NORTH FORK – One of the consequences of parents ending up in prison is the loss of a mother or father to their young children. JoAnn Griffin has been working for more than a decade to fill that void in hundreds of children’s lives.
In the spring of 2002, JoAnn and her husband Mal read a story in a teacher’s newsletter about a prison program in Illinois, called “Storybook Project.”
In this program, books and cassette tapes were taken into a women’s prison, and the inmates were allowed to make a recording of themselves reading a book to their children. The tapes and books were then mailed to the kids.
“We immediately thought of the women’s prison at Chowchilla,” says JoAnn. “At that time we didn’t realize there were two women’s facilities there, and the one we got ahold of was Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW). We explained what we wanted to do, and after jumping through a few hoops, got approved.”
The Griffins immediately made an announcement at their next retired teachers meeting, explaining the program and asking if anyone was interested in joining them. Two women, Virginia McClaren and Muriel Fore, volunteered.
“Sylvia Hedlind, who was the community Partnership Manager at Valley State, was very helpful and encouraging and worked with us enthusiastically,” says JoAnn.
The four volunteers soon decided on the name, “Mother’s Voice,” and plunged in.
“Even though there were just the four of us for awhile, after some publicity in the local papers, we soon had more volunteers,” says JoAnn. “Those write-ups, plus word of mouth, brought out more volunteers and money to buy supplies and pay for postage.”
But then, after almost 11 years, VSPW was changed into a men’s prison. The Griffins and their group were led to believe they would just be transferred to the other women’s prison, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF).
“But since CCWF was now overcrowded and the new Community Partnership Manager there has his hands so full, they are unable, or unwilling to take on any thing else,” says JoAnn. “So now I am thinking of staying at Valley State Prison and making it ‘Daddy’s Voice.'”
JoAnn is encouraged by the interest that has been shown, and is seeking volunteers, women and/or men to participate in the project.
Anyone interested in participating in the “Daddy’s Voice” program is invited to contact JoAnn Griffin, 550-877-2339 or 559-676-6223, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org