Children Receive Bedtime Stories from Dads in Prison

InnerChange Freedom Initiative Texas Inmates also Refurbish Bikes for Needy Kids in Houston

Children of some Texas inmates will receive a special gift from their incarcerated dads. A new project at the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) Texas' Carol S. Vance unit allows incarcerated dads to record themselves reading children's stories. The recorded audio tapes are then given to their children as gifts to be played and re-played on lonely nights throughout the year.

Noticing that many prisoners struggle to maintain a relationship with their children, an IFI Texas volunteer recently came up with this very personal way to fill the void that children experience as a result of having a parent behind bars. The project, dubbed "Storybook Dads," aims to build or maintain family ties and facilitate learning for prisoners and their children through these story CDs.

"An estimated 2.3 million children1 in the United States are not able to have daily contact with a parent because they are behind bars," said IFI Texas Director Tommie Dorsett. "Considering the majority of incarcerated parents are more than 100 miles from their last place of residence,1 the storybook CDs offer hope and love from an absent parent every day throughout the year."

IFI's Storybook Dads project is administrated from inside the IFI unit by current inmate Willie McCray. McCray said the project is a tool to help incarcerated dads continue to be fathers while in prison. It also encourages their involvement in their children's lives year-round.

"My daughter hasn't committed a crime. It's not her fault I'm here," said Andre Williams, who was sentenced to 13 years in 2000 for murder. "The Storybook Dads project gives me the opportunity to show my 8-year-old my love for her from behind bars."

Forty Texas children received an audio storybook from their dad in prison in December 2007. FI plans to expand the project, which began in October 2007, so many more children can receive the gift of their dad's voice.

In addition, IFI Texas inmates work throughout the year to refurbish bicycles to give to underprivileged children in the Houston area. The bike project, which began in 2005, has provided 100 bikes to local children.

"You don't know how good it felt to see the look on my three children's faces knowing that someone who didn't even know them gave them a gift," said Shemika Wiggins, a Houston-area mom whose three children received refurbished bikes. "I had a heartfelt smile as they received the three bikes, gifts that I could never afford to give them."



  • Inmates who have refurbished bikes to give away
  • Children who received refurbished bikes
  • Tommie Dorsett, IFI Texas Director
  • Inmate Willie McCray, manager of the Storybook Dads project who learned to edit music and lay audio while in prison
  • Inmates who gave their child a "storybook" and children who received a "storybook"


For more than a decade, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative has produced proven results in changing the lives of hardened criminals and stopping the revolving door of crime. Nine IFI programs are in operation in state prisons in Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri-including women's programs in Minnesota, Arkansas and Missouri—presenting viable solutions to challenges that state and local governments have struggled with for decades.

1Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics