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Class in prison is taking fathers further

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) — A program at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center helped 10 inmates learn more about the importance of fatherhood.

And Monday’s graduation ceremony for the men proved to be an emotional and inspirational event for them and their families, who gathered at the facility’s Community Corrections Center.

The voluntary 15-week program — facilitated by Bishop Bobby Hudnall and his wife, co-pastor Renee Hudnall, of the Life in the Word Church of Jesus Christ — is geared toward ensuring the men positively affect their children’s lives.

“We work to restore a breach in relationships that is made because of incarceration,” Hudnall said Monday. “And it’s quite successful.”

For about two hours per week, the participants meet at the jail and work through issues such as communication, anger management and conflict resolution.

“They didn’t have to do this,” Renee Hudnall said. “The common denominator is that they all love their children.”

It’s the second time the program has run its course at the jail. Last year, six men graduated. Children of all ages were able to watch their fathers accept graduation certificates Monday. The event culminated with the graduates reciting the “Fatherhood Pledge.”

For graduate William Harris, whose children watched him receive his certificate Monday, the program helped him see the error of his ways. He once thought being a parent was more about providing material items and gifts, Harris said. That mentality, he said, sometimes led him down the wrong path.

“I used to try and make a good Christmas by any means,” Harris said. “But this program has helped me change my ways.”

For Regional Jail Superintendent Jim Whitley, the program is another way to help reduce recidivism, an issue that continues to plague the facility and the criminal justice system.

“Any programming is good as long as, at the end of the day, it reduces recidivism,” Whitley said. “But this is a really uplifting event.”

The program also provides a support network for graduates upon their release, Bobby Hudnall said, and helps them find work.

“We just try and connect the dots,” he said, adding that the program has a 100 percent job placement rate. “And we also try and cut through all the red tape.”

In an address to the graduates, Bobby Hudnall briefly touched up on his own background, saying he suffered what his wife refers to as “father wounds.”

Before turning his life around, he said he was heading down the wrong path in Baltimore. “The best way you can return the favor,” Bobby Hudnall said, “is for you to love your children.”

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