Dear Santa, A Story From Dad Please

This Christmas, some children of inmates will get recordings of their dad's reading stories. It's part of a new effort by the Innerchange Freedom Initiative, a faith-based program at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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Inmate Willie McCray is the one who gets to record his fellow inmates reading children's story books.ξ McCray had some previous experience ...

"I did tape recordings with my kids.ξ We used to sing and stuff like that, but I never thought I would be doing something like this though."

And then McCray found himself doing other recordings once he got to the Vance Unit.

"I rap here, so we do hip-hop praise and worship on Mondays and we do a lot of different stuff as far as recording."

McCray says doing one-on-one recordings is much more emotional.ξ The inmates tend to send along messages to their kids before they read the stories.

"And the introduction was kind of like explaining to them why they are doing the story, how much they miss them and just regretting that they are not there to be with them.ξ It was kind of emotional for a lot of guys."

McCray gets to add his own personal, creatove touch to each recording ...

"I apologize for not being there.ξ I'll make it up to you.ξ Right now I want to read to you Snow White and the mixed up morning."

That's Andre Williams.ξ He's been incarcerated since his now eight year old daughter was less than a year old.ξ He got a chance to give the CD to his daughter at a holiday party.

"I haven't talked to her to find out if she's listened to it.ξ I don't know if my mother-in-law was going to make her wait until Christmas to open up everything."

The inmates reading abilities dictate how long each recording takes to do.ξ Program Manager Philip Dautrich says the recordings support IFI's overall mission.

"Most men who come into prison have broken family ties, and if we can strengthen that family or get the nucleus of that family back together or at least begin the process while they are here, it's going to make it a lot easier upon their return into society."

Currently about 300 offenders are in the IFI program and about 40 opted to record a storybook.

"I have two stories that I'm working on right now.ξ Two guys that came in kind of late so I'm trying to get their's done so they can give them to their kids.ξ "Always gotta have a last minute rush at Christmas, right?"ξ Yeah, but it's fun, it's fun."

McCray may find himself doing more recordings year round.ξ IFI plans to offer the reading program for each new group of inmates that enter the program every three to four months.ξ Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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