Session: Promoting Successful Reentry in an Era of Decarceration: Toward Interventions That Build Family Connections and Support (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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4 Promoting Successful Reentry in an Era of Decarceration: Toward Interventions That Build Family Connections and Support

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 1:30 PM-2:30 PM
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Symposium Organizer:
Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Branden McLeod, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Parental incarceration is problematic for family well-being because of the detrimental collateral consequences it has on children, partners, caregivers, and other relatives left behind. An estimated 45% of Americans have experienced the incarceration of an immediate family member. Moreover, approximately 50% of men and 60% of women in prison are parents of minor children, resulting in an estimated 1 in 14 children separated from their parent because of incarceration. Children of incarcerated parents are at high risk for a range of negative outcomes and intimate partners and caregivers may experience decreased income, housing instability, and loss of emotional and social support. Given the known consequences of incarceration for parents, children, and family members, calls to promote family well-being are on the rise in this area of practice and research. This symposium examines research that contributes to our understanding of how incarceration impacts fathers and mothers and points to potential practice and policy levers that can improve individual and family outcomes.

The first paper draws from qualitative interviews that assess imprisoned mothers’ perspectives on parenting, specifically calling attention to systemic racism, child welfare involvement, and restricted access to children as profoundly dehumanizing and isolating experiences. The second paper examines how communication between fathers and children during prison influence paternal involvement after release identifying differences in experiences between resident and non-resident fathers. The third paper focuses on jailed fathers by investigating how financial management skills and co-parenting influences involvement with children after release. The fourth and final paper, presents the empirical and theoretical basis for family-focused reentry interventions arguing the need to concentrate not only on incarcerated individuals, but on the entire family unit who so often provides the critical support needed to succeed in reentry.

Findings from the first paper suggest that maternal imprisonment has negative consequences for mothers and children, particularly at the intersection of criminal justice and child welfare systems, calling for reform and decarceration efforts. The second paper finds that father-child contact during incarceration (visits, calls, and letters) is associated with involvement post-release but that types of contact link differently to involvement for residential and non-residential fathers. Findings from the third paper suggest that financial management skills in transitional programs for jailed fathers may increase involvement, offering considerable intervention implications given the jail focus. Using feasibility and pilot data, the final paper demonstrates promise of an intervention that builds resources within family systems to bolster the likelihood of overall, long-term success for previously incarcerated individuals and family members, alike.

Collectively, these papers advance the social work knowledge base by examining several family and parent relationship perspectives among those involved in the criminal justice system. Incarcerated mothers and fathers who maintain ties with their children, have access to needed supports, and are given the opportunity to build skills as they transition to the community, are likely to experience better long-term outcomes. A call for interventions that attend to the whole family system is increasingly evident and aligned with the values and approach of social work practice and research efforts.

* noted as presenting author
Parenting at the Intersections of Child Welfare and Criminal Justice System Involvement: Identifying Program and Policy Needs for Incarcerated Mothers
Gina Fedock, PhD, University of Chicago; Marion Malcome, MSW, University of Chicago; Celina Doria, MSW, University of Chicago
Variation in Residential and Non-Residential Fathers' Involvement after Prison: The Positive Influence of in-Prison Child Contact
Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Luke Muentner, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Branden McLeod, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Financial Management Skills, Co-Parenting, and Father Involvement Among Non-Resident Jailed Fathers
Mark Trahan, PhD, Texas State University; Otima Doyle, PhD; Jennifer Bellamy, PhD, University of Denver; Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, Florida State University
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