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Lin’Asia Harris mails drawings of hearts to her father that he tapes to the top of his bunk. “She knows from her heart that I’m not a bad person,” Linwood Harris, 33, says. “It ain’t always about being bad to be in here.”
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Nine-year-old Lin'Asia Harris squeals on the dance floor, throwing her head back in delight as her father, Linwood Harris, spins her to the beat of salsa music. The light-pink flowers on her taffeta dress blur together as she twirls.
For a single afternoon, 16 male inmates at the Richmond City Jail trade their blue-and-yellow jumpsuits for suits and ties. Meeting their young daughters with joyful tears and hugs, they gather in a cinder-block room decorated with colorful streamers and balloons for the jail's first father-daughter dance. Organized by the nonprofit Camp Diva, the March 17 event is part of a program geared toward providing opportunities for at-risk girls and reducing recidivism by fostering healthy relationships between incarcerated fathers and their daughters. The goal is to help the fathers understand that they still matter, says Camp Diva founder and director Angela Patton, and to remind the girls that their fathers still love them, regardless of their situation.
De'Brianna Richardson, 9, salsa-dances with her father, Faiz Lawton.
Lawton, 29, who's currently serving time for auto theft-grand larceny, sees De'Brianna twice a month through the glass partitions of the booths in the jail's visitation room. His favorite part of the dance? "Just being able to embrace her. Being able to hug her, hold her, squeeze her, kiss her, talk to her closely, share a meal with her. It's a lot of things."
Seated in their best dresses, daughters wait to be escorted through the jail to the dance. Richmond City Jail Lt. Col. Joe Lawson picked up three of the girls from their homes when their original rides fell through.
Five-year-old Myli Brown measures her hand against that of her father, Royal Brown, who's in jail awaiting trial on drug possession. "I made a promise to them that I'd never indulge in anything that would take me away from them again," Brown, 36, says of Myli and her twin sister, Miori. "They are my motivation to do better."
Lin'Asia Harris greets her father, Linwood Harris, after not seeing him for more than two months. He's looking forward to finding a job after serving 90 days for failure to pay child support: "Dad is not coming back [to jail] anymore." Harris was released on April 3.
Many of the men went back for seconds of the catered meal. "They don't get food like that often," Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. says.
Fathers and daughters interviewed each other with hand-held video cameras.