A parenting program in Oregon’s prisons appears to make inmates less likely to commit new crimes after they leave prison, a long-term study shows.
The Oregon Department of Corrections
, working with two nonprofit groups, has spent the last 11 years trying to find ways to stop the generational cycle of crime that pervades many families.
They keyed on parenting classes that they hoped would draw incarcerated parents closer to their kids and give them the skills to help prevent their progeny from making the same mistakes they did. Corrections officials teamed with the Oregon Social Learning Center
, which developed curriculum, and Pathfinders of Oregon
, which taught classes in a program called Parenting Inside Out.
A five-year, $2.1 million study of the program looked at how 359 moms and dads performed one year after leaving prison. A research team led by J. Mark Eddy
divided the inmates into a group that completed Parenting Inside Out
training and a control group that received little or no parenting training behind bars.
•After one year, women participants were 59 percent less likely than the control group to be rearrested. That figure was 27 percent for male participants.
•One year after leaving prison, program participants were 95 percent less likely to report that they had taken part in criminal behavior than those in the control group. They also were 66 percent less likely to self-report drug or alcohol abuse.
•Those participating in Parenting Inside Out posted significantly better attitudes during their confinement than non-participants. They also were more likely to receive family visits than the control group and reported more positive contacts with their children.
•After their release from prison, fathers who participated in the parenting program were much more likely to give positive reinforcement to their children than those in the control group.
“Parenting Inside Out is the only parenting program for incarcerated or criminal justice-involved parents that has demonstrated a positive impact on both parents and children,” said Mindy Clark
, director of national outreach for Pathfinders of Oregon. “It gives children a parent who is engaged with their lives and can help them through the tough times and good times – even from a distance.”
To make the study comparative to the rest of the nation, researchers made certain that 41 percent of participants in the parenting class and control group were racial minorities, Clark said.
A Pew study
in 2010 showed that more than half of all prisoners in the U.S. are parents of children under 18, and that one in every 28 children in the nation has a parent behind bars.
Academics have studied generational cycles of crime for many years, and Department of Corrections Director Colette Peters
said letting parents learn and practice good parenting skills behind bars was a good step toward breaking that cycle.
“If we are going to improve the lives of children and keep them safe and healthy, if we are going to reduce poverty, stop crime, and make communities safer, we must find effective methods of intervening in and breaking the intergenerational cycle of criminal behavior,” Peters said. “To do that, we must look to the needs of the children of incarcerated parents.”
— Bryan Denson