Strengthening the Couple and Family Relationships of Fathers Behind Bars: The Promise and Perils of Corrections-Based Programming. Conclusions

08/30/2009

For fathers involved in the criminal justice system, the road to a successful return to families and communities is complicated. In addition to having criminal histories, these fathers often also have complex family structures, employment problems, mental health issues, and substance use histories. Providing services to incarcerated men is challenging and demanding because providers have to balance facility safety and security priorities while meeting the human service needs of this population.

The MFS-IP programs have faced numerous challenges during program implementation. As a result, they had to adapt to the shifting institutional and economic contexts of the correctional facilities. They did this by changing their target facilities, diversifying their target populations, and adapting their program curricula. As grantees examined the success and failures of their initial programming, they found better ways to access, recruit, and retain participants while overcoming numerous and significant challenges.

Findings from the first 2 years of program implementation underscore the importance of correctional staff buy-in and support, program fit with prison life, meaningful and tangible participation incentives, and extensive efforts to motivate and retain incarcerated and reentering men in family-strengthening programs. As more participants are released and programs gain further experience in implementing post-release components, the ongoing multisite implementation evaluation will continue to document the programmatic challenges and solutions.

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