- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

LIMA, Ohio

Lima's newest Girl Scout troop is no ordinary troop. These eight girls spend their time with their fathers, who are incarcerated at the Lima Correctional Institution for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking.

Lima's Appleseed Ridge Troop 884 has become the first Girl Scout troop in the country to conduct its meetings inside prison walls.

The program, known as "Beyond Bars Daddies and Daughters," is an offshoot of a similar Girl Scout effort from 1992 that brings incarcerated mothers and their daughters together.

"This is a very good time," said Jane Krites, executive director of the Appleseed Ridge Girl Scout Council. It's very relaxed. And as you can see, there's no tension in this room."

The meetings, which began in January, are held in the prison's activities room, which is locked by metal doors with bars. The girls take a bus every other Wednesday to the facility.

At the beginning of their meetings, many of the girls race into their fathers' arms for hugs, as they haven't seen them in a week or more. The fathers chat with their daughters and review their homework and test grades, just as though they were seated at home at the family dinner table.

"It lightens me up. I'm locked up, but I want to be a part of my kids' life," said Clifford Adkins, 30, a former drug dealer who has two daughters in the troop. "Now I can sit down and have a one-on-one discussion with them. I couldn't do that before."

National experts said the Lima program is a first and should be copied. "Our standpoint on it is it's great. One of the very detrimental effects of prison is it weakens family ties," said Barry Holman, director of research and public policy for the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

"The shame of having a parent in prison is so great to those kids. This may provide an outlet for these kids to understand what's happening better and to have a peer group they can talk to."

• Distributed by Scripps Howard.

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