National Evaluation of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Re-Entering Fathers and Their Partners: Program Models of MFS-IP Grantees. Target Population


The population targeted by the program reflects program goals and priorities, service needs, and logistical considerations, and there is substantial variation across this dimension.

Federal Requirements. There are three federal requirements for the target population. Because the grants are funded under the Responsible Fatherhood provisions of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, program participation (either in its entirety or for specific program components) is targeted to inmates who are fathers.[2] Based on the grant announcement, the inmate must be in a current committed relationship, and services must be provided to both the inmate and his partner. Sites do not restrict participation to married couples, and very few require that the couples have a child in common. The female partners receive some services in each site; although the partners are typically recruited after the inmates and often do not receive the same package of services as the male inmates. The subsequent discussion also reflects that inmates (or former inmates) are the "primary" program participants in that they are recruited first, must meet program eligibility criteria, and generally receive more services.

General or Special Populations. The majority of the programs target the general inmate population; three programs target a special population. In these programs (Table 2), MFS-IP services are typically delivered in the context of a larger effort. IN DOC and Centerforce target residents in specialized housing units at the prison(s) served. In both, the target population will receive character- or skills-based programming and services provided by the MFS-IP grant. NJDOC targets "max-out" offenders who are serving their full maximum sentences and therefore will be released without any community supervision. Because a large proportion of these offenders have a history of substance abuse problems, MFS-IP participants are required to take part in a substance abuse treatment course in addition to services delivered through the grant.

Table 2.
Special Populations Served
Site Population Served
Centerforce STAND UP participants
IN DOC Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) residents
NJ DOC Max-out offenders

Targeting Release Date. As shown in Figure 4, six grantees provide services at any point during an individual's sentence and do not restrict programming based on a certain minimum or maximum duration of incarceration. Six programs target individuals who remain incarcerated for a minimum time or who will be released within a certain time period. Setting an "upper limit" on time to release (e.g., inmates must have no more than 12 months left to serve) ensures that there is sufficient time to deliver the planned post-release services and to focus resources on individuals who will be reunited with their families during the period of service delivery. The use of a "lower limit" on time to release (e.g., inmates must have at least 6 months left to serve) ensures that the participants will have enough time in the facility to participate in the full program. Participants may be more motivated if programming occurs when the possibility of release is imminent, but program effects may be stronger if couples receive help early in the period of incarceration. Whether a program targets a population of inmates expected to be released within a certain time may also reflect a desire to deliver marriage- and family-strengthening programs within a broader set of reentry services.

Figure 4.
Release Date Used as an Eligibility Criterion

Figure 4. Release Date Used as an Eligibility Criterion. See text for explanation.

Geographic Coverage. Some grantees have used geographic factors to identify target populations (Figure 5). This is particularly important for prison-based programs planning to provide services in the community for partners, concurrent with the men's programming in prison and/or post-release services. Unlike county jails, most prisons do not house individuals geographically connected to the county in which the prison is located. Therefore, prison-based programs with a community component have likely considered restricting participation based on geographical criteria. All four of the MFS-IP programs that limit participation of incarcerated individuals to those from a particular geographical area have a community-based component.

Figure 5.
County of Residence Used as an Eligibility Criterion

Figure 5. County of Residence Used as an Eligibility Criterion. See text for explanation.

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