tv This Is Life With Lisa Ling CNN October 24, 2015 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT
them together, and that's the only thing that makes me feel better, is that at least they're together. ♪ it's early spring in richmond, virginia and terrance williams is an hour away from the most meaningful day of his life. >> a tie, going to look good. >> the city of richmond is hosting a father-daughter dance for terrance and 12 other dads. >> man, i feel like money. >> but there is a catch. these men are inmates of the richmond jail, and this dance will be the first time terrance's daughter, takayla, will have seen him in eight months.
how do you feel about the fact your dad has been in jail? >> like when he goes away, i have my personality with him. >> there are nearly 2.5 million americans behind bars. more than half of them are parents. and while fathers do time, the families they leave behind serve sentences of their own. the richmond jail is hoping connecting inmates with their kids can turn their lives around, but is one dance enough? >> i never want to dance with my daughter again in jail. ♪ ♪
150 years ago, richmond, virginia was the capital of the confederacy, the losing side of the civil war. but today, the victory over slavery can seem like a broken promise. the united states incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation and no one has been harder hit than black men and the loved ones they leave behind. while incoarko incarceration afs entire families, we'll focus on a relationship that is often overlooked, that of incarcerated men and their daughters. right now we're in one city that's making that relationship a priority. today i'm at the richmond city justice center, the local jail. >> there you go. >> thank you. >> for the next week, i'll get to know a group of men here.
not just as inmates but as fathers like terrance williams. >> i'm locked up more than i'm on the street, and when i'll on the street, i still don't even build a relationship with my children. i'm trying to learn how to be a better father or just be a father period. >> 33-year-old terrance is serving time for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. for the next year, this cell block is home. >> welcome to my humble palace. >> this is it. >> this is where i sleep. this is my bed. my radio, my bible, you know. i've got a lot of books and stuff up under here. >> you're so organized. >> yeah. you know, i guess i get that from my mom. >> do you have photos here? >> yes, i do. i have a few photos. actually just got these. that's my youngest boy right there, terrance junior. that's takaya, the youngest
daughter there. >> so cute. >> this is my sweetheart here, takayla, turned into a lady. i watch takayla come out the womb. i used to sing "that's daddy's baby." i used to put her to sleep every night. >> do you still feel like you know her? >> not really. not like i once knew her. being locked up crushed my relationship with all my children. >> terrance was born in richmond and raised by his mother and grandparents. his father left the family before terrance was born. despite that, he says his early years were happy ones. he was a straight a student with big dreams of becoming a professional football player. >> i had offers from nc state and i was looking forward to the next step in my life. >> so what happened?
>> i was, you know, smoking marijuana a lot, drinking, hanging with the wrong crowd and i failed two classes. i needed to play football. the first game come and they tell me i can't play. so that kind of crushed me. >> soon after, terrance dropped out of high school. by age 19 he was dealing and using heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. in his mid 20s, he started getting caught. and between arrests, he fathered five children. how many mothers? >> four mothers. >> how did that happen? >> now, that's where the getting high and not being focused and on point play a part, being careless. if this don't wake me up, i don't know what will. >> the richmond city justice center is home to 1200 inmates.
jail officials say the vast majority are black males who never graduated high school. >> who brung us here? >> god. >> on the jail's sixth floor, there is an effort underway to keep these men from coming back. >> i didn't know any positive way except to drink or get high or run. >> it's called "the real program," a daily regiment of addiction treatment and high school classes. inmates must apply for one of the program's 200 slots. terrance made the cut. >> what age does parenting stop? >> never. >> it don't stop for me for real. >> a couple months ago he was selected to join a brand-new program, an eight-week course on how to be a better father. >> if i'm out here selling drugs and my daughter, she can tell by my lifestyle what i'm doing, how hard is it going to be for her to grow up and be fond of somebody her age who is selling drugs? >> the 13 men in this room are
here on a variety of charges, but all of them struggle with substance abuse and each of them has anywhere from two to seven children. twice a week, they meet with health department counselor clarence harris. what is the fatherhood curriculum? >> oftentimes the men who participate in these programs didn't have a father in the household to teach them the lessons that a father should. they honestly want to make a change in the person that they were, but they really don't have a road map to do that. how does this exercise make us feel inside when we were working on it? it's an environment where the men can get very vulnerable with each other. >> i feel like i got to change and do something different. >> was it tugging at you? >> yeah, every time i think about my daughter. >> okay.
>> i feel like a part of me is missing because i never had my father in my life. getting high and getting high and getting high, that's how i'm dealing with it. but no matter how many excuses i try to make, the fact is that i'm not there for my children. >> when fathers like terrance get locked up, it falls to their wives, girlfriends and mothers to raise their children. and three miles away on the north side of richmond, terrance's ex kenisha, is holding down the house. >> hi, baby, how was school today? >> do you know a lot of other women in the same situation as you, who don't have fathers of their children in their lives? >> i do. a lot of women are receiving public assistance and most men are incarcerated. and even when they come out, they aren't able to position
themselves to help their families. >> kenisha lives with her mother, yolanda, and her five children, two of whom are terrance's daughters 9-year-old takaya and 12-year-old takayla. how do you feel about the fact that your dad has been in jail? >> at first, i was kind of disappointed because when he goes away, half my personality went with him, and then when he comes back, my personality comes back. and i'm always me when he's around, and then i heard that he was trying to get better and stuff and i was sort of excited. i know he's going to keep trying so he doesn't go back in there. >> how do you know that? >> i trust my father and i trust that he's going to keep trying. >> takayla is a cheerleader. she and takaya are honor roll students. as they get older, the stakes will rise.
daughters of absent fathers are significantly more likely to drop out of school and get pregnant as teens. to keep their relationship alive, the city of richmond is trying something extraordinary, a father-daughter dance in jail. how many of you are really nervous about the dance? >> can i put two hands up? [ laughter ] >> what are you most nervous about? >> i can't dance. [ laughter ] >> i never danced with my daughter before. going to be the first time she ever seen her daddy in a suit. >> are you emotional about it? >> yeah, you can say that, yeah. >> i was locked up when my child was born, and i was just barely there and she's 4 years old now. >> so you don't really even know your daughter that well? >> no, ma'am. really, i don't know nothing about her for real.
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across america, black communities are in crisis. a recent study found that over 1 million african-american men have disappeared from society. for hundreds of thousands among them, the cause is incarceration. at the richmond city justice center, 52-year-old aziz scott is one of these men. >> i first got locked up at age 14. i've been back and forth most of my life. deputy, i'm ready for cell inspection. i hear the term
"institutionalize," and i ask myself the question, can i survive in jail but can't survive on the street? >> he estimates he's been incarcerated more than 20 times, every charge drug related. the downward spiral began with the death of his father when aziz was 13 years old. >> it's 14 of us in our family. we stayed in like a three-bedroom dump, you know, and it was hard. so i left like at 14 to go stay with my older brother, and i started selling drugs. once i start making money, i seen it as a way for me to help my mom. >> when did you become a drug addict? >> i smoked and sniffed crack at age 14. i ended up being homeless, staying in people's backyards, abandoned buildings. everybody i took to, you know what i'm saying, for guidance, they was in the street. they was in the drug gang.
>> have you ever had a job, aziz? >> off and on but what they pay me in a week i could make in a day selling drugs, you know, so. >> aziz had his first son when he was 21 years old. he had a daughter with another woman a few years later. for most of his children's lives, aziz was absent, consumed by his addiction. then in 2007, his life seemed to take a turn for the better when he met tya. >> this is my wedding reception, this picture here. >> they eventually married but all the while aziz was hooked on heroin. >> i was like, maybe, i can be some type of backbone for you to help you, and he was like okay, we're going to do this together. and then a minute later, somebody calls his phone, he out the door. come on. >> aziz got picked up for selling drugs a year ago.
without the income he brought in from dealing, tya scrapes by with the help of her family. she spends most of their day caring for their 3-year-old son, aziz jr., but the housing project where they live is a hard place to raise kids. >> every two minutes you always hearing gunshots or seeing somebody fighting. the last home side happened yesterday. >> yesterday somebody was killed? >> yeah. >> how do you protect your kids? >> me and my babies, we stay in the house. i don't want to keep them locked in. i want them to be able to go outside and play, but this neighborhood can't do that. >> tya allows one exception. her 8-year-old daughter deandra can walk home from the bus stop after school. so let's see what you want to wear to the dance?
>> in just a few days, deandra will reunite with aziz at the father-daughter dance. >> pretty. >> it will be the first time they will be together in nearly a year. so are you going to wear this? >> i might. >> do you have another option? let me see this one. deandra, this one is so cute, too. your mom really wants you to wear it, doesn't she? >> yes, but i don't want to. >> who do you think will win the battle of the dresses? >> me. or my mom. [ laughter ] >> have you ever been to a dance before? never? >> i'm going to be the only one that don't know how to dance. there is definitely a dad who
doesn't know how to dance, trust me. do you have anything planned out for the night? like what? >> a big hug. and a kiss on the cheek and the other cheek. >> what has it been like for you since your dad has been in jail? >> hard. i miss him. >> how has aziz' absence affected deandra? >> she close herself in. every time i try to get her to open up to me, she's like, i just want him home. >> aziz won't be home for six more months, but he's determined to put that time to use. in the year he's been locked up, he's gotten clean and he makes a point to write his family regularly. >> i want to see my son grow up. i want to see my daughter grow up. i owe myself at least a chance to try. and i owe them that much.
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at the richmond jail, preparations are underway. >> taper the back. >> yeah, taper the back. >> keep the curls, i need my curls. >> the students of the fatherhood program are getting ready for something special. >> make me look good. that's all. >> i got you. >> the opportunity to reconnect with their daughters at the jail's father daughter dance. >> make sure that y'all hold your seat for your ladies and have them to sit down. >> the big day is tomorrow so the jail invited the butlers from the governor's mansion for a lesson on etiquette. >> and napkin always stay in your lap. >> so don't put the napkin up here? >> no. never. [ laughter ] >> whose here that does not know how to tie a tie? >> i. >> i.
>> all right. you take the tie and stick it over your head like this. under -- >> classes like this aren't simply a rehearsal for the upcoming dance. they are meant to teach life skills and develop the confidence of the jail's residents. >> that's how y'all want it to look, that triangle. >> this is how you want it to look. >> these moments allow men like terrance to imagine a better future. >> i'm sure you tried to do the right thing before. what makes this time different? >> me being in the program, i started to see things in a different light. the only thing that come out of getting high and selling drugs is jail, institutions or death. and i've been in jails, institution, the only thing left for me is death. i feel like, man, this is my life. my life depend on this. >> for 52-year-old aziz, the months he's been in the program have been pivotal.
>> i came in angry. i thought that people was going to look at me like i was weak if i showed them the vulnerable side of me, and just came to the realization that i could change, but will i have that opportunity, you know what i'm saying to share with my family. >> for the time being, the only chance aziz has his chance to share progress with his family is through brief weekly visitations. >> you can go to booth 40. take the phone off the hook. >> but while tya and the kids are in the lobby, aziz is up on the sixth floor. >> hello? >> hey. what's up, little daddy. security and keeps contraband in from entering the facility. >> can you talk on here? >> yeah, i'm talking on here now.
put the phone on your ear. >> but it also means dads like aziz can't hug their families. >> stop. >> shhh. >> let me talk to your sister. i'm going to talk back to you. let me talk to your sister. hey, what's up lil mamma. you got your dress and everything ready? >> no. me and mom is still having a fight about that. >> my shoe and shirt will be matching what you got on, so when we walk down the red carpet we'll look nice. >> yeah. >> you going to teach me some of the latest dance? >> how about you teach me some dance? >> all right. you going to follow my lead? >> yeah. >> all right. that's what's up then. put mommy on the phone. >> for aziz, these visits are bittersweet. >> what you doing, mama? a reminder of how much he's missed in his children's lives. >> are you teaching them stuff
and all that? >> he knows his whole name and he knows how to spell his name too. >> he know how to spell his name, too. >> the jail limits visitation to 30 minutes, time that goes by all too quickly. >> i love you. i appreciate you. and i thank you for having my back. let me just sit here and look at you and reminisce for a couple minutes until, until the screen go blank. >> i love you, too, baby. >> all right. tell my babies i love them. >> how has your addiction affected your family? >> oh, man, i was never sober for any of my kids, never. >> so when deandra comes here for the dance, it's going to be the first time she ever sees you
sober? >> yeah. >> what are you thinking about? >> just scared. scared something happens to them on the street. scared to not be successful for my family. i don't want to fail no more. don't want to come back here. >> i can understand why aziz is so scared. they live in a dangerous environment. there's no doubt that aziz wants to change. there is absolutely no doubt, but it's going to take more than
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>> try to picture the dance happening, and i just see tables with like cloth on top and like flowers in the middle. >> come on, ms. mablean. >> my dad, he'll pick me up and squeeze me really tight. >> the father-daughter dance in the richmond jail is starting in less than an hour. >> you need to walk with your head up and walk straight. >> i try. >> terrance's mom debra will be takayla's ride. >> you look beautiful. your daddy is going to cry and he's going to hold you and he's not going to want to let you go. >> the dance is a partnership between the jail, the health department, the richmond family and fatherhood initiative and girls for a change, a non-profit dedicated to empowering young women. the conference room on the
jail's second floor has been fitted as a dance hall. >> can't wait to put that suit on, man. >> you didn't get no sleep, did you. >> up on the sixth floor, the men are getting ready. >> aziz. >> here you go. >> thank you. >> yes, sir. >> the suits were loaned by local charities. this is the first time most of these men have ever worn one. >> made in italy. yeah. >> man, i feel like money. >> april issure "gq" means wear, coming out in april. >> at ten past 1:00, the daughters arrive. >> daddy, daddy, wow. excited. >> they are moments away from being reunited with the most important men in their lives. some of them haven't seen their fathers in over a year so as you can imagine, a pretty exciting moment. how are you guys feeling? >> good. >> excited. >> yeah?
>> we ready. >> are you nervous? >> yeah, past nervous. >> you-all look amazing. really, really amazing. >> get back in line behind in the front. where y'all going? by ei >> i'm hoping when she see me, she would call me daddy, come running to me. >> they coming in right now? >> 30 seconds she said. >> 30 seconds. >> am i scared, yeah. but it's something i want, something i need. >> we are ready to go. he's go. we're going to see our dads. smile. >> aww.
[ applause ] [ laughter ] >> look at you. what? you look like a grown lady. how are you doing, baby? are you okay? huh? i miss you. ♪ >> after months apart, these men and their children will spend the next three hours together. >> they put makeup on me and i messed it up. >> that's fine. i ain't worried about that. >> i wasn't there for your
birthday. i'll do something nice for you. >> give a round of applause for anthony bowers and his beautiful daughter. [ applause ] mr. darrius, washington and his lovely daughter. mr. terrance williams and his princess. we have aziz scott and deandra scott. >> dads and daughters take their seats. but despite everyone's excitement, at first things feel a little awkward. >> for some fathers and daughters, like no time elapsed and they are having a great time. for some they are sitting there and not being communicative with each other. but when you think about it, some of these daughters don't even know their fathers. >> are you okay? >> i want to go.
>> for 25-year-old guy and his 4-year-old daughter diamond, the moment is overwhelming. the jail calls her mom to take her home. >> all right. excuse us. the dads could use a little help. >> one, two, three, fatherhood. so the dance organizers have an ice breaker planned. >> just don't leave the room. don't come to the sixth floor with him. >> give me an a. >> a, you got your a, you got your a. >> give me an e. >> e, you got your e, you got your e. >> give me an e. >> e, you got your e, you got your e. >> give me a w. >> in case you're wondering, the guys are spelling out a new beginning. >> to what? >> fatherhood. >> hey!
>> with just an hour left, the dance is in full swing. while most of the fathers and daughters are on the floor, one pair hangs back. >> trying to get her to dance. no, i want to stay with you. go play with the little girls. no, i want to stay with you. she was trying to hold on. spend as much time with me as she can. ♪ >> for a brief moment, these 13 men can forget where they are and what they have done to get here.
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i need all the fathers on one side of the carpet and all the daughters on the other side. make sure your daughter lines up across from you, okay? >> at the richmond jail, the dance is coming to an end and the fathers are leaving their daughters with a parting gift. >> this line here for me is called a line of commitment. on the mirror, you write what you want your daughter to see and know, her self-worth, her value, how precious she is as she looks into the mirror, you know this is how my daddy sees me, so this is what i know i am.
>> i know in this world that is crazy, that you need somebody to protect you and love you. no one in this world is going to protect you and love you like i will. >> i love you, pappi. >> i love you, too. >> oh, man, i'm prepared for this. i'll be home soon and promise not to miss any more birthdays. i love you. >> love you, too. >> come here lil mama. come to daddy. you know you mean the world to me, right? >> uh-huh. just be good, look out for mommy, i'll be home soon. and if you ever need anything, just let me know. and i promise, once i get home, i'll never leave your side. okay? >> uh-huh. >> give me kiss. >> my baby. >> i wrote a little poem for you. takayla, me without you is like a sun with no sky, a bird that
can't fly, a river that runs dry and dreams with no try. me without you is like icing with no cake, patience with no wait and destiny with no fate. the fact is, there is no me without you. i'll always be there for you, okay? i'm going to get better, i promise you. >> it's going to be all right. smile for me and be happy. all right? >> i am glad we got to spend some time together. but u promise you, we're not going to miss any more, okay?
i love you. give me a kiss. love you. >> fathers, it's time to hug them up. it's bedtime. hug your daughters, love them up. it's that time. >> this is the hard part. >> how? >> because you're going. you have to go home. but i'll be home soon. >> are you about to cry? why? >> i miss you. i love you, all right?
>> what did this day mean to you? >> it was a beautiful day. the best day i've seen in a while. i feel like i bonded with my daughter just now, man. like 12 years never did before. >> have to go back and get changed? >> yeah, from the suit into another suit. >> thanks, terrance. >> thank you again. >> good luck. there were so many moments today when i totally forgot i was in a jail. it was just a group of fathers and their daughters, laughing together, crying together. >> back to reality. >> the thing that got me was
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today in richmond, virginia, after months of classes and treatment, a group of students is celebrating a milestone. >> it's a big day in the richmond justice center. today, 30 men are going to be graduating from their programs. and for some of them like aziz and terrance, it's the first time they've ever graduated from anything. in attendance are some of the men's parents, wives and girlfriends. including terrance's mom debra and aziz's wife tya.
>> how are you feeling? >> scared. >> nervous. >> this is an accomplishment for me right now. >> it's good to do something positive and to feel right. >> good morning, everyone. >> good morning. >> this is a very special day. it is you-all's day. >> the richmond sheriff's c.t. woody jr. speaks first. >> no matter how rough or hard your life has been, you know now from being in here that you are still somebody. don't look back. >> i'm a little nervous now. you got to bear with me, man. i learned a lot, most of all an opportunity to do it right this time. >> this program has added structure to my life. so now i can productive. not only for myself, but for my children. >> i would thank my mom for being the world's greatest mom.
[ applause ] i love you mom. >> aziz scott. [ applause ] ty venable. [ applause ] terrance williams. >> one by one the 13 graduates of the fatherhood program receive their diplomas. ♪ >> i'm so proud of you. >> i love you. >> i love you, too. >> i've got a lot to work on. i'm glad i have an opportunity, you know, because a lot of people don't get another chance. at life, and i just thank god for my chance to do it again. >> may i suggest condoms, too?
>> yeah. i've been using those. so, yes, condoms is definitely needed. you can buy me some when i get out. my first pack. >> my wife told me something that i ain't hear from nobody in a long time. i'm proud of you. make me feel like i'm worth something now. they don't want to hear it come out my mouth no more. they want to see me do it. i have to walk through my ways and actions now. i've got to prove it to them. ♪ ♪
good evening, my fellow citizens. this government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the soviet military buildup on the island of cuba. >> this is the cuba i grew up with. >> mankind teeters precariously on the brink of a thermal nuclear war. >> the missile crisis, duck and cover, hide under your desk kids, cover yourselves with wet newspaper because we're all going to die. >> the flames of crisis burn far stronger, fed and fanned by the bitter tirades of fidel castro.