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Fontaine, Jocelyn

The aim of this report is to present the findings of an evaluation of an initiative to improve the outcomes of justice-involved individuals with severe mental illnesses in the Greater Cincinnati area. It is divided into five parts: introduction—importance of the Initiative, substance use disorder and severe mental illness in the criminal justice system, and the Urban Society study; grantee interviews; grantee outcomes; lessons learned for criminal justice and behavioral health practitioners, for criminal justice practitioners, for policymakers, public administrators, and other decisionmakers, for researchers, and for funders; and conclusions. “Overall, the Health Foundation can point to an array of positive outcomes associated with the Initiative. As evidenced in the lit¬erature, the Initiative was focused squarely on an under- and unserved population and can point to several benefits of program participation for this population. Further, the Initiative has generated lessons for future behavioral health and criminal justice programming as well as the different system stakeholders who have the ability to foster such programming” (p. 22).

Lessons Learned through The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati's Substance Use Disorder and Severe Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System Initiative Cover

Nearly three million children under the age of 18 have a parent in jail or prison, and millions more have experienced their parents being arrested. Due to their parent’s criminal justice involvement, a growing body of research indicates that these children often experience trauma, family disruption, and the loss of their primary caregiver, which can lead to financial hardship, residential instability, and an array of emotional and behavioral problems.

In response, several community-based organizations and government agencies across the country have implemented programs and practices aimed at reducing this trauma and mitigating the potentially harmful outcomes associated with parental criminal justice involvement. The Urban Institute and the National Institute of Corrections hosted a live webinar highlighting these promising and innovative programs and practices.

This webinar is four sessions:

  1. Parental Arrest Protocols—"Focuses on protocols that police departments can use to manage the arrest of a parent to minimize the trauma and harm to their children";
  2. Family Impact Statements—"Focuses on how probation departments can use family impact statements in their presentence investigation reports to account for the needs of family and children";
  3. Family-Focused Jail Services—"Focuses on a few family-focused programs and services that jail administrators can offer to parents in their jails to help them stay connected to their family and children";
  4. and Successful Collaboration—"Provides information on how to collaboratively think about and address the many issues facing children of incarcerated parents, using a diverse group of interested stakeholders".

Presentation slides for these sessions are provided. Access is also provided to four publications that complement the webinar sessions and aim to guide criminal justice organizations and stakeholders in developing and implementing promising practices for children of justice-involved parents. The products include three toolkits on parental arrest policies, family-focused jail programs, and family impact statements, as well as a framework document that synthesizes what we have learned about promising practices and provides information about the context surrounding children and their families.

The products provide key challenges and recommendations for the field and help organizations and stakeholders

  1. understand the importance, scope, and effect of the issues facing children of justice-involved parents;
  2. learn how to talk about these issues with their constituencies; and
  3. appreciate how changes in practice can make meaningful differences by strengthening the relationship between children and their parents and reducing the trauma children experience when their parents are arrested, detained, and sentenced.
Practices for Children of Incarcerated Parents: Arrest through Pre-Adjudication [Webinar] cover

"Through no fault of their own, millions of children have been exposed to and affected by the criminal justice system by witnessing their parent being arrested, by seeing their parent in court, or by visiting their parent in jail or prison. Indeed, many of the thousands of adult men and women who are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated each year leave behind minor children who must grapple with their parent’s absence for days, months, or years. Although such exposure does not always result in negative outcomes for children, the extant research does suggest that parental involvement in the criminal justice system can put children at risk of residential instability, economic strain and financial hardship, mental health problems, poor academic performance, and antisocial and delinquent behavior. Parental involvement in the system can be traumatic for children and can hinder the quality of the relationship they have with their parent … This toolkit and the strategies and experiences described herein are intended for people who are interested in developing family-focused jail programs in their own jurisdictions, such as jail practitioners and community-based organizations working with jail administrators and jail detainees" (p. 1). Sections cover: family-focused jail programs; Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights; considerations for developing a comprehensive family-focused jail program—identify goals, ensure that the process is collaborative, determine what components should be in the program (parenting classes, coached phone calls, contact visits, and others), and implement the program (program structure and sequence, eligibility, and staff training); challenges and lessons learned (have adequate and appropriate space for the various program components, strike a balance between having fun and providing a service, minimize the trauma associated with visiting a parent in jail, account for high population turnover in jails, and secure adequate, sustainable funding); and conclusion.

Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs Cover

The objective of this document is to detail a set of practices that correctional administrators can implement to remove barriers that inhibit children from cultivating or maintaining relationships with their incarcerated parents during and immediately after incarceration. This handbook contains ten chapters: partnership building; training and core competencies; intake and assessment; family notification and information provision; classes and groups; visitor lobbies; visiting; parent-child communication; caregiver support; family-focused reentry.

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