By Rhonda Turpin
On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, Danbury Camp made history again.
The Reentry Affairs Coordinator hosted a formal tea, replete with British etiquette ranging from proper use of silverware and napkins, to the young guest being greeted by red carpet treatment. This was a pilot program.
Recently, the Reentry Affairs Coordinator facilitated the first Father and Daughter Dance. The affair was a huge success.
“When I think about it even now, it brings tears to my eyes,” one of the male participants posted.
At first, the event was restricted to girls, 6 to 16 years of age. Because the Camp only has approximately 200 women and it was short notice, the Camp Administrator, Mr. M. Marske, expanded the age range from 5 to 17 years old, and allowed grandmothers to participate. Most of the participants’ families were from Connecticut.
“My eight year old granddaughter had briefly disappeared. When I looked up she was speaking to Warden Quay.” Ms. Scott, the grandmother of the eight year old reported.
“Grandma, I told the Warden thank you for having this for us.” Her granddaughter told her. Ms. Scott said she wondered how her grandbaby knew that Mr. Quay was the Warden, and also what gave her the courage to go and thank him. She realized like many mothers, kids have a mind of their own!
The bakers went all out. Along with tea, the little Sweeties were served small heart-shaped cookies and cakes that would have put English crumpets to shame.
The mothers and grandmothers performed a choreographed dance for the children, who watched in awe.
“Mr. Samuels is a compassionate man. He is really into families being brought together,” a guest and representative stated from Mr. Charles Samuel’s office, who is the Director of Federal Prisons.
Another important guest was from the central office that deals with programming for women. She was also impressed and spoke of more programming of the same type.
Danbury was also the first prison on the map to present the CHOICES project, where a group of women went out in the community to speak to groups about the right choices to stay out of prison. The highlight of the CHOICES project was when the women presented to the United States Attorney’s office. Reporters covered the events and wrote about how their perception of inmates changed after covering the CHOICES project. The U.S. Attorney’s office even created a movie relating to the project.
Around the country, last month Miami federal prison held the second Father and Daughter Dance.
Having served 10-years in prison, I see that the political climate, along with how prisoners are viewed is finally changing, despite lobbyists attempting to paint the opposite picture.
The benefit of these events will affect the children-participants for years to come, and the parents also.