A Community-based organization (CBO) has implemented an innovative program to serve incarcerated pregnant women and new mothers in a women's correctional facility in a large urban area. Three full-time staff members located inside the jail provide parenting education and case management to help women develop skills to make the successful transition from prison to home. During the first year of operations, an implementation evaluation was conducted. The overarching goals of the evaluation were to: document the dynamics of implementing a prison based support program and to understand the innovative concepts of this program for replication.
Specific evaluation objectives included:
• Identifying barriers encountered during implementation.
• Identifying elements that facilitated development, implementation and service delivery.
• Identifying strategies used by project staff in navigating relationships with coworkers, prison staff, and agency staff.
• Documenting any unexpected issues that arose during implementation
Due to the exploratory nature of the design, structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with key agency staff including senior management, supervisors and the three front line workers. Staff logs and agency records were also reviewed. A content analysis approach was used to organize the large volume of data generated by the in-depth interviews. Each transcript was analyzed separately by two investigators, who then met to compare the results of individual coding to check for inter-coder reliability.
Findings are categorized according to strengths, barriers, staff coping strategies and unexpected circumstances. One of the greatest strengths of the program is the tremendous level of support for this program both internally—among agency staff—and externally—among funders, prison officials and community stakeholders. Barriers include the challenges of the physical environment, a culture clash between two organizations with competing missions, and opening communication lines with prison staff. Coping strategies, including agency support and relationship building; and unexpected circumstances/surprises such as preparation for working in prison, will be discussed.
There is an important role for social workers to play in providing services both within a prison and in providing case-managed re-entry. One of the social work profession's great strengths is its commitment to advocacy. Advocacy and relationship-building are essential in implementing any social service program, especially inside a prison. The next steps for research include a more thorough evaluation of program outcomes and an examination of the case-managed re-entry process.