Editor's note: This segment was rebroadcast on Feb. 11, 2021. Find that audio here.
A new documentary takes a powerful look at the toll incarceration takes on a family — and how one woman can make a difference.
“Time" tells the story of Rob and Fox Rich, high school sweethearts who married and started a family in the early ‘90s. But during a time of desperation, the two made a failed attempt to rob a bank, and both were sentenced to prison.
Fox served three and a half years, and Rob was sentenced to 60 years without the possibility of parole. After Fox was released, she spent the next two decades working to free Rob while raising the couple's six boys.
Rob was granted clemency in 2018 after serving 21 years in prison.
A lot of the film consists of video footage that Fox shot herself while Rob was incarcerated. She says she picked up a camera in order to hold on to life’s precious moments to one day share with her husband.
“I wanted to capture those moments so that whenever we could move past this, we could hold on to some of those moments together and they wouldn't be a total loss for Rob,” she says.
Seeing Fox’s videos was “bittersweet” for Rob — bitter in knowing how much time had escaped him from being with his kids but also sweet in basking in the relief that his prison sentence was finally over.
Directed by Garrett Bradley, the film documents the Rich family as they navigate life with their dad behind bars. Viewers see Fox fighting for Rob, calling judges and lawyers, opening her home and baring her soul to the filmmakers — all while single-handedly raising six kids.
Fox says she felt “honored” Bradley was interested in her family’s story, but also the stories of 2.3 million other incarcerated Americans and their loved ones.
“When we connected for the first time, I knew that our family was in love with [Bradley],” she says. “And through that love, we would be able to tell one of the greatest love stories of all time — a story of radical love and resilience.”
On showing remorse for their past choices
Fox: “I think we concluded a long time ago that we as human beings have to give ourselves rooms to make the not so good choices and still know that we can be okay in knowing that I'm not the worst thing I've ever done. One of the most powerful moments for me was when Rob reminded us of what happened to us. And he says, ‘Baby, we lost our confidence because of the action we had made, but we got to forgive ourselves. We made a bad choice, Fox. We're not bad people.’
“And so when you can settle into that, you must, as a formerly incarcerated person, not buy into ‘I'm bad or less than’ because of the labeling of convicted felon because it will really take you down a road. You've got to love yourself enough to forgive yourself so that others you [can] feel like you have earned the forgiveness of others. And that's what Rob and I and our family tried to do — be better than the worst thing that we have done.”
On feeling Fox’s love while in prison
Rob: “I definitely felt Fox's love. It was able to penetrate prison walls, and I was so thankful to hear when the film came out, one of her speaking engagements where she was talking to a group of young ladies and she was talking to them about identifying their significant other. And she said that whoever that someone is that someone should be who you would be if you were in the male body. So for her to think that I am her and she is me…”
Fox (laughing): “You shouldn’t even have me blushing after 34 years!”
On his original sentence of 60 years without parole and feeling he might not ever be released
Rob: “... My commitment to Fox and my family was greater than [my prison sentence]. And I had committed and made a vow before the altar that I would be married to her till death do us part. And part of that is also making sure that nothing or no one would take us under, and that included the system of Louisiana's criminal justice system. Dying in prison or not getting out of prison was never for either of us.”
On keeping Rob’s presence in their children's lives
Fox: “Aren't they adorable? I love those boys. They make us so proud.”
Rob: “I know for me, one big thing is an article that I read in a Men's Health magazine once, and they spoke about the fact that the average American father spends about eight hours per month engaged with their children. And when I thought about the fact that we were afforded at least two visits per month, each visit could last in excess of six to seven hours per visit. When I looked at that and I figured and I said, ‘Well, I could contend with the average father.’ They're only putting eight hours of engagement time into their children then I could manage to put the same amount of time into my kid's, hence started my journey of fathering from behind bars.
Fox: “And father, he does. You know, people like to give me the credit because I'm the one that they see. But he is like Charlie on the other line telling the angels what to do, because when those rascals would try to be little young men on me, I would say, ‘You just wait to visit. You're going to go see your father this weekend.’ Just think that you take them to visit and it wasn't like their father has never so much has raised his voice at them, but just the thought of going to have to redress a situation with him was moving enough for them to get themselves together.”
On the message they want viewers to take away from the documentary
Fox: “I think what Rob said earlier is that love never fails. Love is life's only valid expression. And if it dissolves everything that is not of itself, and then the other piece would be: Never give up. Anything worth having in this life is worth fighting for. Our families are worth having. And therefore, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we must fight for them.”
Rob: “My message is that people will walk away from the film empowered because it's kind of like one of those David and Goliath moments where you go up against the system and, our family went up against the system of Louisiana and we came out victorious at the end. And I'm hoping that this movie serves as a call to action to people, that they will start to take action and write the wrongs that they want to see corrected.”
This segment aired on October 15, 2020.