I've just watched 'Prison Dads' on BBC iPlayer. It's part of ‘Baby Britain’ a season of BBC Three programmes exploring what it means to be a young parent in Britain today, and how having a baby changes your life. I thought I'd skip ‘Don’t just stand there, I’m having your baby’, which followed ‘clueless first time dads’.
‘Prison Dads’ is a documentary from Ruth Kelly covering six months in the lives of fathers at Glen Parva in Leicester – the biggest young offender’s institution in Britain. Prisoners there are five times more likely to be Dads than other men their age, and as I have written elsewhere this is a growing, worldwide issue. Although the offences and treatment of their beleaguered other halves of some of the Dads featured made it rather difficult to identify with them, you’d need a heart of stone not to get a tear in the eye at the dawning realisation that ‘That’s all gone now, for good that is. Won’t see him do his first words, trying to crawl, all that funny baby stuff’.
The children are growing up with the situation and don’t know any different, with one being told that Dad is ‘on naughty holiday’. These Dads are just kids themselves, hankering after school days as they chat in their cells. Some grew up in the same way themselves. You just have to hope that they will have plenty of professional support on release, to face up to their adult responsibilities and break the cycle.