Children Heard and Seen is a “UK charity supporting children and families impacted by parental imprisonment in their own community.” According to their website, it is estimated that approximately. 312,000 children per year have a parent in prison.
For several years, my three children and one grandchild were included in those numbers. My children are now 31, 25, and 19, and my granddaughter is 12, and I spent just as much of their lives in prison as I did out. That’s not something I am proud of. But what I am proud of is that my children have beaten the odds by staying out of prison themselves. Did you know that a girl with a parent in prison is SIX times more likely to end up in prison herself, and a boy is six-and-a-half times more likely? So, yes indeed, I am very proud that my children have gone against those specific statistics.
My daughter, who is my eldest, has now given me three granddaughters (the third was born just last week!). She has a different mother than my two sons. Her mother and I split in 1995 when she was only 4 and, to cut a long story short, I was not in my daughter’s life again until 2009.
In March 2009, I was in prison and received a letter from the mother of my sons saying my daughter had been in touch with her. My daughter had been looking for me and wanted to see me. I could not believe what I was reading. Soon after that, my daughter joined my two sons and their mum on a two-and-a-half-hour family visit. It was amazing to once again connect with my daughter, who I hadn’t seen for almost 14 years.
I’m proud to say I have an incredible relationship with all three of my children these days. I say children but they’re adults themselves now, which I feel adds to our relationship. No subject is off limits. They talk to me about all sorts of things—probably not everything—but we talk about more than what I ever did with my parents. And I love it!
I can’t speak for my children but, from my perspective, I was a better parent in prison than I was in society. I’ll go as far as to say I was a better person in prison than I was in society.
What made me a better parent, a better person, in prison? What was that about and how selfish of me?
I feel what made me a better parent was that in prison I had no external pressures. I could live in the now, and day by day. My mind, albeit a bit wobbly from time to time, was so much clearer in prison.
I said I can’t speak for my children but I’m confident in saying they didn’t feel the same way. I’m sure they would’ve preferred me—dad—to be dad and not A6238AK or whatever prison number I had at the time.
On June 9, 2022, I celebrated five years of freedom from an almost four-decade relationship with the criminal justice system.
I’m no longer a number. I’m just dad and granddad!
David Breakspear began his journey as a returning citizen after four decades of experience in the criminal justice system. Since his release in June 2017, he has spoken to Parliament and delivered a TEDx talk about educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals. He is an organized crime researcher and the author of a novel on that topic called A Father’s Son. He lives in the U.K., where he continues to share his experiences and his passion for reform. Learn more about David from his website: journeyofareformedman.net.