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State program works to help inmates' children break cycle -
Mentors will try to stop them from following their parents to a life behind bars

Associated Press, Houston Chronicle
March 9, 2006, 10:16 PM

Dallas - A new statewide mentoring program aims to stop the cycle of children following their parents into the Texas prison system.

Gov. Rick Perry and other officials announced a $3.78 million state grant Thursday to launch Amachi Texas, which uses faith-based and secular partners such as Big Brothers Big Sisters to match the children of inmates with adult role models.

"It is a significant day for a lot of children in this country who have one or both parents in jail, or who have been in jail," said former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode, who created the Amachi program.

"This offers them more hope that they will not end up where their parents are," Goode said.

Goode, the first black mayor of Philadelphia, grew up while his father was in prison but credits a church pastor and his wife for mentoring him.

He was inspired to create Amachi — a Nigerian word meaning, "Who knows what God has brought us through this child" — after visiting a Pennsylvania prison in 2001.

There he spoke with an incarcerated father, son and grandson who met each other for the first time behind bars. Goode, a Baptist minister, was told by the grandson that he also had a son he'd never seen but expected to one day meet him behind bars.

About 7.3 million U.S. children have a parent in prison, on probation or parole, according to statistics distributed at a Dallas news conference announcing the program.

About 70 percent of them will follow their parents into prison. About 70,000 children in Dallas-Fort Worth have an incarcerated parent, according to the Bureau of Justice.

Officials said Texas will be the first to take Amachi to a statewide level.

"Amachi Texas will mentor 1,300 children who have a parent behind bars, build infrastructure across the state to reach thousands more in the future and, I am confident, serve as a national model as to what can be accomplished when caring adults take the time to be a mentor," Perry said.

The program is headquartered in Arlington.