What is it?
Historically, individuals incarcerated in the county prison system served their sentenced time. After the determined length of time, they were released back to the community and their families without experiencing any lifestyle or behavioral intervention services. The families of ex-offenders were often placed in the position of being at-risk, dysfunctional, or broken due to repetitive criminal behavior and the accompanying abandonment and neglect of their own needs.
Since 1998, a group of community leaders have collaborated with the Warden to meet as a Jail Task Force. The purpose of this Task Force continues to focus on the identification of gaps in needed services that address successful transitions and recidivism rates. The group was able to identify gaps in services including parenting and anger management education services. One of the primary objectives for the parenting program continues to include heightening awareness of the needs and stresses experienced by families involved in incarcerated relationships. A second objective is to ensure a sense of personal accountability for their family’s health and well-being. In 2001 The Prevention Network submitted its first proposal to Beaver County Children and Youth Services to provide intervention programming in the jail and has successfully met the educational needs of this inmate population since receiving the initial fund.
How does it work?
The Family/Parenting Program and the Anger Management/Batterers’ Intervention Program have family building and strengthening as primary program goals. The individuals attending each program share commonalties of dysfunction and dependency that are recognized and acknowledged during the course of the programs.
Substance abuse/dependency and mental illness complicate the lives of many inmates and provided additional challenges to program implementation. The program’s approach is to integrate a holistic view of the inmate and their families and to broaden the issues addressed toward the whole family system and not isolate behaviors. The program utilizes presenters who have strengths in the areas of curricula addressed in this proposal. Facilitators consistently refer inmates to available “in jail” services thereby ensuring collaborations with providers. They also extend assistance to workshop participants in identifying community resources that are able to provide a continuum of support for the participant and their families.
The Family/Parenting Program
This program is scheduled on eight-week session bases. Program enrollment is offered to both men and women incarcerated in the Beaver County Jail. The goals of the program include:
- Increase awareness and understanding of self
- Understanding and strengthening of family systems
- Understanding child development
- Reducing probation violations
- Increasing probation compliance
- Reuniting families
- Reducing recidivism
- Increasing engagement in the community
The curriculum includes eight specific areas: child development, parenthood, relationships, communication, accountability, stress and anger management, conflict resolution and family dynamics.
Participants meet for eight 1 ½ hour sessions. Information is presented using current educational methodology aimed at addressing the learning styles of participants. Techniques include lecture, role-play, art therapy, worksheets and group activities. Pre and post tests are administered in the area addressing child development to ensure that knowledge gained is documented.
Anger Management/Batterers’ Intervention
This 12-session program is designed for men only. Entitled “Men Helping Men”, this program is conducted on the group therapy model. Participants initially request to be considered for the program. Prior to the first session, the facilitator selects participants and the group is then closed for the duration of the 12 sessions. Consideration is given to individuals who are court ordered to participate in structured batterers and/or anger management classes. Content areas that are processed during the meeting include: the cycle of abuse, self-control, effects of domestic violence, compromise and negotiating skills, reducing tension, substance abuse/dependency, controlling behaviors, and learning to let go of potentially explosive situations.
The expected outcomes for this program are the same as those of The Family Program.
Rationale for Program Services
The mission of The Prevention Network is to reinforce healthy, safe and productive lifestyles by delivering high quality research-based prevention, intervention and education services to people of all ages. To this end, The Prevention Network determined that the “jail community” was an under-served population and proposes to continue to provide the service model to address the needs of incarcerated community members.
The recidivism rate in Beaver County has never been “officially” established. However, for most inmates, this is not their first incarceration. Factors that have contributed to recidivism in our county include a high incidence of substance abuse/dependency, mental illness, economic disparity and, until recently, the inability to access healthy interventions/diversions within the criminal justice system.
With ongoing support and Jail Task Force initiatives, the community service providers have taken the lead in establishing collaborative quality and measurable programming inside the jail to address the cycle of recidivism. The service providers hope to see a reduction in repeat offenders by providing broad assessment options for an incarcerated individual, creating a profile of health, social and legal needs and connecting them to existing service inside the Jail and in the community upon their release. Services that are currently being provided at the jail beyond this contract include: basic reading and math tutoring, GED preparations, drug and alcohol counseling, life skill classes, Mentally Ill Substance Abuser (MISA) funding, career assessment and job search activities, self-help 12-step programming and advocacy services.
This extensive menu of services, assessments and interventions is designed to build healthy individuals for families and communities. Continued funding by CYS for the Family/Parenting and Anger Management/Batterers’ programs will ensure that the needs of families are being recognized and addressed.