In 1994, Carolyn LeCroy’s life turned upside down. LeCroy, a news producer with a successful career and two sons, was arrested for possession of marijuana. She had been allowing a friend to use her storage unit, and the police were looking for something else when the drug dog found her unit. LeCroy, who had never even had a traffic ticket, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Although her sentence was eventually reduced, and she served a fraction of that time, her experience in prison changed her life.
While she was in prison, LeCroy had frequent visits from her 18 and 22-year-old sons, which she says kept her going. "When I was in prison, and I would get visits, I would come back to the floor, and I would see the women who never got visits," LeCroy recalls. "And they were always depressed and unhappy." Only about 20 percent of prison inmates receive monthly visits from their children or families, according to the US Department of Justice. She remembers the sadness of the inmates who did not receive visits, and she started thinking, "If the women are feeling this, I can imagine what the children are feeling."
When LeCroy made parole in 1996, she remembered the sadness of her fellow inmates and decided to help them. In December of 1999, LeCroy and a volunteer camera crew went to the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Virginia. Using her background as a film producer, LeCroy recorded video messages from the inmates to send to their children and families as Christmas gifts. The Messages Project was born. "For many of the inmates, these videos are the first time they have taken responsibility and apologized to their kids, and the first step to establishing a bond that was lost when they went to jail," LeCroy says. The Messages Project has been growing ever since, and now works in six different state prisons to send video messages three times a year: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas.
|recording a message (www.cnn.com/heroes)|
According to the US Department of Justice, approximately 2.3 million children have one or both parents in jail. The Messages Project focuses on helping the children who are left behind when their parents are incarcerated, the silent victims of their parents’ crimes. Their mission is to “maintain, or in many cases re-build, the connection between imprisoned parents and the children that are left behind.” So far, The Messages Project has recorded about 3,000 video messages, in which parents accept responsibility for their actions, apologize, read stories and poems, and send wishes to their children and families.
|reading a book on camera (www.cnn.com/heroes)|
"One inmate taught his son how to shoot hoops; others have read their children bedtime stories," she says. "The kids play it over and over. Some won't go to sleep unless mom reads them that book." When funds allow, LeCroy sends the book with the inmate's video.
"I think a lot of people have a preconceived notion of what an inmate is," LeCroy says. "One of the things I try to do is to show that they're humans; they're real people. And they have children and they have families and they all love them."
The Messages Project relies on donations to send DVDs with video messages to the inmates’ children and families. You can help maintain the bond between parent and child by making a donation to The Messages Project.