DARTMOUTH — Being behind bars is tough for anyone, but it’s especially tough for an inmate’s children.
Bristol County Sheriff’s Office expands groundbreaking program to tackle family dynamics head-on, focusing services on inmates and their children to reduce recidivism and ensure at-risk children don’t engage not on the wrong path in life.
“Studies show that children of incarcerated parents are about six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves,” said Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson. “This new initiative will keep children on the path to prosperity and give their incarcerated parents a head start on success after release.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office recently received a federal government grant of over $700,000 for a three-year expansion of its True Course youth outreach program to include specific services and education for parents. incarcerated, both while incarcerated and after being released. the community. The OCSO was one of the few national organizations to receive the grant.
True Course is an evidence-based outreach program that uses the outdoors as a vehicle for change among at-risk youth in Bristol County. Created by Sheriff Hodgson nearly five years ago, True Course takes children referred by school counselors, service providers, community organizations, law enforcement and others, and helps them build self-esteem. and life skills through activities that emphasize teamwork, positive and effective communication. , anger management, critical thinking and more.
A group of children recently celebrated the completion of the 12-month program with a graduation ceremony in front of family and friends at the sheriff’s office. This year’s graduates are Adisson Verissimno-Correia, Adedoyin Adeleke, Cole Camara, Genesis Pavao, Izayah Medeiros, Jaylon Williams, Josiah Desa, Nathan St. Martin, Nevaeh Pacheco and Wayne Yost.
As part of the grant expansion, detained parents will be identified at intake and meet with the True Course Parental Tutor to discuss the program and its benefits to them and their children. Participating inmates will complete the evidence-based 12-week Parenting Inside Out program. They will also meet weekly with other inmates from the program for a support group.
The facilitator will also meet with parents weekly to provide feedback on the child’s progress and provide letters, videos, photos or other material the child wishes to share. In addition to incentives for improved parenting skills and increased bonding with the children while incarcerated, the incarcerated parent will also be eligible to save time on their sentence by participating, as permitted by state law. After release, parents will participate in the Cognitive Life Skills program, a two-tier parenting program developed by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.
The BCSO also plans to offer in-person child-parent-caregiver contact visits for participants, if approved by all parties involved.
True Course staff will work closely with the child’s family or guardian, who will approve all interactions with the incarcerated parent. Once released, former inmates and their children will continue to be served by True Course with family activities such as hiking, canoeing, etc.
“Expanding True Course to focus on inmates who have children is just another avenue we can take to reduce recidivism,” Sheriff Hodgson said. “Keeping these incarcerated parents active in their child’s lives while helping them develop better parenting skills will help these families heal and succeed after incarceration.
Participating children will see True Course staff once a week in a group setting with a life skills activity, which ranges from indoor to outdoor adventures. Additionally, they will benefit from one-on-one mentoring with a case manager and a True Course clinician to review progress toward goals and review important areas, such as self-esteem, anger management, and more. . During the school year, a weekend a month will feature a major activity, such as an overnight camping trip or a weekend ski trip in the mountains. Programming time will increase during the summer months.
The grant also allows the Sheriff’s Office to expand existing partnerships with Family Resource Centers throughout Bristol County. True Course will also work with UMass Dartmouth on data collection and analysis.
For more information about True Course, please find it on Facebook and Instagram or visit www.bcso-ma.us/TrueCourse.html.