This page of the Policy and Practice Section will highlight policy initiatives, and share the policy perspectives of service providers and family members as well as policy makers and advocates.
by Dee Ann Newell
The bi-partisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 (S. 714) was passed out of the Senate Commission on the Judiciary on January 21, 2010 by voice vote. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) would create a commission to conduct a thorough evaluation of the nation’s justice system and offer recommendations for reform at every stage of the criminal justice system. The Sentencing Project, a strong supporter of this bill, believes that this commission will establish a much-needed organized and proactive approach to studying and advancing programs and policies that promote public safety, while overhauling those practices that are found to be fundamentally flawed. For more info, visit http://www.sentencingproject.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=848&id=167.
The National Resource Center of Family and Corrections Network frequently hears from family members about the difficulty of visiting due to lack of transportation. When the price of gas went so high in past months, many families discontinued visits, and the economics of traveling to our nation’s prisons for visitations with the parent inside means less contact for the children with their absent parent and the accompanying feelings of loss and sadness by the child, along with a hopelessness that they can sustain a relationship with their parent.
There are many organizations who are trying to overcome the barriers to visitation by the provision of transportation services for the children and caregivers. There are several models, including the Get on the Bus program in San Francisco, the Families Outside program in Pittsburgh, PA, and the MIWATCH (Ministries to Incarcerated Women and Their Children) program in Arkansas.
Below is the report of the Family Services of Western Pennsylvania East Liberty office, provided by Mary A. Graczyk, Families Outside Coordinator. She can be contacted on Monday – Thursday at 724-226-0664 x 820.
Introduction to the Families Outside Program and Outcomes
A comprehensive 2008 study completed by William D. Bales and Daniel P. Mears in Florida revealed that one of the most influential criteria of parole success is the maintenance of strong family ties. This is the purpose of the Families Outside program: to provide support to families during initial incarceration, throughout the period of incarceration, during the transition period, and after release. The purpose is to maintain and strengthen the relationship between families on the “outside” and inmates in the state correctional institutions in Pennsylvania. Families Outside facilitates the maintenance of family relationships by providing transportation to family members so that they can visit with their incarcerated loved one throughout the incarceration period. Families Outside is currently the only program in the entire state of Pennsylvania providing transportation services to the families of inmates. In addition to transportation services, Families Outside provides Family Virtual Visitation through the use of a high speed video connection with participating state correctional facilities in the Family Services of Western Pennsylvania East Liberty office. Families are able to visit in “real-time”, meaning there is no delay in transmission, with incarcerated loved ones and family members serving sentences in participating state correctional facilities.
Each year, Families Outside strives to provide the highest level of quality services to our individuals. One of the ways we monitor our quality and generate improvement plans is through our annual program outcomes reports. In addition to helping us monitor the quality of the services we provide, the outcomes process enables us to evaluate program effectiveness and recognize possible gaps in service.
Families Outside has a very unique budget, receiving funding from a variety of sources. In fiscal year 2007-2008, our budget breakdown was as follows:
- Pennsylvania Department of Corrections = $133,012.00
- Human Services Development Fund = $ 63,105.00
- Transportation Revenue = $ 29,374.00
Transportation Coordinators are assigned to each trip to assist in contacting passengers, keeping track of passenger lists, and recruiting individuals into support services and education groups.
New Individual Orientation:
Each year, Families Outside records an increased number of new individuals. In order to utilize Families Outsides Services, a potential individual must attend a new individual orientation. At this orientation all intake information is gathered and all program guidelines and expectations are discussed with the new individual.
Number of individuals transported:
Families Outside’s transportation service to the state correctional institutions in Pennsylvania is the most utilized service offered by the program. In FY 07/08, Families Outside transported 929 family members and loved ones in 206 bus trips providing 2539 visits. Table 1 describes basic demographic characteristics of the loved ones being transported.
|Table 1: Demographics|
|Adults (18 and over)||807||76%|
|Minors (Under age 18)||192||18%|
|African American / Black||826||78%|
|White / Caucasian||110||13%|
|Hispanic / Latino||3||.28%|
|Native American / Alaskan||7||.66%|
In order to enhance the outcomes gathered by Families Outside, FSWP developed a “Part B” questionnaire that was collected in concert with the agency’s annual Customer Satisfaction Survey. The Families Outside Part B survey consists of a series of questions related to a person’s feelings about their bond with their incarcerated loved one. The survey was designed in a pre and post trip format with a score of 1 being low / poor and a score of 4 being high / good. Surveys were distributed on a series of Families Outside bus trips in the spring of 2008. Table 2 shows the outcomes from those surveys. The data expressed a 4% improvement and a statistically significant t-test.
Table 3 shows the outcomes from the relationship surveys given to families participating in the Family Virtual Visitation program. Data revealed a 21% improvement rate and a trend towards significance.
|Table 2: Relationship Survey (Scale 1- 4)|
|Pre visit||Post visit|
|Care about loved one||59||3.83||53||3.94|
|Understand experience of loved one||54||3.41||59||3.62|
|Feel overall relationship is good||57||3.71||58||3.88|
|Want to have contact in-between visits||53||3.71||58||3.73|
|Worry about loved ones wellbeing||55||3.69||58||3.71|
|T-Test:||t (54) = 2.00, p= .04|
|Table 3: Virtual Visitation – Relationship Survey (Scale 1- 4)|
|Pre visit||Post visit|
|Care about loved one||14||3.64||14||4.00|
|Understand experience of loved one||15||3.13||15||3.87|
|Feel overall relationship is good||14||3.43||14||3.93|
|Want to have contact in-between visits||15||3.53||15||3.87|
|Worry about loved ones wellbeing||15||3.47||15||3.53|
|T-Test||t (14) = 2.14, p=.06 ns|
|Table X: Visitation Pursued following Orientation
|Did not Visit||13||48%|
Of those who participated in visits following a Families Outside Orientation Session, the average number of visits was 2, with a range from 1 to 10 visits. Eighteen individuals went on more than one visit during the remaining time in the FY following their orientation.
Long Term Outcome
Fiscal Year 2007-2008 was the first year that Families Outside was able to gather useable long-term outcomes. Utilizing the Part-B of our Satisfaction Survey we were able to assess the impact of our face-to-face visitations and virtual visitations on an individual’s ability to maintain and nurture a relationship/bond with their incarcerated loved one. Individuals completing this question were repeat users of the transportation service, enabling us to report their responses as a long-term outcome. Tables 5-6 illustrate the distribution of responses on each question.
As a result of using this transportation service to visit your loved one, would you say your relationship and bond is:
|Less Close Than Before||As Close As Before||Somewhat Closer||Definitely Closer Than Before|
|Table 5: Face to Face Visitors’ Relationship Bond (N=58)|
|No one said “less close”|
Discussion of Outcomes
Outcomes reported in this document have revealed several very interesting items that were never before captured by Families Outside.
As a result of the implementation of our improvement plan from last fiscal year, Families Outside was able gather outcomes information that shows how our services impact the long-term relationship of families of the incarcerated. This was achieved by working with the Research and Quality Improvement division on the creation of an easy to read and easy to answer section of questions attached to the Families Outside Part B questionnaire. An intermediate goal was added to look at how many people attending the orientation (new) sessions will go on to at least one visit and how many will go on more than one visit in the period of time remaining in the fiscal year following their orientation.
Next year, internal benchmarks for Families Outside will be implemented using the immediate and intermediate and long-term outcomes data presented in this report. Also, we will look into external benchmarks for average number of visits for inmates serving time in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions.
In addition to establishing external benchmarks, Families Outside will work closely with the Research and Quality Improvement Department to reassess the effectiveness of the questions for our intermediate outcomes. Necessary changes will be made based on our desire to generate strong, supportive immediate outcomes.
Bales, William D., and Daniel P. Mears. 2008. “Inmate Social Ties and the Transition to Society: Does Visitation Reduce Recidivism?” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 45(3):287-321.
Latest State and Legislative Changes on the Use of Shackles and Restraints on Pregnant and Child Birthing Women in Prisons and Jails
Six states have passed laws restricting the use of restraints on women during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and/or during postpartum recovery: Illinois (2000), California (2006), Vermont (2007), New Mexico (2009), New York (2009), and Texas (2009). First there was Illinois. The state legislature enacted a statute abolishing the use of shackles and handcuffing for incarcerated mothers during labor and childbirth. Next California and New York passed legislation to ban the use of these shackles and restraints on pregnant and laboring, birthing incarcerated parents. Pennsylvania DOC also revised its policy away from the use of such devices; the U.S. Marshalls revised their written policies as did the Bureau of Prisons at the federal level.
The Rebecca Project, a national women’s human rights group in Washington, the ACLU National Prison Project, and the ACLU Reproductive Rights Project, and many state ACLU groups and other human rights organizations collaborated on the issues of use of restraints, with The Rebecca Project providing monthly conference calls to support further advocacy, and in the process, creating support for states wishing to change thee practices within their own DOC’s.
In Arkansas, Shawanna Nelson filed a civil rights violation against the Arkansas Department of Correction while she was still in prison. The case, Nelson v. Norris, was heard by the 8th Circuit Court, with a finding that the director of the state’s DOC was immune to suit, but the correctional officer was not. The case went sent back to Federal District Court to be heard on its merits. There is also the medical risk and endangerment for the fetus and the mother. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology wrote a letter stating the risk for the fetus and the mother with a variety of medical reasons, including the need for speed when a newborn is in distress and the length of time it takes to remove locked shackle restraints; the American Academy of Pediatrics also supports the abolishment of the practice, due to medical risks.
There are also psychological risks for the mother and the infant. The separation of the mother from her infant has consequential effects on the attachment development between the mother and the infant, including the trauma to the mother of being restrained during her labor and delivery. Childbirth can often be a trigger for old trauma related to physical and sexual abuse as children, a common experience in the childhood histories of incarcerated women. The pain of childbirth is often a trigger for the childhood trauma of abuse and can create further psychological distress for these mothers. There are currently states and localities that have no written policies at all regarding this practice, thus anything may be permitted.
Relative caregivers are the most common caregivers for children of incarcerated mothers, with 2008 BOJS reporting 67% of these children are cared for by relatives of the mothers, most typically, a single, maternal grandmother. I have not come across figures for relative caregivers of children of incarcerated fathers, but relatives are certainly caregivers for some of these children, although the mother is the most common caregivers for dads in prison.
On average, kinship caregivers are older, poorer, more likely to be single, and less educated than non-relative caregivers. These family caregivers need assistance accessing a range of services and supports, for themselves and the children, hence the efforts to create more Kinship Navigation services within the states, as proposed in the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success federal act. There are unique challenges for kinship caregivers of children with incarcerated parents, on top of the burdens and challenges for any relative caring for a family member’s child. The distinctive challenges include decision-making about how to maintain contact, given difficult economic times and difficult economics for most of these households. Do you pay for the exorbitant collect calls that some prisons extract from a prisoner’s call to their children? How do you arrange transportation with the cost of gas and the often distant prisons? What can a kinship caregiver do to help the children heal and cope with the absence of their parents? What about their own sacrifices and difficulties with the incarcerated family member, especially when the caregiver is also the parent of the incarcerated individual?
Model practices include supportive services, such as navigation of the various systems that may provide public benefits, along with peer-led support groups, mental health services for the children and family, greater economic supports through subsidized guardianships and one-time payments. The recommendations of the Council of State Governments regarding kinship caregivers can be carefully examined in the publication, Improving Responses to Children of Incarcerated Parents, at www.csg.org
The New York State Kincare Coalition will hold a summit meeting in June concerning kinship care and children of incarcerated parents. The Arkansas legislature will initiate kinship caregiver hearings at the State Capitol, beginning April 22, 2010.
 External benchmark data from the PA DOC may be available to be applied to this report.
For past Policy Forum Updates, visit the Policy Forum Archive.