July 16, 2015
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Published July 15, 2015
By: Ari Odzer
To view the story online, visit: http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Special-Event-Reunites-Inmates-With-Their-Children-315592701.html.
Wednesday was the day for which many of the inmates and their children had been waiting. Some of them for years.
A non-profit organization called the Children of Inmates program arranges reunions in prisons all over Florida.
According to the Department of Corrections, research shows children of inmates who see their parents regularly, regardless of what offense their dad or mom committed, fare better than children of inmates who don't interact with their parents.
This event was set up to resemble a Fourth of July picnic. The kids and their dads had flags, every dad picked out a toy for their kids, and for a few hours, they could almost forget they were still behind barbed wire fences and locked-down doors.
These reunions are a good thing, said the warden, for the children and for the morale of their dads.
"It gives them hope that they know they're gonna get out and when they do get out, they're gonna have somebody to go to," said Frank Acosta, Warden of Everglades Correctional.
It's clearly not just a feel-good exercise. The Department of Corrections said family reunification is a huge factor in keeping inmates out of trouble once they leave prison.
All of the inmates in the visitation room on this day will one day be free again, with a second chance of being dads for the long haul.
It's an opportunity the warden and everyone at Children of Inmates hopes they seize. Embracing the responsibilities of fatherhood could be their tickets to staying out of prison for good.
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 140,000 offenders in the community.