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The Federal Bureau of Prisons hosted their first-ever daddy-daughter dance at the Miami Federal Detention Center. This dance allowed incarcerated fathers two hours to dance with their daughters in regular clothing–in fact, in suits! The theme of the dance was: There’s Still Time at the Ball. This roughly translates to: There’s still time to be a father to your child–a beautiful message for the beautiful offering. The intention of the bureau was to create a lasting memory that gives the inmates a more intimate view of their families and offers daughters the hope that there can and will be more “normal” moments with their fathers.

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This dance is a part of the bureau’s broader reentry program to reach out to the children and families of offenders and strengthen their bonds, which is critical for transitioning back home. “You are a key to the success of your father,” Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr., told the 20 girls in attendance (aged 4 to 18), who had assembled to meet their fathers, all minimum-security, nonviolent offenders.

The daughters arrived with their mothers and grandmothers wearing their best dresses–you know the poofy girly dresses, complete with patent leather shoes and white ruffle socks. They all waited to see their fathers dressed in suits, rather than prison jumpsuits and without barriers. Anthony Martin, one of the inmates who is serving a 70-month sentence for cocaine trafficking, admitted, “I missed my youngest daughter learning to talk. I missed the ‘terrible twos.’ I missed the first day of school,” he says. “And then something like this happens where you see them all dressed up and looking so pretty. It just makes you want to do the right thing.”

“You hope this will be transformational, that this dance gives these fathers something to look forward to,” said Walter T. Richardson, the Miami-Dade Police Department chaplain who delivered the keynote address. “We want the focus not so much on what happened, what brought them here, but what kind of future they can have. Their daughters are their future.”

The room where the dance took place was decorated with purple ribbons, glitter paper chandeliers and a big cardboard cut-out carriage — the handmade gifts of a group of female inmates. The bureau provided sandwiches, chicken, fruit and cake for the attendees to enjoy. The dance only cost the bureau $600, but was priceless. “They danced,” the Herald reports. “They swayed. They held tight. They laughed. They cried. And these fathers who have been gone for years remembered the chapters they had missed: birthdays, holidays, first tooth, first crush, first heartbreak.”

This beautiful display of love, support and the foundation of family was created to help fortify the prisoners before they were released back into the real world. Being institutionalized is a real thing and often times when people serve a considerable amount of time, they’re no longer who they were when they entered the institution. The harsh conditions of prison changes them into hardened shells of themselves. This daddy-daughter dance helps the inmates to return to a strong, engaged family and gives them a better shot at starting over. Because of the success of this dance, the bureau is looking to replicate the dance in other locations.

How refreshing! Prisoners are people too and the men who were able to attend this inaugural dance are torch bearers. They have broken ground on creating a tether to humanity, rather than being stripped of what makes them a functioning part of society. This is only the beginning and I can see many prisons adopting this thoughtful practice in order to help rehab their prisoners and usher them back into civilization.

Check Out A Few Of The Photos From Miami Federal Detention Center’s Daddy-Daughter Dance:

 

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