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Fatherhood advocate introduces program to Milwaukee County inmates

"Our presence is the present to our kids."
Posted at 5:34 PM, Aug 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 19:40:22-04

MILWAUKEE — A program at the Milwaukee County Reintegration Center is offering men lessons on how to better fathers, from in lockup and someday back home.

For the course's master trainer, Terence Ray, life experiences led him back to the facility.

"I've been through this before. This very building. I was an inmate here," said Ray.

Ray got out of prison in the mid-1990s. Since then, he's worked for state lawmakers, former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and helped the city launch the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative.

Now, he's introducing inmates in Milwaukee County to the Nurturing Father's Program, a course used nationwide.

"Our presence is the present to our kids. Can somebody expound on that a little bit more for me?" said Ray to his class on Wednesday.

For 13 weeks, every Wednesday, Ray has traveled to the Reintegration Center in Franklin. He's taught his first class — 11 inmates, all volunteers — lessons, including discipline without violence, anger management, and how, as a man, it's okay to cry and share that emotion with your kids.

"To know that I've entrusted them in a way that they can't wait to get out of here and try with their own kids, that's powerful. That's powerful," said Ray.

Several inmates told TMJ4 News they grew up without fathers. Some are now awaiting trial and sentencing. They said they aim to be more involved with their kids and share what they've learned, even if it's from inside the jail.

"When you get to that fatherhood place, that's when you take on and accept your responsibility as a Black man in the community. And that you got something to do and leave a legacy here. And mine is I give of myself. And have it have an impact on somebody," said Ray.

On Wednesday, Aug. 23, Ray's first class graduates from the course. He told them, if he had to teach it all over again, he'd still want them to take away one key point — something he learned from his own experience.

"It's the time that you give your kids. That's more important than everything," said Ray.

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