Va. woman 1 of CNN's Top 10 Heroes
Carolyn LeCroy was an award winning media producer in television and advertising when an arrest for marijuana possession put her life on a different path. The middle-class mother of two teenagers became an inmate in a Virginia prison.
Her children made the long drive from home for visitation days, she felt a painful disconnect between her role as a mother and her status as a prisoner. "I felt guilty as hell about disappointing the kids. Shamed. They felt shamed." Other women, she found, struggled with similar feelings.
When she was released after 14 months, she got a VHS camera and went right back to the mothers she had left behind. With the cautious blessing of the Virginia Department of Corrections, she gave women the opportunity to simply talk to their children on videotape, perhaps to read them stories.
Since 1999 the Messages Project has worked in six state prisons three times a year to create an estimated 2500 tapes from parents to children. Most have been from mothers, though the project is beginning to reach out to fathers. The tapes are mailed directly to children and families without review or screening by corrections officials.
On a recent Messages taping day at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which sprawls alongside a rural highway south of Charlottesville, everyone works to give as many women as possible a chance to make a tape. Each woman gets a quick makeover from fellow inmates, then sits down in a quiet room with just the camera and its operator.
On this day, Kevin O'Sullivan, a freelance videographer who has volunteered time to this effort since the first taping in 1999. He's learned how to help the women talk to their absent children, when to offer them as much privacy as he can or when to help them say what's really in their hearts.
Scott Richeson, correctional program director for the Virginia Department of Corrections, is a strong supporter of the Messages project, but says such projects are only possible in a well-run facility that puts a premium on security. Fluvanna creates an environment where the offenders actually can do programming, creative ideas can blossom, and officers can support things like this, according to Richeson.
It was from Fluvanna that Kylie received the taped poem from her mother. "Oh my goodness," she says now. "It just ripped me apart. For Mothers Day? I felt like I couldn't give anything to her, but for her to give that to me on Mother's Day, that was one of the best things I got in my life."
Kylie played the tape all night long the first night. She played it after difficult days at school. She played it without sound sometimes so she could talk to her mother and pretend that a smile on her face was reaction to something Kylie had said. A few times she tried to hug the television set.
My best friend was in Fluvanna Correctional Center for women and calling it a correctional center is being nice it's a prison. She was there for 8 years of her 15 years sentence also for a drug charge. The system needs more programs like this to help the prisoners who are there for minors charges such as marijuana possession.
NORFOLK (AP) -- A Norfolk television producer whose time in prison prompted her to start a program to tape greetings from inmates to their children is being honored as one of CNN's Top 10 Heroes.
Carolyn LeCroy spent time in prison 12 years ago for a marijuana charge. She has said that during that time she saw many women who didn't receive visits from their families, so when she got out she started the program that has provided 3,000 video messages since 1999.