WINCHESTER – Children pay a high price when their parents are imprisoned.
The 16-week Fathers and Mothers in Training program at the Northwest Regional Adult Detention Center seeks to reduce the emotional and psychological cost of inmates and their children by teaching them parenting skills. It also seeks to break the cycle of generational addiction and family violence common among offenders and attempts to reduce recidivism.
Six men and one woman completed the program on Monday. Inmates say the classes inspired them to be better fathers and mothers and made them better appreciate the support they received from their partners, parents and grandparents.
“It’s about our children and our families. It’s not just about us, ”said inmate Colton Brian White, a 29-year-old Stephens City resident on charges of possession of heroin in June, at the graduation ceremony. “You also need to be there for your families and your children. Because, as you can see, they support us no matter what.
The program, which began in prison in 2015, is led by Rev. Bobby T. Hudnall, director of the Winchester-based Shenandoah Valley Family Support & Development Center. Hudnall, who received state certification, said the approximately one-hour classes focus on anger management, conflict resolution, effective communication, co-parenting and support system development.
About 15 classes have graduated since the start of the program. Inmates must have a good disciplinary record, and inmates charged with serious violent crimes or sexual offenses are not eligible. Hudnall said inmates volunteer for the program and graduation helps them if they are involved in custody or visitation disputes.
Since most inmates at the prison are serving a sentence of one year or less and their cases have not been tried, many inmates are released before graduation, but Hudnall said the program was popular at the prison. The program emphasizes the hardships incarceration causes for families and tries to give inmates a perspective on what their partners or parents experience when raising children of inmates on their own.
“They cry. They cry, it hurts. They volunteer to take this course, so I know they care about their family,” said Hudnall, senior pastor at Life in the Word Church of Jesus Christ in Winchester. . “They care about their kids. They just did stupid stuff.”
Hudnall said that by teaching responsibility and providing parenting tools, inmates are more likely to make good choices when they come out. Many are recovering alcoholics or drug addicts whose crimes were related to alcohol or drugs.
Inmate Brittany Michelle Smith, a 27-year-old Edinburgh resident accused of manufacturing a controlled substance, said sobriety and classes gave a perspective on her parents and young daughter.
“My parents stayed by my side even though I hurt them,” she told the audience. “I don’t know where my daughter would be without my parents. “
The ceremony is one of the advantages of the program. Regular family visits to the prison are made behind partitions, but on Monday, inmates could detain their children. Some children drew with crayons and chewed pizza during the ceremony while they were seated with their parents.
The separation at the end of was a painful reminder of the effect of incarceration on families. There were tears in the eyes of at least one inmate when they were taken away and at least one child cried.