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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 FoundationPPP 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.


Picture by Barry Williams – DO NOT reproduce without the author’s permission


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:


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 GraduationThe Kids



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 PPPStudents 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 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.     

Pace Students


If you are interested in donating to PPP, please contact Kim Turner, The Director of Development, in Pace’s Development Office at 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!

Graduation & Reunification

Featured Video

Gallery of Events

For the Family Members of our Incarcerated Students

This course is designed as a skills training program for incarcerated parents and is held biweekly over two months. The curriculum is rigorous and requires tremendous diligence from our students.

Only women who attend all of the sessions, actively participate, and complete all out-of-class assignments, will receive a certificate of completion and graduate from our program. Our students are working on the following skills:

Implementing Effective Parenting Styles

Effective Speaking Skills

Effective Listening Skills

Effective Problem Solving skills

Engaging in Child Centered Play

Learning The Child’s Job and the Parent’s Job

Giving Effective Directions and Encouragement

Providing Structure Through Rules, Rewards and Consequences

Going Home: What to Expect with their Children

Managing Healthy Adult Relationships

Stress Management

CPR (Adults, Children & Infants), AED and First Aid Certification

Please Note

No confidential information can be given about any of our individual students. We cannot confirm their attendance, but if you are invited to the graduation, it means your family member successfully completed the program.

Our next program at WCDOC will begin in Sept 2020. Family members of our students will be personally invited by their loved one to attend our graduation ceremony Monday, November 2nd from 5:30 to 7:30PM.

Our next program at MCC will begin February 2020. Family members of our students will be personally invited by their loved one to attend our graduation ceremony on Tuesday, March 24th from 5:00 to 7:00PM.

All visitors must be approved prior to admittance.

PPP is in the process of completing its fourth year at both jails. Our first classes at both MCC (Metropolitan Correctional Center – a federal jail) & WCDOC (Westchester County Department of Correction – a county jail) proved beneficial for our prisoner mothers and for the Pace Students involved with the program. Data collection and analysis is ongoing.

Benefits of PPP

  • Statistically significant decreases in depression and parental stress, as well as higher levels of self-esteem, for female prisoners at the federal jail
  • Statistically significant decreases in depression, as well as higher levels of parental knowledge for female prisoners at the county jail, who presented with much longer histories of drug use and criminal justice involvement
  • More confidence in parenting skills and better relationships with family members reported for both groups
  • Better communication skills reported for both groups
  • “It wasn’t just a regular parenting class, it was more than that.  It felt so good and it made me feel so good as a person”  (Prisoner Mom, WCDOC)          
  • “This class opened us up in ways that we normally wouldn’t. People were more responsive.  There were many benefits.  For me, personally, it was a benefit for me to think of myself as a mom and the methods I utilized. “ (Prisoner Mom, MCC)
  • Pace Students learned they could have a positive impact & wanted to engage in more public service
  • “This was more of a class on humanity as much as civic engagement or criminal justice. We got to see a population that is looked down upon, stigmatized, ridiculed, but hearing them really hit me in the heart” (Pace Student, Westchester)

Journal Articles

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.

Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G.  (2020).  Prisoner parenting:  Parenting from a federal jail.  The Journal of Correctional Health Care, 26 (2).

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.

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.  ​

Collica-Cox, K., & Fagin, B.  (2018).  Parenting, prison & pups:  Parenting with a purpose.  Corrections Today, 80 (3)24-32, 10. ​