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'Mommy and Me' program helps prisoners connect with kids

The Mommy and Me program allows some children of prisoners at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center to hear their mothers read to them.
by Bryan Painter Published: July 22, 2012

“We would probably be on the floor in front of his bed because he has a bookshelf right next to his dresser and then he has bunk beds,” she said. “We would probably sit there on the floor with our pillows up against the dresser, so we could go get another book.”

Bishop said she used to read some to her four children. She laughed when thinking how although she had a few books she could have read they always chose the same one about a train.

“It was like ‘Let's read the same story over and over,'” she said. “They just didn't want me to quit reading to them. So that's why this is important, so I can keep reading to them.”

In addition to reading a book and then signing it with a message for their child, the inmates are allowed to record a message to the caregivers and can sing “Happy Birthday” to be used on their child's birthday.

Expansion is possible

The process for a woman being selected to participate in the Mommy and Me program includes their case worker submitting their request to the chaplain at Mabel Bassett, the Rev. Charles Freyder. Ward said that in part they have to make sure each woman is allowed to have communication with their child.

Also, presently the building used has enough room for only about 50 women to gather. The recordings are done in the same room where the other women are waiting their turn to record.

However, groundbreaking for a new chapel is tentatively planned for early fall. It would provide space for up to 200 people to gather for interfaith services, volunteer programs and educational sessions. “What this program and volunteers have come up with really allows us to have solid contact with our families, something our kids can hold onto,” Willoughby said. “You're not the only person who goes to jail. Everybody who loves you goes to jail with you.”

Jainese was expecting when she arrived at Mabel Bassett. She said she talked to her child “every day, all day” when she was carrying him.

“I only got to spend five days with him when he was born and then he had to go with his dad,” she said. “I wanted to do this so he could keep hearing my voice and know that I'm still there.”

So what was Chance's reaction when they played last month's recording?

“When he listened to it, they told me he perked up and looked around for me,” Jainese said. “He knew my voice.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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