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New program helps incarcerated parents to connect with their families

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden started a new program for people in jail to connect with their loved ones in a more meaningful way.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said he hopes a new program will help to build bonds for family members who are incarcerated at the county jail. 

Sheriff McFadden told WCNC Charlotte's Jane Monreal that all people seek and deserve love, attention and understanding. Often, people who need it the most are behind bars, and he wants to change that.

McFadden described the eight-week program as an eye-opening experience for the nine current participants.

"It's building trust with the families. It's clearing up things that they didn't know about," the sheriff said. "It helps with drug abuse. It helps with runaways. It helps with human trafficking."

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McFadden developed the idea for the program, which he describes as "cutting-edge," last September. He explained that it's a virtual meeting, where clinicians facilitate open dialogue and monitor in-depth conversations between people who are incarcerated with loved ones at home. 

Michelle Ivey from Daymark Recovery Services, who is not involved with the "strengthening families program," said the human connection is important for parents on the path to recovery and wanting to rebuild their life once they're released from the detention center.

"We cannot overlook the impact that a person involved in the justice system has on their family," Ivey said. "Allowing that person to have those family connections will pay dividends with the family and especially the children."

While the current program started two weeks ago, McFadden said he plans to launch phase two, geared at children under 7 years old.

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A visitation room was made to look like a daycare room for a more inviting experience between a parent and child.

"We want the residents to come in regular attire, which we have a large closet of clothes which they can pick anything they want to, and they walk into a room," McFadden said. "They just walk through the door and greet their children and their family and hopefully the beginning of a better bond."

The sheriff said that he created the program for the greater good of the community.

"Creating better returning citizens and we're creating better neighbors for you."

Ultimately, Sheriff McFadden would like to see that, once they're released, folks can continue to rebuild their lives. In order to do that, he asked for support from the faith community to fill the gap where former inmates can continue to receive love and understanding. 

Jane Monreal: Contact Jane Monreal at jmonreal@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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