COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new prison program is sending recordings of inmates' voices to their children, beyond the walls of Kirkland Correctional Institution where the fathers are confined. The group of men with no blemish to disciplinary record are able to send their children read-along books they've recorded themselves through.
Former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley made the program possible and visited the inmates at Kirkland on Tuesday. His hope is that the program known as 'A Father's Voice' encourages children to learn, and curbs recidivism, and acts as an incentive to be well-behaved inside maximum security prisons.
"This enables the fathers here to say to their children, you know, reading is important. They're good prisoners now, or they wouldn't be here. It will help them maintain that, and one day hopefully get out and be with their children directly," said Riley.
One inmate stood and thanked the staff for the program, and later told WIS-TV how much he misses his daughters, saying, "I'd give anything, anything...they could take a limb off my body just to let me be out there and be a father to these girls." 'Anytime you need to hear my voice, pick up this book,' he scribbled into the book he will record himself reading and send to his two girls.
"We can't hug them. We can't kiss them goodnight. We can't put them to bed. We can't take them to school, but this right here I don't want to say it's an alternative, but it's a way for us to...interact with our children," said Dontrell Washington.
These books are getting their fatherly voices beyond correctional walls at Kirkland. They record themselves reading, a message, and inscribe special words, too.
'Anytime you need to hear my voice, pick up this book.' One inmate writes.
Prison staff said it's possible more groups of men get to do this, with the potential for those not-so-well-behaved to earn the opportunity. Before Tuesday, two dozen others at Kirkland had the opportunity to participate around Father's Day. There's a similar program for women, too, called 'A Mother's Voice.' Women at Camille Graham and Leath prisons have participated. The Department of Corrections says there are no state taxpayer dollars used to fund the program and buy the books; instead, it's run on a gr ant and donations.