The Oregonian printed this story yesterday: “Charles Manson Family associate creates cartoon for kids who ask, ‘Why is my parent behind bars?’” Bobby Beausoleil, now 66 years old and a prisoner in the Oregon State Penitentiary, created a video meant to help answer tough questions for children of incarcerated parents. The video can be watched on Youtube and is being distributed by Parenting Inside Out, a program that helps to educate incarcerated individuals on parenting skills.
In the video, the little boy’s father is in jail; and the boy asks a professor – the blue head in the photo – questions about “bad guys.” The Oregonian offers the following excerpt from the video:
A kindly old character named Professor Proponderus offers answers.
“There are some people in the world who do bad things, son,” he says. “Sometimes a person will get scared or confused or get sick in their minds and forget who they are. People who lose their way sometimes forget what is right and wrong and why it is important to consider what is good for them and for other people. … When people forget this, they may do something that is bad.”
“Are they all in jail?” Jeeter asks.
“A lot of them are,” Professor Proponderus answers. “But not all of them.”
Jeeter eventually gets around to asking the eternal question: Is my dad bad?
“A great kid like you wouldn’t have a bad guy for a dad,” Professor Proponderus says. ” Most people are good, decent people at heart. Just because a person gets into trouble and goes to jail does not mean they are a bad person.”
Professor Proponderus tells Jeeter that people like his dad make mistakes and get “time outs” for them. The older and bigger you get, he tells young Jeeter, the bigger the consequences.
After watching the video, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I think this project is well-intended, but I’m not sure it quite reaches its goal(s). I would be very interested to know how children and those with an incarcerated family member react to it. Is this a useful tool for tackling these kinds of tough questions?