July 10, 2015
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Published July 10, 2015
By: Kathryn Jeffries
To view the story online, visit: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/story/news/features/2015/07/10/parenting-from-prison/29853015.
BAKER COUNTY, Fla. -- Inside the fences and behind the barbed wire at Baker Correctional Institution are more than inmates, there are fathers.
Inside BCI, there is a class aimed at helping incarcerated fathers learn better parenting skills for when they get out.
Ronnie Cage with Operation New Hope runs a 10-week program for a small group of inmates… Marquan Whitfield's youngest son was just 1-year-old when Whitfield was sentenced to 15 years for selling drugs.
Though he didn't intend to sign up for the class, he believes it has been a godsend.
"Since that first day, I have been locked in to come every week," says Whitfield.
The lessons each week help teach the men about how to reconnect and communicate with their children.
Cage says he hopes this class will help the men realize the important role a father plays in a child's life. He says after talking to the men, he can see their lessons are taking root.
Warden James Freeman, a father himself, says when these men leave Baker Correctional Institution, he has a simple message for them. "I tell them don't call me in two or three months, call me in two or three years and tell me, 'I'm out here still doing good.' That is when we see the value in our programs," he says.
Because sometimes the greatest motivator is love for your child.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 22,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.