Jailed Mothers Send Bedtime Stories Home

Woman delivers "mother's love" from behind bars to kids.

Oct. 4, 2008 — -- Reading bedtime stories to the kids is a nightly ritual some parents take for granted.

But not Lisa Gutierrez. When she says "Guess how much I love you?" she does not say it to her children, but to a tape recorder.

Gutierrez, like hundreds of mothers across the country, is in prison — separated from her children by metal bars, but not by heart.

Bridging the gap between Gutierrez, who is serving eight years at the maximum security Dwight Correctional Center in Illinois, and her three daughters is Jana Minor, founder of Aunt Mary's Storybook Project.

The point of the project is to allow incarcerated mothers to record messages and bedtime stories to their children on tapes which are then delivered by hand to the families.

"I'm delivering a mother's love," Minor told "Good Morning America." "I'm delivering a little bit of hope maybe. I'm helping a family stay connected."

Gutierrez, for one, knows the value of the service.

"Probably the toughest part of being here is not being with them," she told "Good Morning America" through tears. "But this, this gives me an opportunity to be a mom and to tuck them in at night."

Mary Arnold, mother of three, last saw her children when they were one-year-, two-years- and six-months-old. By the time she finishes her sentence for murder, her children will likely have children of their own.

"I get emotional when I talk about them because I regret being here," she said. "But I love my kids to death. They're being punished for something I did because they want to be with me but they can't."

"Just because she was convicted of a crime doesn't mean she was a bad mama," Minor explained. "[The kids] need to know she still loves them and they need to know the separation isn't their fault."

When Minor delivered the precious cargo of tapes to Arnold's kids, she is inspired all over again.

"I'm here with another story for you guys," the recorder announced in the voice of the children's mother as they listened closely from the couch. "I want you to know I miss you. I love you and I hope to see you real soon."

The children were silent until the message was finished.

"It's great because even though she's not here, it feels like she's still here," said 11-year-old Aaron Covington.

"When she's gone I just wish she'd come home," 9-year-old Alexis Covington said.

But Aaron knows why her mother cannot come home.

"I'm the big brother. I'm supposed to be hard," Aaron said. "I really, really want her to come home, but she has to face the consequences."

At just three and a half years old, Lisa Gutierrez's little girl Emma may not understand why her mother is not around, but she certainly knows her mother's voice when she hears it.

"When Emma hears mommy say 'I love you,' she has literally gone over and kissed the speaker on the little player here, because that's mommy's voice," Emma's aunt Jean Singer said.

For Lisa Gutierrez, until she can come home, those are the only words that matter.

Click here to learn more about Aunt Mary's Storybook Project.