MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – In honor of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, nearly 200 Miami area children visited their incarcerated parents and learned about the virtues of “being an American.”
The Service Network for Children of Inmates, Florida Department of Corrections and The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade organized eight prison visits from June 21-30 for the children to see their imprisoned moms and dads.
It was an especially important trip for people like 24-year-old Krystle Johnson. She hadn’t seen her father, Ernesto Cook, in 17 years and he had never met her one-year-old daughter. Krystle never knew her father, but did want her little girl to have a chance to get to know him as she grew up.
Cook was beaming as he held his grandchild for the first time. He and Krystle both knew he would be getting out of jail this year after a 20-year sentence and hope the family can reconnect.
“I’m happy, but nervous at the same time,” Krystle told CBS4’s Cynthia Demos. “I have so much anger because he wasn’t there for me.”
But Krystle said she’s ready to move forward. As she watched her one-year-old on her father’s lap she said, “She doesn’t really go to strangers, so maybe she senses that he’s family.”
Cook was one of eight inmates that chatted with their family members and then sat through a program put on by the U.S. military. Two officers spoke to the group about pride for their country and what it means to be patriotic.
Since the 4th of July weekend is almost here, the entire group learned the proper way to fold an American flag. They also were treated to pizza and playing a few games.
For people like Cook and his family, it was a life changing moment. His daughter said after years of struggling she is ready to get to know her dad, and let him spend a lot of time with his granddaughter.
“When he gets out he can keep her for awhile,” Krystle said. Demos asked, “You mean let him babysit?” With a smile on her face, finally smiling and laughing a bit she nodded and said, “Go ahead!”