Strengthening the Couple and Family Relationships of Fathers Behind Bars: The Promise and Perils of Corrections-Based Programming. Sustaining creative incentives throughout the program was necessary for retention


A significant incentive for retention was the opportunity for increased communications with and access to partners and children.

One grantee negotiated with facility staff to allow physical contact visits. Participants could hold hands and hug their partners in an open room with correctional officers present. This program incentive was possible because the grantee established relationships with several correctional officers who were invested enough in the program to help secure approval from the facility administration.

Several programs also provided various forms of support for participants to mail letters to their children. One program recognized its Super Dads  those participants who attended all classes without any unexcused absences. The Super Dads became role models to new participants and provided a tangible way for the program to demonstrate respect for and acknowledge the hard work of its participants. Another grantee was exploring the possibility of providing free family photos to participants as a way of encouraging ongoing participation.

Lessons Learned for Retention Challenges
Relevance matters:
  • Modify curricula to ensure relevance to the target population.
  • Use former participants to increase the credibility of programming.
  • Use smaller discussion groups to foster better discussions and retention.
  • Work with the program developer to understand core elements of the curriculum that are necessary for program effectiveness.

Practice makes perfect:

  • When using role-playing exercises, hypothetical situations can help participants try out techniques without them having to face the intensity of real problems.
  • Work with facility staff to make visitation easier; negotiate for contact visits, if possible. These can be opportunities to practice new skills.
  • Meet with participants prior to release to discuss post-release planning. Offer services to help offset employment and other problems so that the participant can focus on his family.

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