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Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!
March 21, 2013 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Richmond City Jail hosts a father-daughter dance, bringing fathers and daughters together beyond the visitors booth (photos). “I just gotta break this cycle I’m in. I’m just tired of it,” Andre Morman says, adding that he can’t wait to see his youngest daughter. “I haven’t been able to pick her up in nine months.”

He’s been behind bars for the last nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship. He gets out in 88 days. He has nine children total and says he just doesn’t have the money.

Only some of the inmates are allowed to attend the dance. It’s open only to nonviolent offenders; interested fathers are interviewed by a jail deputy and have their criminal histories reviewed. They must also get permission from the child’s mother.

Many of the fathers attend a fatherhood class in preparation for the dance. At one point, Richmond activist and hip-hop artist Joe’i Chancellor performs her prose-poem Father for the class. Her own father went to jail when she was nine and didn’t come home until she was 21. The men cry as they reflect on their relationships with their own fathers and daughters.

According to the Washington Post, "the dance at the Richmond jail is less improbable than it sounds: Historically, the father-daughter dances have been used to help American families reunite. They became widespread in the U.S. after WWII as a way to reintegrate men into family life." [I was unable to find a citation] It’s too early to know whether this dance will have a lasting impact, but for Richmond City Sheriff C.T. Woody, it’s a start.
posted by postel's law (71 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Don't read the comments in that WaPo link. Not unless you feel like putting your fist through your screen today.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ooof. The last photo in the first link is so intense. The hand of the daughter against the glass, the blurry distorted shape of the suited men in the back...intense.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:58 AM on March 21, 2013


This is a beautiful thing.
posted by gwint at 8:58 AM on March 21, 2013


Oh my god, those photos are heartbreaking. They make me realize how much I take for granted the fact that I get to be with my kids everyday. This is so beautiful.
posted by jbickers at 9:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"He’s been behind bars for the last nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship. He gets out in 88 days."

I woulda taken the one I stiffed on child-support.
posted by matty at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I loved this article; thanks for posting it. Anything that is done for families that are torn apart for WHATEVER reason is a good thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I woulda taken the one I stiffed on child-support.

It's possible she was asked and said "fuck no".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


If there was just one thing about the US where it is radically different from most other Western nations that I could change by waving a magic wand I think it would be the bizarre mania for locking people up in prison. The number of lives--wildly disproportionately black lives, of course--that have been wantonly destroyed by this cruel and stupid system just beggars the imagination. And, of course, it's not just the lives of those who are incarcerated, but of their spouses, their children, their children's children. Such a gross and needless waste.

This is a beautiful but also heartbreaking photo essay.
posted by yoink at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


He’s been behind bars for the last nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship.

I thought debtors prisons were a thing of the past in the US.

Seriously. OK, so not paying support is certainly a big problem, but jail time is in no way going to improve things for any of his children.
posted by anastasiav at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [30 favorites]


jail time is in no way going to improve things for any of his children

The number of problems for which the best solution is "put him in jail!" is rather small.
posted by yoink at 9:36 AM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


I thought debtors prisons were a thing of the past in the US.

"More than one-third of U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed."
posted by mattbucher at 9:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


the bizarre mania for locking people up in prison

On that topic, I just had the opportunity to read an advance copy of the graphic novel-style version of The Race to Incarcerate. Highly recommended, but depressing as hell.
posted by saladin at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013


Anyone jailed for not paying child support is not doing it because he can't pay but because he chooses not to.

I have little sympathy for those guys.
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm so glad you posted this. It's so fantastic.

The Washington Post touches on Angela Patton and Camp Diva but truly, it doesn't give enough detail. Camp Diva is a non-profit based in Richmond, VA which runs after school programs and workshops (among other things) for girls of African American descent. The goal is to help them build life and social skills, stimulate respect themselves and their health, and encourage them to follow a career path and to contribute back to their communities.

Ms. Patton apparently had a conversation with a number of attending teen girls a few years ago about their relationships with their fathers. She asked them how they thought they could help other girls develop healthy relationships with their fathers, and they came up with an idea for a "Date with Dad Dinner & Dance."

The dance was a success, so they decided to hold one every year.

Two years later, one of the young women attending the camp mentioned that she couldn't attend because her father was incarcerated. The teen girls decided to move the dance into the jail. They asked Sheriff Woody. He agreed. And now the fathers of the Richmond City Jail have a unique opportunity to bond with their daughters.

Over 400 fathers and daughters now attend annually.

Imagine that.

200+ young girls get to spend a nice night with their dads each year, not separated by bars or glass. And for a little while, they each might even have a little bit of normalcy in their lives.

Angela Patton's TED talk last year. There's also an active kickstarter for a documentary about the dances, which I won't link to out of respect for MeFi's guidelines, but you can find info at the camp's website.
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't read the comments in that WaPo link. Not unless you feel like putting your fist through your screen today.

Apparently some people can't resist using other people's hard times as an opportunity to make an ass of themselves.
posted by TedW at 10:13 AM on March 21, 2013


I don't cry. I lack the crying gene. But somehow my mouth must have channeled saliva to my tear ducts because i'm sitting here bawling my eyes out!
posted by ramix at 10:13 AM on March 21, 2013


corb: Anyone jailed for not paying child support is not doing it because he can't pay but because he chooses not to.
That's my understanding. Family courts are very sensitive to the fact that taking too much from the father's paycheck can backfire: the father can lose his job through non-payment of crucial bills (like car repair), the father can quit his job in a passive-aggressive strike (and I've seen one do that; an engineer, no less), the father's relationship with the child can worsen.

On the one hand you want to take all their worldly goods and sell them, then put them on a work farm until the kids have enough... OTOH, of course that won't make the family stronger, or rectify the base problem (in prisoner terms, they'll just be recidivists).

Parents who cheat their own children out of money are the lowest of the low. How to solve the problem is as sticky as legal questions get.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: "Anyone jailed for not paying child support is not doing it because he can't pay but because he chooses not to."

I have very little sympathy for deadbeat parents too. That said, this sort of black-and-white distinction is false, and symptomatic of many of the structural problems in the justice system as a whole. There is, actually, room for nuance in considering offences and crimes.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I included the line about the father not paying child support because I think it is important context, but there really are debtor's prisons in the U.S. Even for child support.

Another fine development here in MD and elsewhere is that district attorneys are allowing private debt collectors to use their official letterhead to threaten debtors.
posted by postel's law at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2013


He’s been behind bars for the last nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship... He has nine children total and says he just doesn’t have the money.

I suspect that the guy really doesn't have the money. Even at a rate of one hundred dollars each month for each of those nine children (which is nothing compared to what the mothers will have to shell out monthly for their children's needs!), nine hundred is probably more than he can pay.

For my part I don't have much sympathy for people who have so many children when they can't afford to support them. It's just plain stupid and irresponsible. That's not to say I support throwing them in jail. There are other options.
posted by orange swan at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


The TED talk and those photos are pretty sweet.


I really hope we can circumnavigate the 'these people deserve what they get and I have no sympathy for them" kind of thread jack. though I suppose it was inevitable
posted by edgeways at 10:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's worth reiterating out that not every person there is in jail over lack of child support. A number of them have been jailed for other offenses.
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many people do you know who do have the money to pay child support for nine children?

Having more children than you can support certainly isn't good, but I'm not sure that criminalizing such behavior is going to make anybody better off. If nothing else, I doubt it's even remotely effective as a deterrent.

zarq: "It's worth reiterating out that not every person there is in jail over lack of child support. A number of them have been jailed for other offenses."

No, but the number of people in jail on bullshit offenses is absurdly high. Most of them are either too poor or too black to be given an appropriate sentence by the courts. I got called up (but not selected) for jury duty a few months ago, where the DA basically threw the book at the (poor, black) defendant for a minor traffic offense. There was absolutely no reason why the case should have been brought to a jury trial, let alone prosecuted so aggressively (with likely jail time).

The American prison system is human-rights abuse of the first order.
posted by schmod at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I definitely don't support guys having 9 children when they're not even willing to take care of one, but even in those circumstances, judges usually modify it so that they are paying child support to all, even if it's ridiculously low. I know a single mother who is supposed to receive $40 a month, and it was even reduced to $25 because of the guy's other circumstances and low income. If someone genuinely wants to pay to help their kids, judges will usually accomodate them.

Now I do believe there's a lot of guys who THINK that they can't afford to pay for all of their kids, so they just won't pay for any. But those guys are wrong.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2013


corb: "I definitely don't support guys having 9 children when they're not even willing to take care of one"

I don't know where you're getting your information about this person. Sounds to me like you are making an awful lot of assumptions and dealing in absolutist rhetoric. Again, there's nuance in the world, and the lack of it in our criminal justice system is a serious problem.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've paid child support for 15 years, on time and in full, every month. This gives me both less, and more, sympathy for non-payers.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's worth reiterating out that not every person there is in jail over lack of child support. A number of them have been jailed for other offenses.
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on March 21 [+] [!]


Why is that worth reiterating? The implication is that you think they deserve to be serving harder time. Is that what you mean?
posted by ben242 at 10:48 AM on March 21, 2013


Took my daughter to a dance at the local county jail.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on March 21, 2013


That is one of the best, most effective photo essays I've seen in a long time. Wow. Thanks so much for posting this.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:49 AM on March 21, 2013


The problem is that in order to do things right and comply with the law, this father would have had to go petition as many as nine courts - possibly in different states- to modify nine different child support orders as soon as his income or cost of living changed. That's time consuming, even if you get the fees waived. It's easier to just stop paying, but it's also against the law.
posted by steinwald at 10:49 AM on March 21, 2013


For everyone going on about not having sympathy for the dads and all that ... how about we focus on the little girls, who are (hopefully) not aware of the bad stuff their dads have done and the financial problems likely going on at home, but are just happy that they get to see their fathers for a little while and dance with them? Can we be happy for them that this dance is happening?
posted by jbickers at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


corb: "Now I do believe there's a lot of guys who THINK that they can't afford to pay for all of their kids, so they just won't pay for any. But those guys are wrong."

That's a totally reasonable statement, but how on earth is it the best option to throw those people in jail?

The court could very easily order the money be taken out of the father's bank account or paycheck, or the government could just pay the child support itself, which would be considerably cheaper than the cost of incarcerating the deadbeat dad.
posted by schmod at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yes, schmod, but then the holier-than-thous don't get the smug satisfaction of knowing that "another deadbeat is in jail where he belongs." I imagine a non-small percentage of people, given the choice, would prefer to spend more per capita to incarcerate than to, in their opinion, let him off the hook.
posted by Golfhaus at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2013


I don't know where you're getting your information about this person

The nine-child piece was linked above.

That's a totally reasonable statement, but how on earth is it the best option to throw those people in jail?

The court could very easily order the money be taken out of the father's bank account or paycheck, or the government could just pay the child support itself, which would be considerably cheaper than the cost of incarcerating the deadbeat dad.


Well, it has the effect of scaring other people into paying. The court does have the option to garnish wages, but what all too often happens in those cases is they simply find work off the books that cannot be garnished, and deal in cash. Also, for the government to pay the child support would really let those guys off the hook, and would not be a disincentive to continuing the behavior.
posted by corb at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


ben242: " Why is that worth reiterating? The implication is that you think they deserve to be serving harder time. Is that what you mean?"

Because the way corb phrased her comment, and the way the thread seemed to be going, I didn't want people to be under the impression that the people in the jail were all dads who didn't pay child support, and as a result condemn them all as deadbeats, unworthy of sympathy. The fathers in that jail are there for many reasons.
posted by zarq at 11:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


schmod: "No, but the number of people in jail on bullshit offenses is absurdly high."

I'm not really understanding what this has to do with my comment, but yes, I agree.
posted by zarq at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2013


I also took zarq's comment to be a gentle reminder that "hey you guys this thread isn't about the legal bylaws of child custody in the first place."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey. Here is a totally shocking, perhaps not as fun as having a good Thursday internet slap fight though, suggestion.
Let's not try and fix the system here? And lets not go down the corb derail path as well?
1 person. ONE person is mentioned as being incarcerated because of failure to pay child support and now it's not a thread about the benefits of the father daughter dances, but the oh how awful society is, and being completely parsimonious with any shred of sympathy for a bad situation you are not in.
posted by edgeways at 11:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


corb: "I don't know where you're getting your information about this person

The nine-child piece was linked above.
"

Yeah, I read it. I don't see how you magically know that he has "9 children when they're not even willing to take care of one". The article doesn't say anything about that. You are projecting.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


On second thought, yeah another typical derail. Nevermind.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The system is terminally broken and these examples just show it off with a spotlight.

First, it should be irrelevant how responsible or irresponsible the father is - children should have a certain, comfortable environment as their birthright, and if the parents can't or won't provide it, the state should step in - as it does in most of the first world.

If you are guaranteed proper food, decent shelter, a good educational system and health care, lack of child support is no long a huge issue.

Now that not paying the child support has been reduced to "doing something anti-social and wrong" rather than "actually causing harm to the children" then you can do the totally logical thing and simply garnishee this person's wages. Again, if the person is guaranteed not to fall off the bottom of the ladder and die, this might be deeply inconvenient but isn't going to kill them. And if they're such losers that they never generate any money, it's still cheaper than putting them in jail.

And my compassionate scheme costs society much less than today's idea - paying to incarcerate the dad, and failing to support the child.

I don't see a good future for this society - it's in an unsweet spot.

Competing on one side we have the rest of the first world, who are trying to nurture their people so they'll be strong and educated citizens, workers and consumers with a great deal invested in the state. Ya know, "infrastructure".

Competing on the other side, we have the third world countries, who offer the broken lives of their poorest as slave labour for the rest of the world to use.

The United States has first world aspirations but a third-world attitude toward workers and the 99%. They're still coasting off the huge investments that the "Greatest Generation" and the post-war generation made in the country, but in another generation, when the stunted products of "No Child Left Behind" have all attempted to enter the work system, with the middle class crippled with (by then) two generations of debt from unaffordable post-secondary education, and with bridges, power systems, and schools and other infrastructure systematically neglected for fifty years, the United States will be grim place indeed.

You'd think people would want to prevent that. But it's not just that everyone's attitude needs to change, the entire system needs to change from top to bottom - it's that the 1% have sewn everything up so that change is impossible to effect - that we have two permanent political parties, neither of which speaks for "the worker" at all.

In our immediate future, I predict a lot more "father daughter dance" feel-good stories, but no actual action at all.

On the bright side, there will be several more iterations through those classic issues that both parties love so much: "gun rights", "gay marriage" and "reproductive freedom". These are the gifts that keep giving for both sides, because everyone gets very excited but nothing really changes, because there isn't a logical solution - if either side actually directed their attention to issues like "over-incareration", there are actual possible solutions that might emerge, solutions that might change the status quo, and that can't be allowed to happen.

Still and all, kudos to the WashPost for this story.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


Having little to no sympathy is nothing to brag about.

I'm glad these kids get to see their dads.

I wish the Washington Post would come up with a photo gallery scheme that works in my browser.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:20 AM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail."

That's a common but short-sighted view — jail should only suck as much as is necessary to isolate offenders from the rest of society and rehabilitate them into law-abiding members of said society. The goal is less crime, and these guys will all get out at some point. Getting hung up on punishment distracts from the goal of less crime.
posted by klangklangston at 11:20 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thanks, Empress.

Cool Papa Bell: "Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail."

A few of us have been talking in a previous thread about the purposes of incarceration, whether it works and recidivism rates. One of the things that I brought up over there is recidivism rates are very, very high. Way too high. Something like 67% of prisoners are arrested in the three years following their release. Around 46-50% are then convicted/incarcerated.

Jail is supposed to be a punishment, yes. But we want to rehabilitate prisoners, not just punish them, and that's not really happening right now. Locking people away is not working as a rehabilitation technique. Not as well as we'd like. It really needs to be combined with some sort of treatment program.

Giving prisoners an opportunity to see that they're capable of having a positive influence on their children's lives can potentially provide them with the incentives they need to try harder to walk the straight and narrow path when they get out. Their kids can give them something to live for, and inspire them to do better next time and stay the hell out of jail. So perhaps, they can aspire to be someone their kid can be proud of.
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I loved this photo essay. The girls and their fathers look delighted and proud to be in each other's company. Regardless of how the men ended up in jail, this event serves as an incentive for them to get their acts together and it provides the girls an opportunity to spend a whole afternoon being nothing but the apple of their father's eye. Only positive stuff can come out of this. Only positive stuff.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think there is plenty of room to consider that there are people in jail who have really harmed their children both deliberately and accidentally by their own actions. And that probably some portion of those dads should not see their kids.

And that there are many dads who are coping with mental illness, addiction, and other problems not of their own making that played a role or the entirety of their criminal behavior.

And that there are some dads who may have deliberately chosen actions that they now regret and are taking the steps to rectify what was wrong and be good dads.

All in all, I think it's possible to celebrate this for the sake of whatever of those dads is in jail for the wrong reasons, or is in jail for the right reasons but using that time to truly try to make themselves better. And for the sake of any of those kids who are benefited by seeing their loving but possibly imperfect of troubled fathers after too long apart.

I don't know anyone whose addictive behaviors get better with more punishment. Anywhere. Whether the addictive behaviors being temper tantrums, stealing for thrills, abusing people for the power of it, drugs, alcohol, buying stupid shit instead of taking care of your kids. I don't think jail is ONLY about reparation though. It is ALSO a deterrent to others thinking they can get away with shitty behavior. When we train kids we teach them empathy but we also teach them when they forget to use empathy they will lose privileges and there will be consequences they don't like. But yeah, torturing and degrading and humiliating people in the subhuman conditions in many prisons is well beyond what is needed to convey this message in my personal opinion.

What's more, most kids act out when their environment sucks. As do adults. Many people are in jail for the wrong reasons, and that reason is a brutally inhumane system that fails to render aid to those in need before they are in excruciating pain and acting out or using addictive behaviors to cope.
posted by xarnop at 11:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. This is fantastic.
2. I hope the sons get a day with Dad too.
3. I hope the daughters get a day with Mom too.
4. I hope the sons get a day with Mom too.
5. It's still fantastic.
posted by chavenet at 11:36 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't read the comments in that WaPo link. Not unless you feel like putting your fist through your screen today.

This is my mantra pretty much everyday with WaPo.
posted by Leezie at 11:37 AM on March 21, 2013


My understanding of life in prison is that one tenet of the relationship between guards and prisoners is to beat the prisoners down, to lower them in any way possible. It was really great to see the warden in this scenario say that putting on the suits really increases the prisoners' self respect and have him see that as a good thing.
posted by bendy at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail.

Yeah, all the more reason to think long and hard about who we put in there and what we think the overall social benefit of doing it will be. The USA imprisons a fantastically higher proportion of its population than almost any other comparable country. We're worse than, but comparable to, such paradises on earth as Russia, Cuba, Rwanda and Iran. Imprisonment is causing massive social dislocation in African American communities in particular. And for what? What are we gaining from this? What evidence is there that this is making the US a safer or more morally upstanding place?
posted by yoink at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail.

So let me get this straight. You take people whose lives already suck, then you pay a lot of money to make their lives suck a hell of a lot more (and incidentally destroy their earning potential, a primary means of contributing back to society, for the rest of their lives).

A rational person would think this is a total loss for everyone. The child continues not to get child support. Society pays money now for the man in jail, and more money later as said man is unable to support himself when he gets out of jail. It's unclear whether the man actually "learns anything" other than "life sucks", but he's certainly worse at actually avoiding the issue in future. It's a complete loss all around.

You seem to be proposing that the reason to support jail for these cases is because one enjoys seeing people suffer. I think that this is in fact a big reason for the over-incarceration in America - that a lot of people enjoy seeing people in jail - but I personally would not wished to be identified with that concept.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


They have much nicer and more humane prisons in Scandinavia and a lower recidivism rate. (I found this saying the rate in Scandinavia is about 35%). I don't know if the one leads to the other, but I do question whether the prevalence and harshness of the U.S. prison systems (plural because we do have multiple systems here, state, federal, military, private prisons under contract to state and federal bodies, and county jails) is productive. I do believe in punishment, but I would also like us to put more emphasis on (1) punishments other than incarceration for more non-violent crimes and (2) rehabilitiation.
posted by Area Man at 11:50 AM on March 21, 2013


Something like 67% of prisoners are arrested in the three years following their release. Around 46-50% are then convicted/incarcerated.

A huge part of the high US recidivism rate is that having a criminal history makes a person almost unemployable, regardless of crime. I have a family member with decent job skills and a strong work ethic who has had an incredibly hard time finding employment despite his skills. He has had strong family support, i.e. people willing to support him for a year while he searched for work. Not everyone has family that will feed, house and clothe someone for a year who can't contribute financially in any way. It's a painful position to be in and leads many people to try and 'pick up a few bucks' doing something dumb.
posted by shoesietart at 12:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's quite charming, really. (the dances, not the state of the prison-industrial complex in america)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2013


"Why do we spend an order of magnitude more money than what they owe sending debtors to prison?"
"Otherwise it's a moral hazard*"
"Ahhh that's why all those banks were left to fail"

Why not just give the money to the kids and pretend the father is having a shitty life in prison?



*Remember that phrase? I hear it's kicking back and chilling in the same place "quagmire" went in 2003
posted by fullerine at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't read the comments in that WaPo link. Not unless you feel like putting your fist through your screen today.

Actually, if you sort by "Most Liked," they're overwhelmingly supportive. I was pleasantly surprised. Not pleased enough to test my luck by reading random ones beyond the most liked, but still.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:06 PM on March 21, 2013


My father went to jail for the first time when I was eleven and he died an incredibly painful death shortly after his last release from jail about twenty years later. He was 52. We had no relationship. In that context, I still cannot formulate a response to this article except to say that if I had taken part in something like this it probably would have been restorative and profoundly painful all at once.

My older sister has been in and out of jail the last few years and during her most recent incarceration I brought her two-year old daughter and four-month old son to see her. The process -- hauling both kids up three flights of stairs; one in an umbrella stroller and one strapped to my chest, then through security, then relinquishing the stroller and the baby carrier and everything on my person and carrying both kids, one in each arm, through a series of metal detectors and into a room full of visiting pods where we saw my sister in a scrubs-style jail uniform with no jewelery and no makeup and none of her usual adornments or plumage. She was allowed to hug each child for thirty seconds -- they counted -- and then we had to sit on benches facing each other, me and the children on one side of the glass partition and her on the other. I pulled her in with my eyes and got as close as I was legally allowed and then I told her if you do not get your shit together I will take your kids away from you and since then -- it's been a bit over six months -- she has gotten out of jail and she has attended every probation appointment and passed every drug test and ticked every box she possibly can. She has told me, more than once, that she thinks about that moment pretty much every day: her wide-eyed and solemn children on the other side of the glass and my hissing voice in her ear. If that's what this dance is doing -- showing the inmates what they want, what they have, giving them a few hours to enjoy it and then sending them back to their cells to think about what they really want to be doing with their lives, I guess I think it's not a bad idea. But I also know for sure that when I carried my niece and nephew out of the jail again my niece was inconsolable and furious and every guard and warden avoided my eyes as I struggled back to waiting room to collect our things. (My nephew, at four months old, was just too young to know what was going on.) I had set the children in front of my sister as if they were a feast and my sister was starving and then I whisked them away again. And it was so hard on my niece, so incredibly heartbreaking, that I'm not sure I would do it again. So there's that side of things. Like, maybe it's great to be motivated with a carrot and a stick, but holy shit, what happens when you are the carrot?
posted by kate blank at 2:41 PM on March 21, 2013 [43 favorites]


My understanding of life in prison is that one tenet of the relationship between guards and prisoners is to beat the prisoners down, to lower them in any way possible. It was really great to see the warden in this scenario say that putting on the suits really increases the prisoners' self respect and have him see that as a good thing.

It probably also says a lot about what he's witnessed incarceration doing to people.
posted by BibiRose at 4:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"They have much nicer and more humane prisons in Scandinavia and a lower recidivism rate. "

Scandinavian prison is like a dorm with only basic cable and the backrubs are sometimes brusque.
posted by klangklangston at 4:52 PM on March 21, 2013


Jeez, America. *shakes head*
posted by glasseyes at 4:54 PM on March 21, 2013


The backgrounds of these photos are fascinating, and, I think, tell a more complex story. From the mics and cameras in some of the early photos-- which makes me wonder who, along with the WaPo, is planning to exploit these scenes-- to the scenes from the dance itself where not every father-daughter pair looks happy, there's a wide range of motives, emotions, and responses playing out.
posted by underthehat at 4:57 PM on March 21, 2013


Anyone jailed for not paying child support is not doing it because he can't pay but because he chooses not to.

I have little sympathy for those guys.

Everyone realizes jail is supposed to suck, right? That's why it's called jail.


The children didn't do anything wrong but they suffer from the separation from their dads (even the dads who didn't pay child support. And if you read closely, each participant is selected - no dad who's there for hurting a kid is going to have access to that kid through this program.)

Jail sucks for the families of incarcerated people. The children of the incarcerated are innocent victims of this system. It is fucking great that the Richmond City Jail is doing something to address that and I can hope only that they have events for sons to see dads, and for kids to see moms, too, as chavenet said. The children are the sympathetic figures, here.
posted by gingerest at 5:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Leaving (not at all basic) humanitarian concerns aside, making children pay for the sins of their parents is really, really not good for society in general. Incarceration is hard on kids of all ages, even teens.
posted by smirkette at 8:23 PM on March 21, 2013


The "jail is supposed to suck" thing: it sucks to pay fines. It sucks to lose your driver's license. Does it suck to be in the US prison system? Just depends what you mean by 'suck.' It sucks to be demeaned and dehumanized and made less able to function in society? Fine; then it also sucks to be doing that to such a large percentage of our population,
posted by BibiRose at 7:16 AM on March 22, 2013


Last night, I told a relative who is a corrections officer about this program. He hadn't heard of it but thought it was a good idea. He did say that whenever you have a program like this that rewards certain inmates you can have problems from other inmates who believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were unfairly excluded. That's not to say that it shouldn't be done, but it was another dimension to the implementation of such a program that I hadn't considered.
posted by maurice at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2013


xarnop: "It is ALSO a deterrent to others thinking they can get away with shitty behavior."

[citation-needed]
posted by schmod at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: Scandinavian prison is like a dorm with only basic cable and the backrubs are sometimes brusque.
Citation needed. Political party detected.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2013


orange swan: He’s been behind bars for the last nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship... He has nine children total and says he just doesn’t have the money.

I suspect that the guy really doesn't have the money. Even at a rate of one hundred dollars each month for each of those nine children (which is nothing compared to what the mothers will have to shell out monthly for their children's needs!), nine hundred is probably more than he can pay.
States limit how much total child support anyone has to pay (for just this reason), so I guarantee you he could pay what the courts require of him (in PA it's <=50% of earnings). It's not about what's fair to the child so much as what's realistically possible in the general direction of the fair goalpost.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:30 AM on March 25, 2013


Really? Which political party is that?
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2013


I thought debtors prisons were a thing of the past in the US.

Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities
posted by homunculus at 9:24 PM on April 6, 2013


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