Camp Hope
08/01/2011
Allegany Radio

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A handful of inmates at the North Branch Correctional Institution are thankful for some quality time spent with their children. 10 children take part in a summer camp that allows them to spend time with their fathers who are behind bars at the maximum security facility. This year was the first time inmate Vincent Thomas got to participate and he talks about what the experience has been like for him. “Oh it has been wonderful it has been a pleasure. Cause I miss my kids so much so just to have an opportunity to spend time with them to spend father son time with them is just a plus. I did get a visit about a year ago but it has been a while since I have been able to really sit down and really communicate with them.” This was the second year inmate Juvon Harris has taken part in Camp Hope. “It's been good for me cause I get to spend time with my kids, that's been the best part of the whole thing, get to catch up with them a lot.” His son Shawn Harris says he had a good time with his father. “Good to spend time with my father having fun we made a tie-died shirt, we did our murals, we did a song and played a lot of games. It was fun.” Hope House executive director Carol Fennellysays this is the 25th camp they have run and camp is held at three facilities in the US including the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland and explains why this camp is important. “People may rightfully have bad feelings about the men here and whatever they have done to harm the community from where they come. But these kids didn't do anything wrong. And it is hard growing up without a dad. These kids experience loss the same way any child would through death or the military, divorce or whatever. For these kids to have the opportunity to spend time with their dads is so important.”

Hope House, established in 1998 in Washington, D.C., runs the program. Last year, NBCI was the first state facility, and the first maximum-security facility, to host Camp Hope. Inmates who participate in Camp Hope are carefully screened and must meet stringent criteria, including remaining infraction-free for an entire year. Sexual offenders are not allowed to participate. Those inmates selected for Camp Hope go through parenting classes, as Division of Correction programming utilizes the power of family as a restorative tool. During the weeklong program, the children will meet with their fathers daily for arts and crafts, lunch and other camp activities. The children stay at a local campground for the week, augmenting their experience. After the weeklong program is completed, the inmates continue in classes through the Social Work department. To find out more about the program log on to http://www.hopehousedc.org/

To hear the interview with Vincent Thomas click here

To hear the interview with Juvon Harris click here

To hear the interview with Shawn Harris click here

To hear the interview with Carol Fennelly click here