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A dance with Daddy: Daughters, incarcerated fathers at Miami federal detention center hold dance

Inmate Ernest Williams, serving a 41-month drug sentence, had long stopped asking his family — a wife and five children — to come see him at the Federal Detention Center Miami. The visits, he says, left him too chastened and hurt, a stark reminder of his loss of freedom.

So when a staffer told him about the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ plan to host a first-ever dance allowing inmates to spend an afternoon with their daughters, Williams said no, instead returning to the predictable routine of his kitchen detail.

Weeks later, Williams says, he had a dream while sleeping in his cell, an unclouded vision of him dancing with his three daughters. The next day, he said yes.

On Tuesday, Williams moved beyond all the emptiness and guilt, trading a khaki jumpsuit for a light gray suit, lavender print tie and black shoes — and danced with his 9-year-old twin girls and 13-year-old daughter for a few precious moments at the detention center, a high-rise administrative facility on Northeast Fourth Street. “I haven’t seen my girls in months, I could not believe how much they have grown,” said Williams, 37, convicted of intent to sell crack cocaine. “I was so happy to see them but so sad that I will not be able to leave with them. I am here instead of being outside with my family because of the choices I made.”

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