Tablet program helps incarcerated fathers stay connected to their families
June 19, 2022
UNION CITY, Okla. – Navigating holidays is an emotional journey for Robert Rivard.
“Holidays are tough,” inmate Rivard said. “I miss my family so desperately.”
Among the 1.2 million people in federal and state prison, 92% are fathers. This Father’s Day, Oklahoma’s incarcerated are getting reconnected.
One year ago, Securus Technologies and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) began distributing free digital tablets to 22,000 inmates. The tablets represent a critical update to communications and technology.
“I can go to my cell and be able to talk to them, be able to hear them a lot better than out there,” said inmate Leo Day. As the father of a toddler, he enjoys receiving video grams, e-messaging, and the freedom of talking to family.
“I’ll be able to talk to him and hear his little Munchkin voice,” Day said. “He’s just learning how to talk and all of that.”
As beneficial as it is for the inmates to be able to connect with family, the impacts on the lives of children are even greater.
“There is nothing better than the love a child has for their father,” Matthew Craig, ODOC Chief of Technical Services said. “Giving that access is huge for the children in the way they see life.”
The tablets also include access to approved TV shows, movies and music, along with educational and employment resources. But it’s access to loved ones that these incarcerated parents appreciate most of all.
“I have tons of messages from my wife and my kids,” Rivard said. “It almost brings me to tears. This tablet is a blessing.”
Said inmate John Kepler, “You can still be in prison and if your family wants to say something to you and that’s worth a lot. Or just to say, Dad I love you.”
One year after introducing the tablets, ODOC has seen improved morale and more motivated inmates. It’s opened up a world of opportunity and strengthened bonds between dads and their children.