Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 7.2 Parenting Programs in Prison


Only 11 percent of fathers in state prison report ever participating in a parenting class.

Research indicates that prison-based parenting programs are offered to a minority of fathers. Eleven percent of fathers in state prison report ever participating in parenting or childrearing classes (Glaze and Maruschak, 2008). A 1999 report on state initiatives to encourage responsible fatherhood documented that only 11 states were implementing prison-based educational programs for fathers as part of their initiatives (Bernard & Knitzer, 1999). A recent survey of 315 state prisons found that 90% of female-only prisons offered or contracted out parenting programs, while only 41% of male-only prisons and 55% of coed prisons did so (Hughes & Harrison-Thompson, 2002). In 93% of the cases, these programs were offered on a voluntary or first-come, first-served basis. A recent U.S. Department of Justice report using data from 54 Departments of Corrections (48 of which were state DOCs) stated that basic parenting classes were offered in at least one women’s facility in 94% of DOCs and in at least one men’s facility in 85% of DOCs. In contrast, parenting classes with children present were offered to women in 26% of DOCs and to men in 11% of DOCs. Programs that take place outside of the secure prison facilities were only offered to men by three DOCs (LIS, Inc., 2002). It is likely that discrepancies across surveys in the proportions of prisons found to offer parenting programs for fathers result from different methods of identifying samples and measuring services for parents. Nonetheless, as preliminary evidence accumulates for the efficacy of prison-based parenting programs, broader dissemination is needed, particularly for fathers.

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