Parenting, Prison & Pups (PPP), the only program of its kind, is an evidence-based parenting program provided to female jail-based prisoners, the most underserved of all corrections populations, to help them reinvest in their relationships with their children. We utilize the Parenting Inside Curriculum (PIO) and enhance it with Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). PIO was reviewed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and is now included on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
PPP serves to support healthy bonds between incarcerated women and their children. PPP also helps incarcerated women to mend relationships with other family members, including relationships with their children’s caregivers. Healthy relationships between mothers and their children can serve as a protective factor against recidivism for mothers and may prevent future involvement in the criminal justice system for her children. Our program is integrated with the use of AAT to provide a safe environment for our mothers to process trauma-based feelings and to provide a safe environment for her children during our reunification efforts.
PPP consists of a strong partnership between Pace University and The Dyson College of Arts and Sciences’ Criminal Justice Department (the NYC and Westchester Campuses), the WCDOC (the Westchester County Department of Correction – a county jail located in Valhalla, NY) and MCC (The Metropolitan Correctional Center – a federal jail managed by the Bureau of Prisons located in lower Manhattan). Presently, we are proud to partner with Hudson Valley Paws For A Cause who is not only a leader in animal-assisted therapy but whose mission is to help those in need of emotional support of any kind. All of their dog/handler teams are registered therapy teams, insured, highly trained, certified Reading Education Assistance dogs and Red Cross volunteers.
Envisioned in 2015, Dr. Collica-Cox partnered with The Good Dog Foundation, who served as a community partner with PPP from Fall of 2015 to Spring of 2020, to develop and create a parenting program for jails that could be integrated with AAT. Working closely with Lisa Rae Johnson from MCC, Nory Padilla from WCDOC, and Bruce Fagin and Renee Payne from The Good Dog Foundation, PPP was in the planning and approval stages for two years. The program was first implemented in 2017 but it was implemented without therapy dogs. Dr. Collica-Cox and Ms. Johnson used this time to work through operational issues and Dr. Collica-Cox and Renee Payne, Director of Training for the Good Dog Foundation and owner of “Walk This Way”, used this time to figure out how to best incorporate the therapy dogs into the PIO curriculum. Finally in January of 2018, PPP had its first class fully integrated with AAT at MCC and in September of 2018, PPP had its first class fully integrated with AAT at WCDOC. Therapy dogs are utilized in PPP in three ways: 1. AAA (Animal-Assisted Activity) – our class participants have free time to spend with the therapy dogs before and after class, 2. Emotional Support – our therapy dogs serve as emotional support for our participants as they process difficult emotions and come to terms with their trauma-based pasts, and 3. AAT – therapy dogs are integrated into the curriculum and serve as examples for difficult concepts and lessons. The program has proved to be very successful, winning several awards, including the National Jefferson Award, which is considered the Nobel Prize for Public Service.
Goal #1: Determine whether female prisoners who complete an evidence-based parenting course with structured AAT have fewer psychological stresses (i.e., lower levels of stress, anxiety, depression, parental stress and higher levels of self esteem) following the AAT intervention.
Goal #2: Determine whether female prisoners who complete an evidence-based parenting course with structured AAT maintain low disciplinary infractions and recidivism rates following the AAT intervention.
Goal #3: Determine whether female prisoners who complete an evidence-based parenting course with structured AAT have increased contact with their children, children’s caregivers and/or family members following the AAT intervention.
Goal #4: Determine whether female prisoners who complete an evidence-based parenting course with structured AAT report more confidence in their parenting skills and obtain higher scores on a parenting skills knowledge test following the AAT intervention.
Goal#5: Determine through qualitative analysis (based on extensive class observations/field notes), individual progress made by each participant as they practice and report on skills learned following the AAT intervention.
Goal #6: Determine through qualitative (based on extensive class observations) and quantitative (HAIS scale) analyses whether having therapy dog teams present for unstructured animal assisted activities (AAA) during a jail-sponsored family reunification day impacts prisoner children. We will examine if prisoner children appear to experience limited stress or anxiety (good emotional affect) during their visit with their mother and whether they engage (and enjoy engaging) with the therapy dogs during their visit.
Goal #7: Determine whether female prisoners who complete an evidence-based parenting course with structured AAT have higher levels of class engagement (via disclosure) and retention when compared to the earlier group without AAT.
This is the first research program of its kind, and we are excited by the potential to be supportive of incarcerated mothers. Approximately 70% of female prisoners are responsible for a minor child and at least 1.7 million children nationally have a parent who is incarcerated. We hope our research will show that Parenting, Prison, & Pups can enhance the bonds between prisoners and their children, reduce recidivism, and mitigate inter-generational offending patterns.
PPP involves a multi-year research study. Utilizing a pre and posttest quasi experimental design, we will evaluate whether female prisoners, housed in WCDOC and MCC, who complete this evidence-based parenting program, have lower measures of stress, parental stress, anxiety, depression, and disciplinary infractions in addition to higher levels of self-esteem, increased parental knowledge, increased contact with their children, and more confidence in their parenting skills, upon program completion.
Therapy dogs are known to benefit humans in a number of different ways, including:
- Reducing anxiety and stress, while increasing well-being
- Facilitating better communications
- Enhancing the learning environment
The AAT activities are structured to support lesson plans that comprise the 14-class parenting curriculum for female prisoners, who are housed in two jails (one county and one federal). We will determine if there are measurable differences following an AAT intervention. Our goals are as follows:
Join Our Jail-Based Services
1. Students enrolled in CRJ 331 – Strategies in Corrections Administration – a civic engagement course, complete 20 service hours outside of our classroom by serving as teaching assistants for PPP. Students work directly with the women at the jail, they received specialized training in both AAT and in working effectively in the corrections setting, and they visit with the Lifer’s Group at The East Jersey State Prison to learn about the experiences of inacrecerated men. This program has proved to be transformative for our students and provides excellent work experience. Interested students should email Dr. Collica-Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org from the Criminal Justice Department if they want to register for this course, which is held during the fall semester in Pleasantville and during the spring semester in NYC. You may also obtain more information by speaking with Pace University’s Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR).
2. For students who have a larger interest in our jail-based services, please email Dr. Collica-Cox to reserve your spot in CRJ 242 – Crime and Public Policy, which is an “Inside-Out” type class. It is the only such class offered at Pace University and there are limited spots for this course. Each spring semester, students will take this class at the Westchester Jail with incarcerated men and women. Together, we will discuss the causes of crime and examine criminal justice policy. Students from both campuses are welcome and free transportation is provided from the Pleasantville Campus to the Jail and from the jail back to campus, in addition to the Metro-North train station. Our goal is to integrate future classes with AAT to enhance college learning for both our inside and outside students at the jail. Please join us for this unique opportunity.
If you are interested in donating to PPP, please contact Kim Turner, The Director of Development, in Pace’s Development Office at email@example.com or 914-773-3112.
Please feel free free to visit our FaceBook page or Dr. Collica-Cox’s Faculty page.
Thank you for your interest and your support!
Gallery of Events
Collica-Cox, K. (2020). Civic Engagement for the Future Criminal Justice Professional: Serving the Underserved in a Correctional Setting. The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 12 (2), 10-21. https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/jces/vol12/iss2/3
Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G. (2020). Prisoner parenting: Parenting from a federal jail. The Journal of Correctional Health Care, 26 (2). https://doi.org/10.1177/1078345820916475
Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G. (2019). Parenting From a County Jail: Parenting From Beyond the Bars. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 40 (7), 593-604. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01612840.2019.1565877?af=R&journalCode=imhn20
Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G. (2019). Implementing and Studying Successful Jail-Based Programming for Women: A Case Study of Parenting, Prison & Pups – Waiting to ‘Let the Dogs In’ Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5(2), 101-119. https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/jper/vol5/iss2/4/
Collica-Cox, K., & Fagin, B. (2018). Parenting, prison & pups: Parenting with a purpose. Corrections Today, 80 (3), 24-32, 10. http://www.aca.org/ACA_Prod_IMIS/DOCS/Corrections%20Today/2018%20Articles/May%202018/Collica-Cox_Fagin.pdf