Masculinity: Father and prisoner

Daragh Bradshaw

Posted: 14 March, 2017

e child choose not to visit again. My findings emphasised the fathers’ perceptions of their loss of power and status within the family unit.

When speaking about their understanding of what it means to be a ‘father’, prisoners were quick to reject the notion that there was such a thing as an ideal father, emphasising instead the many potential variations. They rejected the idea that their absence made them any less of a father than anyone on the outside.  Some of the men, however, still had difficulty informing their children of the reason for their absence, as they thought that doing so would undermine their moral authority within the family. Some men chose to tell their children that they are either: ‘away at work’ or ‘helping others’.  In this way, these men were also attempting to preserve their status of carer and provider

Finally, difficult as the prison’s parenting programmes were for their participants, as these men redefined themselves primarily as father rather than prisoner, their relationships with others improved.  Communication patterns with those on the outside were enhanced, and a greater sense of solidarity with other imprisoned fathers emerged.  This alternative construction of masculinity can be utilised in facilitating their community re-entry and can support fathers in engaging meaningfully with their families.  Maintaining imprisoned fathers’ contact with their partners and children is an important component in efforts to protect vulnerable children from a future of criminality and to safeguard against emotional and behavioural difficulties. For the imprisoned fathers, those who maintain a positive relationship with their children are six times less likely to re-offend. This is surely something that should be supported and encouraged.

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