I knew there was something special about the Noble Correctional Institution (Caldwell, Ohio) the moment that I walked through the door. I was greeted immediately by Burl Lemon, President of Forever Dads, who oversees the InsideOut Dad® program at the facility. Mr. Lemon shared how men are not just going to do their time, they are also going to shift their mindset, and fatherhood is the key to accomplishing that goal.
I was then greeted by the Warden, Tim Buchanan, who told me that “fatherhood is one of the first things that inmates are spoken to about as soon as they get off of the bus. I’ve recognized that fatherhood is a straight path to their souls.”
Mr. Buchanan has a team of fatherhood champions who are equally passionate about engaging men around fatherhood. They help facilitate a number of fatherhood and parenting programs.
These programs include: InsideOut Dad®, Responsibilities As a Man (RAM), Fathers of Change, Family Ties, and TYRO Dads. They also offer a special annual event called “Celebrating Fatherhood” where inmates’ children come into the facility and spend time with their fathers. This event requires that participating fathers remain “ticket-free” (e.g. no conduct reports). Mr. Buchanan says this type of incentive-driven event has had a strong impact on reducing the number of tickets. They now have 1,600 men per year without a single ticket!
The InsideOut Dad® program is central to their work with fathers. More than 500 fathers have completed the program since 2009. They currently run 8 groups and have an InsideOut Dad® Alumni Organization for fathers who have completed the program. The Alumni Organization meets weekly to coordinate fundraisers, complete community service projects, and facilitate several of the InsideOut Dad® groups.
I was fortunate to meet many of these men from the Alumni Organization. They shared powerful stories of how InsideOut Dad® helped them become better men and fathers. One father shared how the program helped him re-establish the relationship with his daughter, with whom he had lost contact because of his drug addiction. He applied what he learned during the program to begin the reconciliation process. He proudly showed me a letter from his daughter that expressed a deep love and appreciation for the changes he made. He said this development would not have happened without InsideOut Dad®.
The treasurer of the Alumni Organization reinforced why the program has such an impact on participants when he said, “The men all have a lot of trust in the program, and it provides them with encouragement for the future along with tips to build a healthier future.”
I was energized when I left the facility (donning my new Forever Dads hat, which I’m proudly wearing in the group photo), knowing that so many families and communities are being transformed one father at a time through the great work at the Noble Correctional Institution.