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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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New tool helps prisoners’ children

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Zephyrhills Correctional Institution is participating in a pilot program created by Sesame Street that helps children who have a parent in prison.

The “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” program provides a “tool kit” that contains a video explaining incarceration and resources for the incarcerated parent, the nonincarcerated parent or caregiver and activities for the children.

“The Department of Corrections in the state of Florida got involved with Sesame Street as a partnership,” ZCI Warden Jeff Trovillion said. “This is one of 10 states that are doing it.”

ZCI doesn’t have many inmates with children.

“We probably don’t have as many as a lot of the other institutions or the female institutions,” Trovillion said. “Our population is older because of our mission.”

ZCI serves as a mental health and medical facility for the state’s prison system.

Inmate Douglas Mobley has been in the prison system for eight years and has about four and a half years left on his sentence for possession and delivery of cocaine.

He has three children, ages 7, 9 and 14. He has spent most of their lives in prison.

Mobley thinks the Sesame Street program is a good idea.

“I think it will be a tremendous help,” Mobley said. “I think it’s probably the best thing throughout my incarceration that I’ve ever seen to stop, not only recidivism, but to stop our children from following in our footsteps. I think we would be able to interact with them on a regular basis and just kind of share with them that you made some bad decisions.”

Trovillion said the Sesame Street program may help inmates as well as the children.

“I believe that if the parent is connected to the child it may be the one key to keep them from coming back,” the warden said.

“It’s important that, once a week when they get visitation, that that bond is still there because I think if we can build that very strong, when he gets out, that may be the one little item that puts him over the top. That he realizes he does not want to leave again.”

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