Malachi Dads gives inmates the opportunity to build a relationship with their children on the outside. Chaplain Miller does not call and ask children or families to return the connection with the inmates.
Miller, Newcomb and other volunteers do not build bridges for the inmates. Malachi Dads gives the inmates tools to build bridges with their children.
Just because an inmate participates in Malachi Dads and even sincerely commits to its mission is no guarantee that contact with their children will be reciprocated, but all things are possible.
Newcomb shares the story of one inmate who wrote letters to his son. Each letter was intercepted by a family member who discouraged the inmate’s effort to reestablish contact with the son. The inmate kept writing letters. The relative kept intercepting them. Finally, the son contacted his father. The son told his father he had read all of his letters. All 72 of them.
Sometimes, commitment is equal measures sincerity and persistence.
Malachi Dads is no push-over course for inmates. Not all interested inmates are accepted. The chaplain reviews each inmate’s application. Miller looks at the crime, the nature of that crime, the victims of the crime, the length of the inmate’s sentence and where the inmate is in his sentence, the inmate’s record of behavior in prison.
These men are no push-overs, either. Malachi Dads includes inmates sentenced for murder, robbery and other violent crimes. An inmate serving life for murder may be accepted in Malachi Dads, but he and all participating inmates must remain committed to stay in the program.
Get in trouble, the inmate’s out. Miss two weekly Malachi Dads sessions, he’s out. Fail to do the homework, out. Put little effort into the assignments, out. Refuse to complete reading assignments, out.
Valdosta State Prison held its first Malachi Dads program last year. Then, 32 inmates entered the program; only eight graduated. This year, 65 entered the program; on Saturday, 42 graduated.