New video visitation program allows Fla. county inmates to read with children

Launched in collaboration with a local library, the program aims to connect families and instill a love of reading

By Sarah Sinning

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Incarcerated parents in the Leon County Detention Facility now have an innovative way to connect with their children on the outside, WCTV reports

Launched Tuesday, the Family Time and Tales Program uses a video visitation system developed by Securus Technologies to facilitate virtual family reading time; the program connects the jail to a room at the county library. While video visitation tech has been available at the jail since January 2021, this week marks the first time it's been used to specifically encourage kids to read with their parents.

The way the program works is simple: When a supervising parent or guardian brings a child to the library, they can choose an age-appropriate book to then read with their incarcerated parent in the designated area.

“This is more than just paper and words,” Assistant Sheriff Steve Harrelson said. “This is a very powerful tool that institutes not only a love of reading but also a love of family, togetherness and doing things together.”

According to one fourth-grader, who was able to try out the tech during a testing session Monday, the new program goes a long way toward doing just that. 

“It ended up really good cause I got to see my dad and talk to him,” they said.

“It’s so important,” Leon County Detention Facility Captain Georgella Dent said. “Every kid needs their parent in their lives.”

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