Jay’Aina Patton was just three years old when her father, Antoine Patton fell foul of the law, leading to his incarceration for gun possession. According to a study sighted by Face2face Africa, the number of kids who have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their lives circulates 5.1 million. Most of the incarcerated parents are fathers, many of them young, the study noted.
Incarceration separates individuals from their families, and among the best ways to reduce recidivism, according to a report by Prison Policy Initiative titled: Separation by Bars and Miles; Visitation in states prisons, “maintaining family ties are among the best ways to reduce recidivism” however “the reality of having a loved one behind bars is that visits are unnecessarily grueling and frustrating.”
And Patton was no stranger to such unnecessary arduous frustrations in her bid to connect with her father who was incarcerated in a maximum-security New York State Correctional Facility just six hours away from her.
The only way she could communicate with her father was via “snail mail”—an ordinary U.S. postal mail which is said to lack the speed, efficiency and often “the personality of modern communication tools like email, social media and text messaging.”
The grueling experiences Patton went through just to have a relationship with her father when he was in prison would motivate her to design and develop a much needed mobile application, “Photo Patch” to help children maintain healthy relationships with their parents who are serving time in prison, Teen Vogue reported.
The app has gained nearly 2,000 users and has been downloaded over 10,000 times since its launch.
Antoine Patton, who returned from prison when his daughter was 10, learned how to code when he was in prison. In 2015, he partnered with cousin Greg, to establish the Photo Patch Foundation, then created a website where children could type letters and upload photos for their incarcerated parent.
Children type letters and upload photos and then the charity will physically print, package, and send the contents to the incarcerated parent. They have already connected over 1,000 families, according to the foundation’s site.
At the age of 10, Patton began taking coding lessons from her dad and in 2018 decided to do the mobile version of her father’s website. According to reports, she used about two years to work and fine-tuned the app, which comes with a social wall feature that allows families impacted by incarceration to support each other.
The Photo Patch app and the website allow the children to easily do a one-time account setup, enter their parent’s address information, and they can then begin uploading photos and typing the letter they’d like sent to their parent. The Photo Patch team would then receive the message and completes all the additional work, which includes printing, packaging and sealing the content and ensuring it is delivered through the postal mail with no cost to the child or parents.
“Everybody’s on their phone. It’s way easier for them to take a picture and type a letter right there. My dad said I should try it,” Patton, who is now 12, told Teen Vogue.
“No matter where the child or parent is, they should always have a bond, a connection, and be able to talk to each other,” she said.
“We know that being able to talk to each other helped our bond a lot. So why not give that same thing for [other] kids and parents?”