There’s a multitude of reasons why it’s important to be a father in prison. However, to me, the most important thing is to do all that’s humanly possible to help your children avoid the many pitfalls that can cause them to lose one of the most precious privileges of their life: their freedom! To this end, I offer thirteen lessons on fatherhood in prison.

1. Reinforce, over and over again, that one bad decision in life can cause generations of grief, regret, and heartache beyond repair. This reinforcement must be supported by practical examples and lessons from a personal as well as a historical perspective. Examples like instilling in your children the importance of listening to the good wisdom of their parents, teachers, and elders. These people have their best interests at heart, and they understand how life functions.

2. As fathers, we must teach our children how to use proper discipline when temptations and negative urges try to overpower their good judgment. How to use the correct guidelines on morality and what that entails: virtuous conduct, self-respect, empathy, and respect for others.

3. Teach children the art of resiliency, fortitude, humbleness, perseverance, and redemption, when and if they face adversity or some form of crisis. Show them how you’ve used those principles to reach your high level of self-actualization in your times of challenge and controversy. Teach them that, no matter what obstacles they may face in life, or where life places them: “Bloom where you are planted.”

4. Instruct your children on the lessons of faith and the importance of having a sense of the “divine order.” On how to reflect and meditate on life and their purpose for being alive. How to resolve conflicts in a tactful, diplomatic, and peaceful manner.

5. Show how petty emotions can blind their good reasoning, if they aren’t mindful, during a volatile situation. Teach them that there’s a difference between being trained as opposed to being educated. Because when you’re “trained,” you’re taught “how” to think.

6. Educate your children on the significance of being self-reliant. On being producers instead of just consumers. Highlight the importance of having the wherewithal to secure their food, clothing, and shelter, without depending on others, solely.

7. Emphasize the importance of protecting and providing for themselves and their family. To be mindful of others less fortunate than themselves, and give charity where and when it’s needed. And never forget to always be kind, humble, and generous, because as the old saying goes: “Chances go round–the same people you meet going up, you meet coming down.”

8. Demonstrate the importance of having and maintaining good health. It will go a long way with your children. Remind your children that their good health is a blessing, and it can’t be taken for granted. That many children and adults around the world are suffering from basic everyday curable health issues but don’t have the remedies available, or at their disposal as we do

9. It must also be taught that to be a good father, our roles and good behaviors toward the mother(s) of our children are important, too. For our children to be compatible companions with their future soulmates, they must see those good traits in their fathers as they develop.

10. As fathers, we must teach our children not to be just followers, but leaders too. To be cooperative and work together with others with a common purpose. To have a civic mindset and not to be apathetic about government and those chosen to make decisions on our everyday livelihood. To monitor our school systems. To ensure that our neighborhoods and communities are kept safe and clean for everyone. Not to wait on someone else, to tell them when to move out on a project to get things done. To take the initiative and steps to complete a mission. To stay positively motivated, ambitious, and industrious with a good ethic.

11. To have a sense of remembrance for our ancestors and their sacrifices and struggles that allowed us to live a better life. To show reverence to our fore-parents by keeping their burial grounds clean and tidy, with proper markings for identification. To commemorate them on Memorial Day observances. To teach our children the inevitability of death and how to prepare themselves emotionally for that event. How family traditions are important to keep cohesion intact and sound.

12. It’s important for fathers in prison to teach their children about the significance of being loyal and thorough. Not to allow peer pressure to force them to be sympathetic to blindly adhering to the asinine philosophy of “to get along, by going along.”

13. There’s a serious need for fathers in prison to enlighten their children about the horrors of drug and alcohol abuse. To be mindful of being promiscuous. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS must be constantly in our conversations with our children. Also, violence–that it’s a learned behavior and it can be unlearned. Those who fail to study history are bound to repeat its mistakes.

Don’t miss: “Life Without Parole = Death By Incarceration” by Larry Stephenson

It’s important for fathers in prison to put into practice whatever they preach to their children. If fathers make recommendations or suggestions for their children to pursue and accomplish a high school, college, or vocational diploma/degree or certification, and they do not have those documents themselves, and the opportunity is/was available to them, while confined–that advice may not be taken seriously. Lead by example, if you want and expect your children to listen to your advice.

It will take many years to instill the above lessons into our children, but the sooner we get started, the more confidence and wisdom we’ll be able to dispense. In essence, the importance of being a father in prison is a big responsibility that requires sincere and genuine efforts, sacrifices, and–above all else–big love for our children.

This writer is living proof on the topic. My two sons were just five and six years of age when I entered the penal system, almost forty years ago. They are forty-five and forty-six years old now, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and raising their families to be model citizens and wonderful human beings.




Larry Stephenson

AM 1449

SCI Phoenix

PO Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733