March 28, 2016
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Published: March 27, 2016
By: Leah Johnson
To view the article online, visit: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20160326/prison-program-aims-to-create-better-men-fathers.
To view the video online, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zaqr462V1ys.
Edward DeMoreta walked up to the podium. The 34-year-old pulled out a picture of his daughter. At the sight of her he welled up with tears. In between sobs he prayed.
“God give me the strength to glorify your name,” he said.
DeMoreta continued, tears streaming down his face. He said he was going to read a “victim letter” he wrote to his daughter explaining where he’d be for the next 24 years – at the Walton Correctional Institution.
“I can still see you walking to class when I close my eyes,” DeMoreta said. “Don’t forget I love you. I’m in prison because of sin. I may have messed up but that isn’t who I am. I’ve been remade into something better and beautiful. With all my love, daddy.”
When DeMoreta finished, there wasn’t a dry eye between 144 inmates and three correctional officers. The inmates stood to their feet, heads bowed, some hands outstretched, and prayed for DeMoreta.
In the Long Distance Dads program, a faith-based re-entry program at the prison, inmates hope to become better men in order to be better fathers. The class is led by Officer Jack Smith.
…“I believe we are responsible for the next generation. Men are not setting proper examples.”
Smith bases lessons on Scripture, although not everyone in the class is a believer or is even spiritual. Exercises, like the victim letters, are modeled around the inmates tapping into their emotions and confronting past wrongs.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs 24,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 98,000 inmates and supervises nearly 140,000 offenders in the community.