- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

RICHMOND Twelve-year-old Alan Cornwell longs to see his mother out of prison, so he is counting the days until she is released.
Linda Cornwell of Warrenton, Va., who has raised Alan and his sister Ashley, 9, hopes her imprisoned daughter-in-law will shoulder her parental duties when she is released.
The woman in question, Ruby McCullough of Winchester, is hoping she will, at age 32, be the stable, responsible mother her children yearn for.
McCullough and 52 other inmates, the Cornwell youths and 19 other children, and Linda Cornwell and seven other primary caregivers are part of the "Parenting: From a Distance" program at Pocahontas Correctional Unit, a women's prison in Chesterfield County.
The 10-month, voluntary program created four years ago by prison counselor Shirlene Eaddy examines why the women are in prison "individual soul-searching," said McCullough and teaches them parenting skills. The program, funded by the state and area businesses and churches, is holding a summer camp this week in which the children stay nearby and visit the prison for group counseling and meetings with their mothers. They also play games, participate in arts and crafts and visit a theme park.
"I've been getting to see my mom every day, so that makes me happy," Alan said.
McCullough has been in and out of jail and prison for years, mostly for petty larceny. Her son was 18 months old when she went to jail the first time, Mrs. Cornwell said.
"Alan has been hit hard by this," she said. "There is a pretty strong bond between them."
Sometimes Alan would set fires when his mother went to jail, said Mrs. Cornwell and McCullough's mother, Rita Randall of Pompano Beach, Fla. "He figured he could go be with his mother," Mrs. Randall said.
Mrs. Randall said she has noticed a change in her daughter since the last time she saw her two years ago.
"She's more grown up and more mature," said Mrs. Randall.
Mrs. Cornwell said that for the first time in 12 years McCullough takes full responsibility for her crimes instead of blaming someone else.
"I think the [parenting] program has made a huge difference in the way she views herself," Mrs. Cornwell said. She said she has a close relationship with her daughter-in-law but expects McCullough to become a responsible parent when she is released.
"I'd like to see a situation that gradually they are more and more at Mom's house than my house," Mrs. Cornwell said. She said the father of the children, her son, was released from prison several months ago. At one point, she said, both parents were in prison.
McCullough has been in prison since February 2000 and expects to be released in September 2003.
As her son hugged her, McCullough said she has come to terms with the bad choices she has made. "I'm moving on," she said.
Said Alan: "My wish is to get my mom out of here and erase all files that she'd ever been here."
Cordero Trent, 12, said he is angry that his mother, Teresa Trent of Lynchburg, is in prison "because I couldn't see my mom every day I woke up."
He said he will be happy when he doesn't have to come to see his mother dressed in prison denims. "I don't like to see her wearing those clothes she's got on," he said.
Trent, 26, is serving time for unlawful wounding, cocaine possession and damaging property.
When she went to prison in 2000, Trent said, she felt guilt and "a whole lot of shame."
"At first when I got locked up, I felt like I wasn't even worthy to be their mother," she said of Cordero and 9-year-old daughter Kameshea.
Trent, in prison for the first time, said the experience has been beneficial.
"I am blessed to have been through the system to see what it's like. This incarceration has brought my family closer. We talk more," said Trent, due to be released in October 2003.
Gloria Trent of Lynchburg said she has cared for Cordero and Kameshea since they were small.
"They talk about their mom a lot and talk about when she gets out," Gloria Trent said. "I think she's going to do a lot better this time."

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