Dr. Henri Treadwell highlights the impact of incarceration in her new book “Beyond Stereotypes in Black and White: How Everyday Leaders Can Build Healthier Opportunities for African American Boys and Men.”
As we celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 16, 2013, one author seeks to remind us that far too many African American children will not be spending this special day with their dads due to incarceration.
Dr. Henrie Treadwell, research professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, points out that among African American children, one in nine (11.4 percent), have a parent in jail, with more fathers than mothers incarcerated.
“For children of incarcerated parents, studies have shown that they are seven times more likely to go to prison themselves,” said Dr. Treadwell. “And this Father’s Day is just another stark reminder of the uphill battle that they face, especially for young African American boys. We are losing a generation.”
Dr. Treadwell has dedicated her life’s work to improving access to primary health care, prevention and other needed services to all people. She focuses on what she calls her “missing men”— the African American boys and men whose health and well being she feels are seriously threatened by virtually all social and policy systems.
This topic is the focus of her new book, “Beyond Stereotypes in Black and White: How Everyday Leaders Can Build Healthier Opportunities for African American Boys and Men.”
According to Dr. Treadwell, she decided to write the book to help bring the many issues surrounding the imprisonment of African American males to the forefront.
“The plight of the African American male is something we all must pay attention to,” said Dr. Treadwell. “We have a mass epidemic of incarceration. So many men and boys are going to prison. The dropout rate of African American children is linked to their fathers being in prison. It has been estimated that one out of every two children of incarcerated men drop out of school.”
She added, “Many of the people who are incarcerated have mental problems, need counseling, or have some substance abuse problem that isn’t being treated. They have no hope and they are not getting the treatment they need once they are released. Others can’t find jobs or anything meaningful to do once they are released.”
Dr. Treadwell holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Carolina where she enrolled as the first African American after a civil rights lawsuit, and was the first African American woman to ever graduate from the university. She holds a master’s degree in biology from Boston University, a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Atlanta University, and completed postdoctoral work at the Harvard University School of Public Health.
“I am interested in building on the services incarcerated men need so they can get help when they come home,” she said. “I am most concerned with keeping them out of jail and also with keeping our young boys out of juvenile detention, which is the first step towards prison.”
According to Treadwell, her new book has been an eye-opener for many of its readers. “People are very concerned and are learning things they did not know,” she said. “People don’t realize how deep the issue of incarceration is. It also leads to stress, poor health, anger issues, substance abuse, etc.”
She added, “Many African American women will not marry, because these men move from the community into the prisons and don’t come back. That’s a huge blow. I am also concerned with the number of black women who are struggling to raise their sons.”
Dr. Treadwell said she would like to see a national campaign launched around the issue of providing better supportive services for men once they are released; more successful African Americans reaching back to help their communities; and improvements in meeting areas within prisons for incarcerated men to spend time with their children.
“The prison industry is huge,” she said. “It’s a multibillion dollar industry, and people do benefit. Food, linen and other services must be paid for, and generate enormous profits. However, our children, family, and men are losing. Many of the children miss their fathers and these kids feel they are being punished, although they didn’t do anything wrong.”
She added, “This Father’s Day, I would like for us to also think about all of the men who are behind bars, the children they leave behind, and the mothers who are struggling to raise them.”
Dr. Treadwell’s book “Beyond Stereotypes in Black and White: How Everyday Leaders Can Build Healthier Opportunities for African American Boys and Men” is available at Amazon.com and retails for $35 to $45.