Black man reading book

Incarcerated Fathers Trying to Connect

If an individual posts bail, but is then incarcerated, a major problem for people going to jail or prison today is separation from family. It can be hard on a family when a father is suddenly removed from the household and put into prison for years or decades. This can lead to behavioral problems in any children left in the home. The effects can be long-lasting and devastating on the entire family.

Messages Project

An organization known as the Messages Project is attempting to do something about this. The project comes into jails and prisons attempting to give qualified prisoners a chance to communicate something meaningful to their children. This takes the form of making recordings of the inmates reading a children’s book.

How it Works

The Messages Project allows inmates in California to sit in front of a camera and film a moderately long session reading a children’s book and saying supportive things the children watching the video. This is all recorded on digital video discs, or DVDs. The DVDs are delivered directly to the families of the inmates once they are done.

The Messages Projects hopes that this small amount of interaction between children and their parents in prison will help to build a more normal relationship. This is important since children who grow up with a parent in jail are nearly six times more likely to eventually go to jail themselves. Trying to establish a bond through the DVDs could be a way to stop this problem.

Not everyone qualifies for the Messages Project. Inmates who qualify need to have shown good behavior for some time before even being considered. Additionally, the inmate must not be in prison for any offenses that involve children. If those qualifications are met, then it is possible for prisoners to make a DVD that will be sent home.

Some of the fathers taking part in the program have been in jail for decades. There is always the hope of parole at some point for all but the worst offenders. Parole is sometimes the only hope a father has in prison to ever see his child again. It is usually better to attempt to stay out of prison or jail in the first place.

One of the ways that fathers attempt to stay out of jail and spend time with their children is by posting bail after being arrested. A bail bond agency helps those fathers by making it easier to post prohibitively large bail amounts. The bond agency accepts a percentage of the total bail amount as upfront payment. The agency posts the rest through a special agreement with the court. The father is then allowed to return home to see his children and family. The father can stay out of jail until the trial ends as long as he makes all court appearances and follows all release conditions.

The Messages Project has been operating since 1999 attempting to help inmates reconnect with their families and children. The project has managed to help over 10,000 inmates in that nearly 16-year timespan. The project is about helping the children to get to know their parents as much as it is about allowing inmates to send heartfelt recordings to their families.

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