OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Father’s Day usually means hugs, gifts, and maybe some cookouts for dads. However, not all fathers can be with their loved ones because they’re serving time.
“Holidays are tough. I miss my family so desperately,” said inmate Robert Rivard, who is also a father and a grandfather. “I usually stay in my cell and no one comes around me, because I’m really in a bad mood.”
Being locked up on Father’s Day can be emotional and lonely. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said out of the 1.2 million inmates in federal and state prisons, 92 percent are fathers.
A year ago, Securus Technologies and ODOC started giving out free tablets to 22,000 inmates at no cost to taxpayers. That means this Father’s Day, connection with loved ones is in the palm of incarcerated hands.
“I’ll be able to talk to him and hear his little munchkin voice. He’s just learning how to talk and all that,” said inmate Leo Day, a father of a toddler.
As beneficial as it is for these dads, the impacts on their children’s lives are far greater.
“There’s nothing more pure than the love a child has for their father. Even the incarcerated fathers, their children probably still look up to them and consider them their heroes,” said Matthew Craig, ODOC Administrator of Technical Services. “Just giving them that direct access is huge for that child and the way they see life.”
The tablets also have access to approved TV shows, books, music, and movies, as well as employment and educational resources.
“I can look at something on TED Talks and then I’ve got something to talk to my oldest son about. He’s really into science and stuff,” said inmate John Kepler, a father of three. “You can say, ‘Hey, check this out,’ and you’ve got something to talk about.”
But it’s the access to family that these fathers behind bars appreciate most of all.
“It about brings me to tears. It’s good. This tablet is a blessing,” said Rivard.
ODOC said since the tablets were introduced a year ago, officials have seen a boost in moral and motivation among the inmates.