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Kudos to those who help build parenting skills behind bars

I read with great admiration Geoff Grief's essay, "Father's Day behind bars" (June 16), describing the parenting program that he established for federal defendants. The logic of the program is compellingly demonstrated through the statistics he cites. Over 1.5 million children have a father in prison. About half of the fathers lived with their children in the month prior to incarceration, and many of those not in the home were meaningfully involved in their children's lives. And 95 percent of those incarcerated will return to their communities.

Mr. Greif's course provides these men with the knowledge of how to be meaningfully and constructively involved in their children's lives notwithstanding their past mistakes and notwithstanding the looming years of incarceration and physical separation ahead. It is undisputedly in the interest of those children — our children — and our society that they feel loved and not abandoned over years of separation. When — not if — the men return to their communities and their families, the ties hopefully will remain to assist in their successful reintegration into society as productive members.

Through a grant from the Federal Bar Association, another component has been added to the parenting course. Community Mediation Baltimore now offers family mediation to these men — an opportunity for an honest conversation between them and the significant people in their lives, as they face sentences in faraway places, some for many years. These conversations address the past and plan for the future. And, like the parenting classes, this mediation attempts to establish healthy and healing communication.

These two innovative programs would not be possible without the enthusiastic support of Robert Koppel, warden of the Chesapeake Detention Facility, and his staff. Warden Koppel is a consummate "corrections" professional, concerned with the security of the facility and the rehabilitation of the defendants housed there.

Susan K. Gauvey, Baltimore

The writer is magistrate judge for the District Court for the District of Maryland and a member of the Federal Bar Association Board of Directors. The views expressed are hers and do not necessarily reflect those of the court or the FBA.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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