in their life are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, commit suicide and more.
Nor should it come as a surprise that fatherlessness and criminal activity are closely linked. Data shows that fatherless children are about 20 times more likely to end up incarcerated and 11 times more likely to engage in violent behavior than their counterparts from two-parent homes. Similarly, approximately 80% of all young people in prison come from fatherless homes.
This sobering fact matches what I see through my daily work with juvenile detention centres. Just last week I was visiting a facility in Florida, where I learned that 94% of the minors we visited had no father at home. Amazingly, this juvenile detention center – like many others in our country – didn’t even require high school or GED courses for young inmates to prepare them for a successful life after incarceration.
In my mind, this is the wrong approach. As a society, we should push these children to pursue an education or acquire skills while requiring it for any minor in the context of rehabilitation. Instead, we deny them and force them to sit in jail and rack their brains on pop culture that glorifies crime and denigrates family.
Ironically, our failure to demand access to education and training programs for minors in detention is costing taxpayers more. Without education and training, the most basic basics, young people coming out of juvenile detention face enormous difficulties in finding a job, which increases their risk of recidivism and ending up in prison.
The costs of a demanding education and training for our children end up far outweighing the costs of not preparing them for success in life, and studies estimate that for every dollar spent on education in prison, four five dollars are saved after liberation – plus the moral stain he puts on our country by not providing children with the foundation they need to succeed. These programs already exist, so there would be no additional cost; we just need to demand them.
For example, The GEO Group is a leading organization that operates as one of the most successful government contractors in the criminal justice system. With a strong adherence to an evidence-based approach to rehabilitation, GEO Group has provided thousands of current and former inmates with resources to successfully reintegrate into society after release.
These programs cover a wide variety of areas such as behavioral therapy and educational resources, and they even extend post-release support by ensuring that returning citizens are not left behind in a world they may not recognize. to be more.
This is where the real conversation about equity should take place in America. It is a tragedy for society and the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money to spend tens of billions of dollars on prisons just to seat underage prisoners without receiving common sense efforts for rehabilitation and rehabilitation. acquisition of skills.
The Bible says, “spare not the rod,” and that’s exactly what we’re doing in our criminal justice system by allowing criminals to remain in custody unprepared to return to society. This is just another example of being “soft on crime” to the detriment of our young people and our society. Rehabilitation should be a mandatory component of the incarceration of non-violent criminals, both for the inmate and for the community.
We’ve all done things we regret and had times in our lives when we needed a second chance. Many of us have had this chance simply because of the opportunities in which we were born, by the grace of God. This is our chance to offer those same chances to others too. It’s also a second chance for us as Americans not to disappoint our children.
This is a second chance for us to guide them on the path to success and to truly invest in the future of our country, rather than keeping them stuck in cycles of crime and poverty. It’s a second chance in life as well as a second chance in fatherhood. It’s a second chance with the family. It’s a second chance to be a role model, mentor, provider and protector.
This month of April is a second chance for all of us.
• Jack Brewer is president of the Center for Opportunity Now and vice president of the Center for 1776 at America First Policy Institute. He was appointed by former President Donald Trump to the Congressional Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys and is currently a professor at the Fordham Gabelli School of Business. Brewer previously played in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.