Hundreds of mothers won't be spending Mother’s Day with their children. Instead, they'll remain behind bars at Lowell Correctional Institution. But many of them are connecting with their children through a Central Florida program called Mommy Reads.
At Lowell Correctional Institution, thousands of female inmates live under tight security measures and surrounded by barb wire. Some are serving sentences for grand theft, robbery and even murder, but perhaps the worst punishment for many is life without their children.
“It’s really hard knowing that you made a choice in life to separate you from your child and there’s nothing you can do at that point to get back to them and knowing that they’re getting older and learning things without you,” said Carine Doctor, inmate.
Doctor was sentenced to life in prison for her role in a botched home invasion that ended with the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy. At the time of the Daytona Beach crime in 2009, Doctor’s own children were toddlers.
“Milestones in your child’s life that you want to be there for and it hurts so bad that someone else has to be there,” Doctor expressed.
That someone else raising her little ones is her mother. However, with the help of volunteers and a digital recorder, Doctor can still share moments like story time with her kids.
“By them being able to hear my voice and me reading to them, it’s gonna be like, I can’t even explain. I’m so happy,” she said.
A group of women from Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville created the prison ministry, Mommy Reads. The inmates choose a book, a volunteer records the reading and the audio is then placed on an MP3 player and mailed out.
Doctor and other women can only participate if they have good conduct every three months. However, no matter the wait, Doctor said the simple act of reading gets her closer to home.
“When you’re hearing in the background, your mother’s on the phone, get on the phone, tell your mother she loves you, you would think like she would want to run to the phone, but after so many years, it’s like when are you coming home? We’re ready for you to come home.”
About 30 women participate in the Mommy Reads program every time the organization visits the prison. Many of the mothers consider it a privilege to be chosen.
All of the books and MP3 players are donated. Time is also donated by more than 50 volunteers who believe in the cause of women helping women.