What Our Prison System Can Teach Us About Family

I want to talk a little bit about a crisis that is going on in our culture within our prison system. Now, I don’t know if you guys know that … one statistic I want to share with you guys. In September 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States was the highest in the world. 716 people were incarcerated for every 100,000 people in our population. That represents about 4.4% of the world’s population of prisoners. While the United States represents only 4.4% of the world’s population and houses 22% of the world’s prisoners. What? How is this happening?

And there’s a book that Jeff and I both really dug into. A guy named Warren Farrell, who wrote a book called The Boy Crisis, and he began to call prisons, prisons are centers for dad deprived boys. And one article I was reading about Warren Farrell’s assessment here says prisons are populated primarily by men who were abandoned or rejected by their fathers.

Bill Glass, a dedicated evangelist who counseled almost every weekend for 25 years with men who were incarcerated, says that among the thousands of prisoners he had met, not one of them genuinely loved his dad. 95% of those on death row hated their fathers.

And this really breaks my heart. When you think about, you know, you can think about this from sort of a security perspective. A lot of times this is the way it’s pitched, right? Like, Oh my gosh, so much of the crime in our country is related to the fatherhood crisis.

But what really gets me when I think about this problem are these men who … did they ever really have a decent chance at understanding how to control their impulses, how to live a great life, while their crimes are stealing life from so many other people. Their lives have also been so badly damaged and destroyed because of the abandonment or the abuse of a father.

And I think it’s important, you know, when I hear or we talk about the prison crisis or the drug crisis or all these things is guys, just constantly want to remind you guys that this is all, the root cause of this is the lack of fathers. And even this phrase, dad deprived boys, which you’ve talked about in the podcast before, is one of the most heartbreaking phrases that I can imagine, that this is really the root cause of so many problems.

And one last story that I know that in one of Dobsin’s books about boys, he pointed this out, that there was a program in a prison that really gathered the prisoners together to all send a card to their mother for mother’s day and it was one of the most successful programs in this prison’s history. You know, men were just having so many, so many bonding moments around talking about how much they love their mothers and how much their mothers meant to them that the people who started this program decided, Hey, let’s just repeat the program next month for father’s day. And so they did everything exactly the same way, set up the room, got everything ready and no one showed up.


And this was, for these people, the epiphany that the problem that really is a crime and what is causing these issues in the prison systems and what is really destroying the lives of these men was their lack of having a father. That’s so few men in these prisons actually have a relationship with their fathers. And this is something we have to understand at the root level that what you and I are doing and trying to love and father our children, is so foundational to their lives and to what creates any kind of stability and flourishing a society.

Yeah, and I think, two things I think I’ve real quick is the first thing is man, do a thought experiment of envisioning how much this world is lacking because of the fatherlessness and those men in prison, meaning what would the future be like if all of those guys were loved and had a strong bond with their father and had families themselves or were single on a mission or created things in beauty and goodness into the world or brought joy and blessing and innovation and technology to the world. Whatever it is, you can just think of man, the ripples are kind of insane when you start putting it in that perspective of what we’re losing collectively as a society from our own brothers and sisters because of the brokenness of the family.

And then last thing I would say, to encourage you guys but also make sure that we’re hearing this, you know, at the end of the day too, we have to realize guys, the thing that forms a strong bond with fathers to their sons is usually not the authority discipline thing. Now, of course that’s a part of our job description, but I think we also have to be careful too that like exactly what that card experiment, there’s not this, like this compelled love in a kid’s heart towards their father, but there is for their mother and I think a lot of that ties to the nurturing and to the tending.

And I’m not saying that a father needs to do exactly that. There’s distinction there even though there’s also similarity there. But I do think there needs to be, we need to go way past the cultural, the cultural bar for a good father is still pretty low, even for good ones, of just like pay the bills and answer their questions when they ask you. Not pursue their hearts, shepard their hearts, talk to them, dig into them, fight for them, pray for them, get on your knees for them, teach them the scriptures, teach them all of life, etcetera.

And so I think, man, let’s make sure that we’re capturing the biblical vision too of what that looks like, because that’s what then you create in your kid. And that’s if we know, without a dad or if we did have a good dad, that is the magic that creates the strong, strong bond that then becomes something that they will hopefully pass on to their kids because they know what it’s like to be loved by a father, to be pursued by their father.

And so, that’s what I would say for this one guys, is just remember the importance of it, but also remember and cast that vision for the future and what that can look like and step into that today.

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