Fourteen inmates and detainees at the Alexander Farrelly Criminal Justice Center in St. Thomas were recognized last week for completing a national, 12-week parenting program sponsored by the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (“BOC” or “Bureau”). The inmates and detainees received certificates for completing the “Parenting Inside Out Program” for Incarcerated Persons. The program was made possible through a collaboration between the Bureau, the Virgin Islands Department of Justice Visitation & Access, Division of Paternity and Child Support, the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning (“UVI CELL”) - Reentry Action Group, and INSPIRE VI LLC.
The Parenting Inside Out Program is in line with the Bureau’s commitment to providing returning citizens with academic, career, and technical education services as part of an established partnership with UVI CELL. These reentry services also foster peace, anti-violence, and public safety in the Virgin Islands community. Ninety percent (90%) of incarcerated persons eventually return to our communities. The Bureau has a significant need for parenting support and training for non-custodial parents who are incarcerated and those recently released. Support and wrap-around services are also needed for the children of incarcerated persons and their caregivers.
Through its Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism, the University of the Virgin Islands' Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning (UVI CELL) received funding from the Division of Paternity and Child Support of the Virgin Islands Department of Justice to provide 20 families on St. Thomas with parenting education and support. Using the evidence-based model and curriculum known as "Parenting Inside Out," incarcerated parents received virtual and in-person training through a partnership with INSPIRE VI, LLC. The Parenting Inside Out (PIO) initiative is an evidence-based parenting skills training program for parents who are involved in the criminal justice system. The prison parenting program is beneficial to incarcerated mothers and fathers who are parenting from prison.
“In the correctional world, evidence-based practices are becoming a requirement,” said Director Testamark. “All of the requirements for an evidence-based program are met by Parenting Inside Out. Parenting Inside Out is a $2.1 million longitudinal, randomized, controlled preventive intervention trial (RCT) funded by the National Institutes of Health and carried out by a team based at the Oregon Social Learning Center. The study measured a variety of factors, including the quality of parent-child and parent-caregiver relationships while in prison, re-arrest rates, and substance abuse rates after release into the community. “The study’s findings demonstrate that Parenting Inside Out has quantifiable, positive effects on participants and their families,” Testamark said.
The ceremony’s program included remarks from Senator Milton Potter, Acting Attorney General, Carol Jacobs, Esq., Dr. Sharon Jackson-McDonald (VIDOJ Program Administrator-Access and Visitation), Peter Abrahams (BOC Programs and Grants Manager), Hector Rivera (BOC ST. THOMAS Warden), Cira Burke and Desiree R. Lambertis (Inspire VI, LLC), Dr. Suzanne DarrowMagras (UVI CELL) and BOC’s Case Management Planner Tanesha Russell who also served as the Mistress of Ceremonies. The program’s success was praised by program participants, who gave testimonials describing how the program changed the way they thought about and motivated themselves about parenting from the inside out.
The ceremony’s guest speaker, Dellana Magner, shared her story of being a single mother of two young boys while incarcerated. She said that she evaluated her circumstances and repositioned herself to begin building a new foundation for her and her family from prison. She explained that parents should always have an open door for their children to talk about problems and issues that are very important to them. Parents who are incarcerated should also send cards or care packages to their children so that they know they are still thinking of them and will always be there for them. The ceremony was also emphasized by the melodious sounds and celebratory voices of What It Is Band (Daniella “Lioness” Richardson and Adrian “APlus” Burke).
The word that resonated throughout the program was “Impact.” Education and programs for inmates have a significant impact on home communities, which extends well beyond the prison walls. For instance, research indicates that postsecondary education and impactful programs in prison have numerous beneficial effects on the incarcerated and their children, providing a chance to break the intergenerational cycle of inequality and incarceration. Parents learn and improve their social interactional skills and citizenship behaviors during programs of impact like Parenting Inside Out, which will assist them in guiding their children toward becoming positive, constructive adults. These skills and behaviors can be used in all aspects of their lives. Communication skills and solving problems are two of the most important topics covered. Other skills include emotional control; kid improvement, mental health and holding through perusing and play; knowing how each child is, loving them, and teaching them to speak other languages; non-violent punishment and reinforcement; supervision and surveillance; and family identity formation and reunification.
In order to provide programs that both rehabilitate inmates and detainees and provide adequate medical and basic needs care to those entrusted to us, the Bureau continues to collaborate closely with local and federal partners.