By Takaaki Ishii LL.M ’17
The Five Principles of Fatherhood
As a father it is my responsibility to:
- Give affection to my children
- Give gentle guidance to my children
- Provide financial support to my children and the mother of my children
- Demonstrate respect at all times to the mother of my children
- Set a proud example for my children by living within the law and without the taint of alcohol drug abuse.
Every Wednesday, the Fatherhood Program in the Quincy District Court, starts with the reading of these five principles. This program began in 1994 with the mission of teaching probationers to be positive and attentive parents to their sons and daughters. In the program, fathers who are under probation supervision make a circle with probation officers and discuss what the responsibility of the father is.
I am an LL.M. student from Japan taking the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic headed by Hon. Judge John Cratsley (Ret). As part of my clinical work, I visited Quincy District Court every Wednesday and worked with Judge Mark Coven. I observed jury trials, bench trials, pre-trials, mediations, and more. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, I worked as an associate judge in Japan for about three years, and dealt with criminal trials and civil trials. The reason I took this clinic is to observe the practice of law in the Massachusetts State Courts and bring back lessons and insights to Japan.
One day, the probation officer in the Quincy District Court invited me to observe the Fatherhood Program. Even though I am single and do not have any children, I decided to join the discussion because I believed I would learn more about the state’s criminal justice system. Doing so was a great experience for me.
Every Wednesday night, I joined the circle of probationers and probation officers who talked about their experiences as fathers. The probationers had various backgrounds and thought seriously about how their crime influenced their relationships with their children and how to improve their future relationships with their children. The probation officers also talked about their experience as fathers and shared personal life stories. In addition, the program invited guest speakers – judges, clergy, social service providers and representatives from state agencies. One night, Judge Casey came to the program as a guest speaker. He joined the circle and talked with probationers at the same eye level. He also responded sincerely to probationer’s criticism about the court system. I could see the actual departure from the traditional trial judge who sits on the bench and remains distant from the defendants.
As I head into the graduation ceremony on May 25, 2017, I will think about the probationers who finished the Fatherhood Program and the open discussion about fatherhood.