AUTHOR: Constance C. Martin
AGENCY: Pennsylvania Prison Society - Centre County Chapter
According to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Senior Research Analysist at the Sentencing Project, there are many impacts of parental incarceration on children. They include psychological stress, antisocial behavior, academic suspension or expulsion, economic hardships and criminal activity.
The Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society recognized the clear benefits of providing education and support to parents at the jail. Through generous support from the Centre County Council of Human Services and the Centre Foundation, the chapter researched and purchased a parenting program. It was developed by the Oregon Social Learning Center and the Oregon Department of Corrections. This evidence-based program was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Volunteers were trained as coaches, materials were purchased and scheduling was coordinated with the staff at the jail. To date seven sessions have been conducted at the facility. The program is completed in twelve two hour classes. To date 43 families and 83 children and grandchildren have been impacted.
The reality that incarcerated parents have lost personal contact with their children certainly adds to the stress of family members. The Parenting Inside-Out Program encourages parents to improve their communication skills, develop a parenting style, learn problem solving skills, understand children’s developmental goals and benchmarks and learn ways to provide discipline and structure in their families. These are all skills every parent needs.
The comments from class participants are what encourages the coaches to continue offering the program. Students have shared the following comments.
· Helps me to communicate more effectively.
· Has already made me a better parent.
· Has helped me see the kind of parenting I had. I don’t want to repeat that with my children.
· Helped me feel good about my successful parenting.
· Encouraged me to try things I couldn’t do before. (role playing)
· Provided worksheets I can use later.
· Showed me that being positive is so much better than being negative.
These are just of few of their comments.
The National Institute of Justice states that “children of incarcerated parents are on average, six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.” It is the goal of the Prison Society to make an impact on this in our community. It can make a difference. Most incarcerated individuals at the County jail, return to our communities and their children go to our schools.
The Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society has a facebook page at @ppscentrecounty and an email at firstname.lastname@example.org