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March 21, 2013

Jail dance lets fathers, daughters take a few steps together

(Continued)

RICHMOND, Va. —

Back at the jail, he's trying to find a belt that will fit. He's lost 40 pounds since getting locked up.

"I just gotta break this cycle I'm in. I'm just tired of it," Andre Morman says, adding that he can't wait to see his youngest daughter. "I haven't been able to pick her up in nine months."

At around 1:30 p.m. the girls are taken down a long hallway to meet their fathers. But instead of waiting they all rush to one another. This time, the fathers don't bother choking back tears. They just let themselves cry.

"Is jail over yet, Daddy?" calls out Jhaniyika, who runs into her father's arms.

He can't answer yes. So he just hugs her tightly.

"Introducing, Joey Atkins and his daughter Alexis," the event's master of ceremonies booms as the pair walks a red — paper — carpet.

They have their photos taken in the multipurpose room, which has been decorated with purple paper tablecloths and balloons. The event begins with a journaling exercise where the fathers and daughters write notes to each other.

"I am having fun. It's gonna be hard to leave," Alexis writes.

There's a chicken dinner and a sugary cake. Celebrity guest Chad Coleman, a Richmond native who grew up in the foster care system and later became famous for playing reformed ex-convict Cutty in "The Wire," comes forward to praise the event.

Everyone is on their best behavior. The fathers pull out their daughters' chairs and rise when their daughters come back to their seats after being away, manners they learned in their fathering class. Some huddle and share family and school news. One daughter charms her dad into promising she can have a summer pass to Kings Dominion.

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