Formulating a Best Practice Statement for Prison Parenting Programs: A Program Evaluation Project

Monday, 9 November 2015: 2:25 PM

Donna M. Zucker, PhD, MS, BS, RN, FAAN
College of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
Christine Beatriz, BS, RN
Beverly Hospital, North Andover, MA, USA

Formulating a Best Practice Statement for Prison Parenting Programs:  A Program Evaluation Project



A Healthy People 2020 goal is to increase the proportion of parents who use positive parenting.  By promoting good parenting techniques, children of incarcerated parents may experience a better relationship with their parent, which could potentially lead to reduced rates of depression, aggression, and intergenerational incarceration.  This paper describes a program evaluation performed in a Massachusetts correctional facility's parenting program.


The goals were to review the literature about best practices in prison parenting programs and to evaluate a prison parenting program in a Massachusetts correctional facility.  


This three month project had two components:  1) reviewing the literature on existing parenting programs, their outcomes, and their applicability to the prison setting, and 2) completing a program evaluation of an existing parenting program in a county correctional facility.  This assessment reviewed program content, delivery and evaluation. Data were collected in the form of journaling and shared though debriefing.


The outcome was the creation of a “Best Practice Statement” for prison parenting programs that included a list of recommendations shared with facility staff.  The following recommendations were made:  to adopt an evidence-based program; to use adult learning theory strategies; to expand the curriculum to include more concrete information about parenting skills, to begin data collection of parenting program participants and create a summative evaluation.  


Assessment of current practices and programs are essential to achieve and maintain high quality.  Outcomes provided support for adopting an evidence basis for the prison parenting program, and recommendations for program improvement.

Implications for Nursing Practice and /or Future Research

Through a critical review of existing literature and assessment of current programming, this project helped to confirm that nursing has the requisite skills, knowledge and attitudes to provide an evidence-based parenting program for incarcerated fathers and their children.   Evaluation data is essential to document the impact of such a program on the mental health of both inmates and their families.