Home  /  News  /  Newsroom

#MakingADifference - Cheri Fuller

#MakingADifference - Cheri Fuller

Cheri Fuller, executive director of the Oklahoma Messages ProjectCheri Fuller, executive director of the Oklahoma Messages Project, saw a statistic back in 2008 that caused her jaw to drop. 

The former high school and college-level English teacher came across an article on how women’s incarceration harms their children’s development in lasting ways. 

Research shows maternal incarceration can harm children’s well-being, ChildTrends.org reports. Most female inmates are mothers, and their children can show anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems. 

They’re also more likely to have problems at school ranging from poor classroom performance to misbehavior. It can all add up to juvenile justice involvement – and incarceration when they become adults. 

Messages Project volunteers visits state inmates, and records them reading books to their children.“So when I read those stats and learned how shattered the bond is, how disconnected the child and mother are, I couldn’t just read the paper, go on and do nothing about it,” Fuller says. 

She decided to start a parenting class, creating a curriculum for women inside Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, the state’s largest women’s prison. 

The class’s goal was to help moms keep in touch with their children and motivate them to be positive, active parents. 

Then, she realized most children of incarcerated women rarely get to see their mothers. So, she and a few friends formed the OK Messages Project in 2010, but they needed a program to deliver inside prisons. Her daughter heard about one on National Public Radio that recorded messages and parents reading books for their children to watch later. 

She worked with ODOC’s Leo Brown, Agency Chaplain & Volunteer Coordinator, and Dr. Laura Pitman, Director of Population, Programs & Strategic Planning, to set it up in prisons.

Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft for Fathers Day, helping the facility’s men record books for their children.Now, a team of 8-13 OK Messages Project volunteers visits state inmates, and records them reading books to their children. 

The group was most recently at Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft for Fathers Day, helping the facility’s men record books for their children. 

The program has also been to North Fork, Mabel Bassett and Eddie Warrior Correctional centers. 

“Research shows children will do better if they know they’re not forgotten, and their parents love them,” Fuller says. “No matter what they did, they’re still mommy and daddy.” 

Children the program serves show less depression and anxiety than when they began working with the nonprofit. They also showed improved reading skills. 

“Without intervention like this, the statistics show that up to 50-70% of these kids will go down the cradle to prison pipeline.” 

Helping children maintain connections with their incarcerated parents is key to helping them avoid prison themselves. Without volunteers like Fuller, thousands of ODOC inmates’ children would be put at risk. 

Contact DOC

Main Location
3400 North Martin Luther King Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73111-4298

PO Box 11400
Oklahoma City, OK  73136-0400

Phone: (405) 425-2500
Fax: (405) 425-2578

Contact ODOC

In compliance with the reporting requirements of 74 O.S. 3106.4[C], this agency is making known that it stores name, birth date, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, biometric records, Social Security number, official state or government issued driver license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, and employer or taxpayer identification numbers.   The personally identifiable data is stored both electronically and in confidential paper files.  The data is shared in compliance with court orders and agreements with other government bodies.

Subscribe to DOC Updates!

 Email Updates 
To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Top Resources

Closed Records

Employment Verification (405) 425-2644

Sex and Violent Offender Registration

Victim Services

Community Outreach

Visitation Policy

Volunteer Opportunities

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Onelife at 800-559-9544 or the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Click here for more suicide awareness information.