The Federal Bureau Prisons held the event on Nov. 4 for prisoners to reconnect with their children at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. Only men convicted of non-violent crimes, such as petty theft, were allowed to attend the dance. A third floor meeting area was transformed into a ball for the families.
The dance theme: There’s Still Time at the Ball. Translation: There is still time to be a better father. “You are a key to the success of your father,” Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr., told the 20 girls, aged 4 to 18, who had assembled to meet their fathers, all minimum-security, nonviolent offenders.
Most of the girls had been here before, inside the waiting room on the first floor of FDC Miami, a co-ed facility where about 1,200 inmates serve time or are being held before trial. But today was different. They arrived with their mothers and grandmothers wearing fancy dresses, the littlest ones in pastel gowns and patent leather shoes. One little girl wore her hair in braids made pretty with blue beads that matched her shoes.
Ernest Williams, an inmate serving a 41-month sentence for a drug charge, was reluctant to embrace the idea, but changed his mind. Williams was overwhelmed as he danced to Luther Vandross’ classic “Dance With My Father” with his twin daughters.
On Tuesday, Williams moved beyond all the emptiness and guilt, trading a khaki jumpsuit for a light gray suit, lavender print tie and black shoes — and danced with his 9-year-old twin girls and 13-year-old daughter for a few precious moments at the detention center, a high-rise administrative facility on Northeast Fourth Street. “I haven’t seen my girls in months, I could not believe how much they have grown,” said Williams, 37, convicted of intent to sell crack cocaine. “I was so happy to see them but so sad that I will not be able to leave with them. I am here instead of being outside with my family because of the choices I made.”
The idea was brought to fruition by BOP director Samuels, Assistant Attorney General for Justice Programs Karol Mason, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer, and Warden William T. Taylor. Samuels and Young believed that many of the inmates who served their time go back to worlds that are far removed from them. With the dance giving fathers a chance to reconnect with their children, they hope the experience can help turn their lives around for the better.
It is part of the bureau’s broader reentry program to reach out to the children and families of offenders and strengthen their bonds, critical for transitioning back home. For its debut, Miami made sense. It is the home base of Young, the staff was supportive and the BOP executives were already meeting in the city this week. In 2013, a city jail in Richmond, Virginia, held a similar father-daughter dance, believed to be the first in the country.
The bureau hopes to recreate the dance in several detention centers all over the country.
SOURCE: The Miami Herald | VIDEO CREDIT: News Inc.
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