When Dad goes to prison, the whole family goes with him

Post Date: June 19, 2014

Kevin and girlsLast November you read this letter about my friend and colleague, Kevin Ring, who was headed to prison. It’s now been six months since Kevin self-surrendered to FPC Cumberland and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and his two young daughters.   

As you can imagine, this past Sunday – Father’s Day – was an extremely difficult day for him. In fact, he wrote this beautiful and powerful piece that was featured in Sunday’s Washington Post. If you don’t read the whole thing (it’s not very long), I’d like you to at least read this one point he raises.  

Fatherhood should not be a “get out of jail freecard, of course. All of us at Cumberland earned our tickets of entry. Nor would knowing that a convicted rapist or murderer was also a good Little League coach or Boy Scout leader move me if I were tasked with sentencing him. But in most cases, especially those involving the nonviolent offenders with whom I’m serving, I would want to know about the defendant as a parent, and about his family. For as much as it hurts us fathers, a growing body of research says it hurts our kids, too.”

I see this when I visit Kevin in prison. I watch the children as they eagerly wait for their dads to come through the visiting room door, and I see the big smiles that break out when they finally appear. I’ve seen fathers scoop up their kids, one in each arm, and squeeze them tight almost as if to absorb them. I’ve watched as a father gives a bottle to an infant, as another one buries his head in a toddler’s tummy making him laugh, and another plays endless card games with an older son.

Any one of these acts is a “Kodak moment” of fatherhood, yet it unfolds in a prison visiting room and will end at the given hour. The kids will return to a home without a father and, if they are lucky, will get another trip to prison in the not-too-distant future to see their dads again.

For a country that prides itself on innovation, we are remarkably unimaginative when it comes to punishment. As Kevin says, fatherhood should not be a “get out of jail free” card, but family impact should be considered at sentencing, because as I’ve heard for decades, when someone goes to prison, the whole family goes with him or her.

This is yet one more reason to support FAMM. We change laws that change lives – not just for the defendant or prisoner, but for the families that come with them.

We are $15,000 short of our goal of $25,000 for this month. Please donate here to help us raise the funds we need to change the most laws that will have the broadest impact on families across America.

My best,

Julie

Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

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