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Fatherhood Arrested

Parenting from Within the Juvenile Justice System

Anne M. Nurse

Publication Year: 2002

Crime and young fatherhood have generally been viewed as separate social problems. Increasingly, researchers are finding that these problems are closely related and highly concentrated in low-income communities. Fatherhood Arrested is an in-depth study of these issues and the difficulties of parenting while in prison and on parole.  By taking us inside the prison system, Nurse shows how its structure actively shapes an inmate's relationship with his children. For example, visitation is sometimes restricted to blood relatives and wives. Because relationships between unmarried men and the mothers of their children are often strained, some mothers are unwilling to allow their children to go to the prison with the inmate's family. Or the father may be allowed to receive visits from only one "girlfriend," which forces a man with multiple relationships, or with children by different women, to make impossible choices. Special attention is paid to the gendered nature of prison, its patriarchal and punitive structure, and its high-stress environment. The book then follows newly paroled men as they are released and return to their children.  The author spent four years doing research at the California Youth Authority, during which time she surveyed 258 paroled fathers. The group included young white, black, and Latino men, ages sixteen to twenty-five. She conducted in-depth interviews with men selected from this group, participated in forty parenting class sessions, and observed visiting hours at three different institutions. The data provide fascinating information about the characteristics of the men, their attitudes toward fatherhood, and the ways they are involved with their children. The diversity of the fathers allows for an analysis of racial and ethnic variation in their attitudes and involvement. The study concludes with a series of policy suggestions, especially important in light of the large number of fathers now living under the care and control of the juvenile justice system. "Fatherhood Arrested provides a timely, thoughtful analysis of a pressing social problem-how the justice system thwarts the relationship between young fathers and their children. Nurse's study illuminates the mechanisms by which models of individual account-ability work in contradictory ways with regard to parental responsibility and criminal justice to damage familial bonds, and proposes concrete, rational suggestions for social change. Her careful integration of survey and qualitative research provides a model for blending methodologies. The result is a well-written, engaging work that offers a compelling picture of the human side of incarcerated young men. This book deserves a wide readership." --Jody Miller, author of One of the Guys: Girls, Gangs, and Gender

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank the paroled fathers who shared their lives with me. I know that many agreed to participate in this project because they wanted to help other young men like themselves. I hope that this book does justice to their time and effort. I would also like to thank the parole agents and staff at the California Youth...

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1. Prison and Fatherhood

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pp. 1-35

In recent years there has been much attention focused on economically disadvantaged young men. Two issues, crime and out-of wedlock fathering, have caused public anxiety and political debate. A perception of rampant criminal activity and irresponsible fathering has fueled welfare reform proposals, criminal law reforms, and...

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2. Fathering from Behind Bars

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pp. 36-71

All correctional facilities in the United States have strict rules governing the contact that inmates have with the outside world. These limitations are intended as a security measure and as part of an inmate’s punishment. Interestingly, the rules that govern the outside contact of juvenile inmates are even more restrictive than the...

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3. Coming Home

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pp. 72-102

Young men leave prison and return home to find that many things have changed in their absence. Girlfriends have moved on, friends have new lives, and jobs once held are no longer available. Fathers face particular challenges as they try to integrate themselves into their children’s lives. Most come home from prison with high...

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4. Negotiating Relationships

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pp. 103-128

Of the 258 surveys conducted for this project, the most challenging to schedule was with a young man named Adam. He had two jobs and five children, so I expected it to be difficult to find a time to meet with him. What surprised me, however, was that the scheduling problems we encountered had little to do with either his jobs...

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5. Young Fatherhood, Incarceration, and Public Policy

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pp. 129-152

The juvenile correctional system began in 1825 in New York with the creation of the first reform school. Before that time, juveniles who committed serious crimes were housed alongside adults in local jails. In many cases, judges pardoned children rather than send them to jail because they feared harm would come to them. These...


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pp. 153-154

Works Cited

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pp. 155-163


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pp. 165-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591548
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514042
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514049

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 61859557
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fatherhood Arrested

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Juvenile parole -- United States.
  • Children of prisoners -- United States.
  • Father and child -- United States.
  • Juvenile delinquents -- Rehabilitation -- United States.
  • Absentee fathers -- Rehabilitation -- United States.
  • Teenage fathers -- Rehabilitation -- United States.
  • Parenting -- Study and teaching -- United States.
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