Dancing, playing replaces partitioned prison visits for kids - GulfToday

Dancing, playing replaces partitioned prison visits for kids

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Inmate Michael Hudson, right, of Norwalk, Conn., dances with his son Malakhi Hudson.

Myles Brown remembers how visits with his dad used to be.

There was glass between them. They had to use a phone to talk. It was kind of scary. He didn't always want to go.

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Inmate Nicholas Bedat, third from left, of Waterbury, Conn., poses with his family during a dance.

On Monday night 11-year-old Myles was again inside a prison visiting 25-year-old Christopher Brown, who is serving a 3-year sentence on firearms charges.

But this time he and his sister, 7-year-old Chloe, got to dance with their dad, play games, eat pizza and laugh. Dad also got to hold his 10-month-old daughter, Ameila.

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Inmate Tyrone Patterson, center, hugs his daughters Justice Patterson, left, and Za'Rayih Jordan on the dance floor.

"It really means a lot." said Myles. "Now, I get to hug him. It was like we lost a bond and here we get to try and rebuild it."

The family dance at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution is part of a prison pilot program from the National Institute of Corrections called Family Connections, which is being tried out at Cybulski and at prisons or jails in New York, Wisconsin, Texas and Oregon.

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Nicholas Bedat, right, of Waterbury, Conn., dances with his son Kobe Bedat during a family dance night.

The idea is to make it easier for parents inside to connect with their children and to resume the role of mother or father once they are released.

"We need to be there to support the families," said Trina Sexton, the Correction Department's director of re-entry services. "The families did nothing wrong.

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Inmate Michael Hudson, left, of Norwalk, Conn., dances with his son Malakhi Hudson, center, and daughter Mesiah Hudson.

Incarceration is not just affecting the mother or father who's in. It's affecting the entire family unit. So, how can we make that better?"

The program takes different forms in different prisons. At Cybulski, the last stop for prisoners before they reach their release dates, the visiting room has been repainted green and pink and the inmates are creating a giant mural of a white birch tree.

It will be stocked with toys and games. Guards are receiving training on how to interact with young children and teenagers to create a more welcoming environment and the inmates are taking parenting classes.

Associated Press