Tony Bailey's Key Vision programming preps inmates for life after their sentences end
So many inmates are hungry for change, Tony Bailey says.

If we can break the stigma surrounding inmates and instead work together to help them develop, it would be better for both the inmates themselves and the community, says Bailey, the chaplain of the Jonah Project, which works in the Clark County Jail.

“I am convinced these folks can be leaders and powerful influencers of change in Springfield and beyond,” he says.

Key Vision is helping inmates make that transition, says Bailey, who is also director of the television network. It provides 13 hours of broadcasts each day, including existing shows and self-produced content.

Key Vision's own programming includes an hour each weekday that is devoted to helping inmates re-enter the community, set goals and learn life skills. The program series, which runs for four weeks and then repeats, includes a follow-along workbook and solid life principles, Bailey says. Key Vision has also created a second series centered on job readiness, including resumes, finding a job and interviewing, and it will soon include a workbook as well.

“Let's take the window of opportunity, and develop and change and speak life to them,” he says.

The network was launched in 2015 after Bailey wondered if television could be used as a way to provide inmates with more development and training. In addition to its own programming, Key Vision curates outside shows for inmates to watch, such as history shows, do-it-yourself shows and appropriate movies. Animal Planet is popular, while “toxic” programming such as Jerry Springer-type shows are filtered out.

Today about 140 inmates are able to watch Key Vision at the Clark County Jail, and operations cost about $100,000 per year. Key Vision receives no funds from the county or sheriff's department, but does receive some donations from local foundations, churches, businesses and private donors, Bailey says.

One Key Vision program, along with some other segments and faith-based messages, is also seen at MonDay Community Correctional Institution in Dayton, but to grow further, Bailey says the budget would need to be twice as large. He hopes to receive state funding, enabling the network to expand to other cities in Ohio and then beyond. That should also make it more likely to receive funding outside of the local community.

“Soon I think we'll get into that position,” he says.

Bailey’s dream is for Key Vision to provide programming throughout the country, for those in jails, prisons, treatment facilities and others. He foresees using inmates both in front of and behind the camera, truly making Key Vision a network for inmates, by inmates.

Nowadays it is common for inmates who want classroom-based programming to wait a significant amount of time, he says. An inmate serving a five-year prison sentence might wait four of those for in-person classroom programs. Television broadens the reach and amount of developmental programming that could be made available.

“We're saying, let's just serve everybody,” says Bailey, who was living and surfing in Hawaii 25 years ago when he felt a calling to come to Ohio.

Bailey, who was born in Xenia but grew up in Virginia Beach, arrived in Clark County in 1996 and became associate chaplain that year. He moved to the full-time chaplain role in 2000 and hopes to transition into working with Key Vision full-time.

While some inmates were skeptical and even angry when Key Vision first began, today the reception is very good, Bailey says. Inmates say it inspires them, prepares them to return to the community, and helps them set goals and be a better person.

“Before I came to jail, I never thought I could be anything,” says an inmate in a Key Vision video. “This, right here, the Key Vision, has made me rethink my whole life.”

The current inmate population will be future employees elsewhere, and inmates who find success at work are less likely to recidivate and return to jail, Bailey says.

“We want to provide quality and quantity and to saturate them on a new way to think, a new way to live,” he says.

Today's inmates can be tomorrow's city leaders and business owners. He tells them that he is counting on them to change the city.

“We want them to get out and not survive, but thrive,” he says.
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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.