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The Father-Daughter Dance at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

March 6, 2024

By Brendan Baptiste Communications Office
Incarcerated individual, Rodney Herbert takes a photo with his daughters Talyah and Mahealani.

Incarcerated individual, Rodney Herbert takes a photo with his daughters Talyah and Mahealani. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Baptiste, DOC Communications)

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At Cedar Creek Correctional Center, days can often be a little monotonous, but recently an event brought color, music, and laughter to the facility. The gymnasium was transformed for a unique father-daughter dance. Events like these are special for both incarcerated and their families as their distance can make maintaining relationships difficult. This event wasn’t just a dance, it was a symbol of rehabilitation, family bonding and hope.

To participate, incarcerated individuals had to be infraction free for at least 90 days, a requirement that encouraged good behavior and a sense of responsibility among participants. Rules like this apply to many events at facilities across the state. It’s not used exclusively as a form of regulation, but as a steppingstone towards building trust within correctional facilities.

The dance was an exclusive event. Only daughters, stepdaughters, granddaughters, and their family were invited. However, there was a niece who received special approval to join the festivities as well. This restriction was not just about maintaining security but also about creating a safe and intimate space for incarcerated and their families. In a place where privacy is scarce, this exclusivity offered a rare opportunity for heart felt interactions.

“I didn’t get to see my daughters grow up as I’ve done a lot of time, so being able to see my granddaughter grow up gives me the motivation to be a better man,” said John, incarcerated individual. “Fathers and grandfathers are usually the first male figures our daughters love, and they look at you to set the bar for what kind of person they will partner with in the future. So, I knew I needed to make a change for them.”

As the daughters arrived, the atmosphere buzzed with excitement. Music filled the air, bridging the gap between the inside and the outside world. These men who the public may view as hardened criminals, gleefully sang and danced to Taylor Swift songs with their daughters. It was a reminder that, despite their circumstances, these incarcerated fathers are still part of a community, and most importantly, their family.

One of the highlights of the event was a tutu making station. Participants took an elastic band and tied strips of pastel colored mesh fabric to make a skirt. Families gathered around the materials to help make the skirts, while some daughters created additional crowns and ties for dads. The tutu building allowed them to create something beautiful from scratch, while fathers made memories and built stronger bonds.

On the other side of the gym was a life-sized Candyland game where daughters took their turns jumping from step to step. A photo booth captured precious moments, providing a memory that they could take home. A volunteer proudly took photos for anyone who made the request. Later down the line when families look back to this memory, they will be remembered of the effort put forth by these men to be fathers, even in challenging circumstances.

The father-daughter dance at Cedar Creek was more than an event. It was a show of the power of rehabilitation and the unbreakable bond of a family. Even in the most unlikely places, hope can flourish, and change can happen. An afternoon of normalcy can recharge batteries and serve as a reminder to continue the work to be the best person they can for their families. It’s in these moments that fathers and daughters can rebuild trust, mend bridges, and prepare for more positive paths ahead.