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Offenders participating in the ''Reading with Dad'' program signed a message into the books that will accompany the DVD of them reading the book to their children. (Special to the American Press)

Offenders participating in the ''Reading with Dad'' program signed a message into the books that will accompany the DVD of them reading the book to their children. (Special to the American Press)

Program helps Phelps inmates reach out to their kids

Last Modified: Monday, June 18, 2012 11:54 AM

By Taylor Prejean / American Press

Children of Phelps Correctional Center inmates will receive “Reverse Father’s Day” cards soon signed by their dads.

Assistant Warden Jolene Constance said the new program aims to help remind offenders of what is waiting for them on the outside.

“Reconnecting with their children makes it easier when offenders are released to connect with them,” Constance said. “It also instills a sense of responsibility, for them to get a job to support their kids and not come back.”

Constance said 98 inmates participated in the program, and the cards were mailed last week to children all over the United States and even out of the country.

The cards said: “The true meaning of Fathers day is celebrating my love for you.” Inmates also had plenty of room to fill in their own sentiments. Darryl Soileau, a Phelps inmate, said filling out the card for his 15-year-old daughter was “eye-opening”

“For the first time it made me realize that it’s not about getting something for Father’s Day; the child is the gift,” he said. “It made my eyes open to a lot of things that I never really thought about as far as the gift of having a child, even though I’m not there to provide for her, provide her safety and give her what she needs.”

Carlton Garcia, who said he has 10 children, said he shed tears while writing out his cards. “It was a blessing to be able to let your kids know that even through your selfish decisions that you still care about them,” Garcia said.

He said he wanted to be sure his children knew that he loved them, even in his present “predicament.”

“I told them how much they meant to me and that Father’s Day wouldn’t be special without them being in my life,” Garcia said.

Jhadryan Green said he hasn’t seen his three daughters in seven months. In his card, he thanked them for making him a father and told them to be good. “I was just letting them know that even though they can’t see me right now and I can’t physically hug and kiss them that they are on my mind daily.”

Green was one of more than 50 offenders who participated in the Reading with Dad exercise, in addition to sending the greeting cards. Green said prison staff videotaped him reading a book to his children, who will receive a copy of the book and a DVD of him reading it.

“It was an indescribable feeling,” Green said when asked about having the opportunity to indirectly interact with his daughters. “I never knew I would have the opportunity being where I am to do something like this.”

In keeping with the themes of responsible living and fatherhood, Constance said the prison’s Avid Reader’s group will soon begin reading and discussing “UnCommon” by Tony Dungy. She said Dungy is involved with the Pro Dad program, the fatherhood program of Family First, and that the book focuses on finding one’s significance in life.

Constance said she hopes these programs will help reset the inmates’ mindsets and motivate them to improve their lives once they are released.

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