All of the prisoners at Virginia’s Richmond City Jail admit they made poor choices, and could be better fathers.
“I am definitely failing as a parent right now, just by being out of her life,” Ronnell Glasgow said.
A few examples: Julian Edwards is serving four years for drug distribution, Joey Atkins is awaiting trial for illegal gun possession, and Glasgow is serving seven years for selling drugs.
Most of the men are in their 20s and 30s. Gerald Ward is awaiting trial for guns and drug charges. He told us his daughter is only four. “But it’s amazing what she understands. She understand that Daddy did something wrong, ” he says.
As these troubled men serve out their sentences, their children pay a price – often spending the most important years of their lives without active father figures.
Regardless of the culture, there’s something special and valued about the father-daughter bond, yet when these daughters go to visit their fathers in jail, they can only speak to them through a thick glass or on the telephone.
“It is hard for her to release and talk to me behind the glass,” said Edwards.
In 2012, the father-daughter dance at the Richmond City Jail was born.
It was the brainchild of Angela Patton, who runs Camp Diva, a Richmond nonprofit aimed at empowering young girls. She had heard the concerns of a daughter who had a father in jail. The young girl wanted to attend an event where she could dance with her father too, like others girls and their fathers across the city.
Patton convinced Richmond City Sheriff C. T. Woody Jr. to host the dance inside the jail, and he agreed.
“They are not hard core criminals, they deserve a second chance,” Woody said. “And they can be very good citizens and the best way to make a good citizen is to make good fathers.”