The Long Beach Reintegration Program hosts a formal dance for inmates and their children

Inmates at a Long Beach reintegration program were able to forget their sorrows for a night out as they dressed up to enjoy a night out with their children at a formal dance event last month.

The Long Beach Men’s Community Reintegration Program organized the event to give program participants a sense of normalcy and create a bonding experience for the men and their children.

Event organizers said the “family reunification dance” created a safe space for young children and their fathers to focus on “the importance of healthy and strong relationships”.

Fifteen children aged 5 to 17 joined their fathers for the March 25 dance.

Children were greeted with a rose boutonniere or handmade corsage as they joined their fathers for a three-course dinner. The reunited families then enjoyed the music of a live DJ and a father/child dance.

Each father also read a letter to his child and presented him with either a heart-shaped pendant or dog tags to commemorate the evening.

Victor Melgar was one of the dads who had the opportunity to experience the event with his daughter.

“For me, this was my first of many dances to come with my daughter. These types of events at MCRP have given me a stronger bond with my daughter and my family,” Melgar said in a distributed press release. by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The Men’s Community Rehabilitation Program gives eligible offenders incarcerated in a state prison the opportunity to serve the end of their sentence in the rehabilitation center. While there, they are also connected to social services, rehabilitation resources, and mental health care to help inmates reintegrate into society in hopes that they avoid re-offending.

Incarcerated men like Jovanny Reyes said the program strengthened his relationship with his daughter and the father/child dance was a vital part of helping him stay on the path to rehabilitation.

“The moment I walked in to see my daughter, I felt comfortable,” Reyes said. “Her face lit up as we entered the decorated parlor and I put on her bodice. Everything about the event was perfect. My daughter can’t stop talking about it and wants to know when the next dance is. It’s so vital to my rehabilitation and I’m grateful for that.

Participants in the reintegration program also helped provide services to fathers and their children. They provided table service and helped set up and tear down for the event.

“It was such an honor to have the opportunity to be part of such a special event. Dressing up and doing my best to provide the best service was my top priority,” said Tim Hagler, a program participant who was selected to be the main server for the event. “Overall, it was a great experience to see the joy on the kids’ faces when they were able to spend some quality time with their dads.”

At the end of the evening, the children were sent home with a copy of their father’s letter and a souvenir photo to remember the evening.

Joseph Bunkley was among the men capable of spending the evening with their child. He said the dance helped strengthen a growing bond he shares with his daughter.

He said the highlight of the evening was “to stand in front of her and say how proud I am and how much I love her”.

Ryan H. Bowman