Method: Data come from the Parent Child Study, a randomized controlled trial that tested a prison-based parenting program. Analyses include 280 incarcerated parents (n = 167 mothers, n = 113 fathers) interviewed at baseline, post-intervention in prison, and 6-months post-release from prison. Parents were 32 years old on average, one-third had a high school diploma or higher, and 61% were White. Respondents had been imprisoned for approximately 2 years and 47% lived with their child prior to incarceration. The outcomes at 6-months post-release included: 1) residence, 2) non-residential contact (visits, calls, and letters), and 3) parent-caregiver relationship quality. Analyses used two measures of in-prison contact in the last 30-days, including: 1) a continuous, total contact measure not differentiated by visits, calls or letters and 2) three separate but continuous measures of different types of contact (number of visits, calls, and letters). Controls included demographics, child characteristics, criminal justice involvement, baseline measures of the outcomes, and treatment. Analyses used OLS, logistic, and negative binomial regression approaches.
Results: The first set of analyses examining the relationship between in-prison contact and post-release outcomes (residence, non-residential contact, parent-caregiver relationship quality) finds no significant association when type of in-prison contact is not differentiated and is used as a continuous measure. However, when in-prison contact is measured separately, visits and calls are associated with relationship quality, and more frequent in-prison visits significantly increase the odds of residence post-release (OR = 1.37, 95% CI [1.12,1.68]). Among non-residential parents, frequency of visits significantly predicts increases in non-residential visits (β = .28, p < .05). Being a mother also significantly predicts residence and non-residential visits and calls, while positive parent-caregiver relationship quality is significantly associated with residence and non-residential letters.
Conclusion and Implications: This study finds no association between contact as a single continuous predictor and post-release outcomes. However, when included as separate measures, we observe associations between visits during prison and co-residence and parent-caregiver relationships after release. These findings have program and research implications for social workers and criminal justice practitioners given that opportunities for children to see and communicate with their incarcerated parents may matter for residence and involvement after release, and that these findings are appreciably influenced by how contact is measured.