Prisoner program slated to expand

WHITE POST — Despite the closing of the White Post Diversion Center last month, the Fathers-in-Training rehabilitation program is set to expand, according to Bobby Hudnall, the program’s director and senior pastor at Life in the Word Church of Jesus Christ.

The Fathers-in-Training program kicked off earlier this year when Hudnall was approached by the center to oversee a program to teach 27 inmates how to become better fathers and citizens upon their release. The 15-week course offered inmates lessons in anger management, developing support systems and obtaining employment.

In January, the program will expand to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center and the Stafford Diversion Center. Also, Hudnall will be offering a Mothers-in-Training course for mothers of children whose fathers are incarcerated at the Shenandoah Valley Family Support and Development Center in Winchester.

Hudnall said most of the inmates he and his counselors worked with at White Post were a mixed bag of offenders.

“Some of these guys had a history of hardcore criminal activity, but they have proven themselves over time to be capable of rehabilitation,” Hudnall said. “Of the guys who have been released since going through the program, I hear they’re doing very well.”

According to Hudnall, recently released inmates face a myriad of challenges and fatherhood adds an extra hardship.

“The biggest things these inmates lack upon release is a support system,” Hudnall said. “They’ve burned a lot of bridges with family and friends and they know that. What our program does is offer them one more chance to get it right.”

Among the resources the program offers upon release is help with job placement and 90-day temporary housing in Woodstock. Hudnall said one of the biggest lessons his program tries to impart is to get ex-cons to be more involved in their children’s lives.

“It’s important for these fathers to be there for their children,” Hudnall said. “We try to teach them that even if they aren’t romantically involved with the mothers, they should both learn to put their differences aside for the children.”

Hudnall added, “A lot of these mothers are very angry with these fathers, they are mad because they’ve been out of the picture so long, in and out of jail. What we’re trying to do is get the father prepared to take more responsibility and the mother ready to at least engage him in a dialogue.”

Hudnall said one of the program’s main goals is to stop the cycle of poverty that often leads young men to a life of crime.

“We hope to break the curse,” Hudnall said. “I have a young man whose uncles forced him to sell drugs as a kid. He said if he went back home upon release, he’d go back to selling. He didn’t want to do that, so we let him stay at our half-way house in Woodstock.”

In order to provide support for incarcerated fathers and the mothers on the outside, Hudnall has partnered with a gamut of organizations and departments, ranging from the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Department of Child Enforcement, and Goodwill Industries, to Lord Fairfax Community College, Triple C Cab and George’s Chicken, to name a few.

Hudnall said the reason for so many community partnerships is to provide a “fail-proof” support system for inmates upon release.

“I’m trying to get them involved with places that will hire them, good places to work, places that pay good money,” Hudnall said. “Connecting with all these organizations, I just don’t see how we can fail them. The only way they can fail is if it’s on them.”

Hudnall continued, “I want these people, at the end of the day, to feel like they are a part of something, because when you’re a part of something, then there’s accountability … a lot of the reason people are doing the crazy things they’re doing is because they don’t belong to anything.”

The Fathers and Mothers in Training program will have with a launch party at the Our Health Building at 329 N. Cameron St., Winchester, on Dec. 19. County officials and local agencies are invited to attend. The Fathers-In-Training program will begin at the RSW on Jan. 12.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com