Massachusetts DOC awarded $675,000 in Federal Funds for Groundbreaking Pilot Program

Funding helps address the Needs of Young Incarcerated Fathers and Their Minor Children

MILFORD, MA (STL.News) Recognizing the unique needs of incarcerated young adults, the Department of Correction applied for and received $675,000 in federal funding to implement the Prison Parenting Initiative for Young Adults (PPIYA).  The Project will pilot a special housing unit to foster a community supporting the needs and challenges of young men.  Lessons learned from this pilot program will be applied to an expansion within the DOC and, authorities believe, serve as a model nationally.

On any given day, approximately 400 DOC inmates are emerging adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. About 25% of this number report having at least one child.  PPIYA will use state-of-the-art strategies to help them build healthy parent-child relationships, including video conferencing, electronic correspondence, and assistance with transportation needs for in-person visits.  As participants learn about their own development and that of young children, their input and buy-in will be instrumental in the successful implementation of engagement with their children and families.

The benefits will extend to parents and children alike, DOC officials believe.  Emerging adults are more likely to engage in risky behavior and have difficulty moderating responses to emotionally charged situations, but scientific research suggests that they are receptive to positive intervention with long lasting positive effects.  Children with an incarcerated parent are at higher risk for involvement in criminal activity and may also face adverse educational and behavioral effects, but maintaining or developing healthy family relationships during incarceration can mitigate them.

“An important part of our population is males between the ages of 18 and 24 who will one day be released.  We have an obligation and an opportunity to take steps that bolsters their chance of parenting success after they leave our custody,” said Commissioner Mici.  “By focusing on the unique developmental needs of emerging adults and their parental roles, we are seeking to improve outcomes for these men and their families.”

“This innovative project is a remarkable effort to promote healthy relationships for the incarcerated population,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco.  “Whether the participants are fathers now or will become fathers later, it has the potential to yield long-term benefits for them, their families, and the communities we all share.”

To accomplish the Project’s pioneering vision, correctional staff will receive specialized training to understand the developmental needs of incarcerated young adults and methods of cultivating an environment supportive of their positive adjustment.  Older inmates will receive training to become PPIYA mentors, applying their experience to favorably impact the process while enhancing their own self-worth.  This initiative addresses the needs of incarcerated fathers and their children, ultimately improving chances for successful reentry and nurturing positive family relationships.