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Incarcerated fathers reunite with their children for a day
January 8, 2017
Amiah Matthews, a 9-year-old girl, doesn’t get to see her father Jeremiah Matthews much any more. It’s not because Jeremiah doesn’t want to see Amiah; it’s because he’s incarcerated and serving time for charges related to burglary. Recently, Amiah and other kids, who are missing out on "Daddy time" due to incarceration, got to spend the day with her father thanks to the “One Day with God” program at Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon, Mich.
The program is part of a prison ministry that allows 20 inmates at participating prisons to spend the day with their children. During their day together, fathers and their children participated in family-oriented activities such as relay races and sing alongs, according to Nightline. The fathers and children also actually got to physically touch each other, which was one of the best parts about the day according to Amiah. "It means a lot to ... spend the day with my dad. Like he's at home," Amiah said to Nightline. "It's different from having him outside, living with you and all. Like, this is the one time you can, like, sit in his lap, let him hug you."
The One Day with God program is the brainchild of Scottie Barnes. She told Nightline that one of the reasons that she started the program was because of her own experiences with fatherlessness due to incarceration. Another is because she wants to break the cycle of imprisonment by helping fill the void that a missing parent leaves. She told Nightline that her own dad was a drug dealer who spent most of his time in and out of prison.
"I never had a hug. I never even been told 'I love you' by my dad," Barnes said. "The little children, by the time they're 8 and 9 years old, go out on the streets, and if they're in where gangs are, [they will be told by gangs], 'Come on over and join my family.' They want to be accepted. They want to be loved. They want to be somebody proud of them."
Currently the privately funded “One Day with God” program is in prisons in seven states, and there are plans for expansion even as prisons cut their family programs according to Nightline. Check out the emotional reunions between father and child in the Nightline news story.