Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.1.6 Prisonization

09/01/2008

A final set of barriers to parenting upon reentry, which has been the most widely addressed in prison parenting and family-based programs, involves the experiences of fathers in prison. The prison environment is highly structured and controlled, and gives fathers little autonomy or need to make decisions for themselves. Displays of aggression and dominance are sometimes essential to safety and success in prison, and fathers learn to withdraw socially and become distrusting and psychologically remote. These characteristics run counter to the qualities that are likely to support close relationships between fathers and their children (Festen et al., 2002; Hairston, 2001; Haney, 2001). The psychological changes that take place when fathers are incarcerated therefore may impede their ability to connect and reestablish intimacy with their children, to help organize their children’s environment, and to make authoritative decisions for their children (Festen et al., 2002; Haney, 2001).

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