Dellana Magner, a single mother of two young boys, credited a prison program for helping her to become a better parent at a ceremony last week to honor 14 inmates and detainees at the Alexander Farrelly Criminal Justice Center on St. Thomas who completed the 12-week course sponsored by the V.I. Bureau of Corrections.
Magner was the guest speaker for the event, and said the “Parenting Inside Out Program” for incarcerated persons helped her to evaluate her circumstances and reposition herself to begin building a new foundation for her and her family from prison.
Magner explained that parents should always have an open door for their children to talk about problems and issues that are important to them, according to a press release detailing the event. 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, she said.
The inmates and detainees received certificates for completing the “Parenting Inside Out Program” that was made possible through a collaboration between the bureau, the V.I. Justice Department Visitation & Access, Division of Paternity and Child Support, the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning — Reentry Action Group, and INSPIRE VI LLC, according to the release.
“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,” the release stated. “These reentry services also foster peace, anti-violence, and public safety in the Virgin Islands community.”
“Ninety percent of incarcerated persons eventually return to our communities, and the bureau has a significant need for parenting support and training for non-custodial parents who are incarcerated and those recently released,” according to the release. Support and wrap-around services are also needed for the children of incarcerated persons and their caregivers, it said.
Through its Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism, UVI CELL received funding from the Justice Department’s Division of Paternity and Child Support to provide 20 families on St. Thomas with parenting education and support. Using the evidence-based model and curriculum of “Parenting Inside Out,” incarcerated parents received virtual and in-person training through a partnership with INSPIRE VI, LLC.
“In the correctional world, evidence-based practices are becoming a requirement,” said BOC Director Wynnie Testamark. “All of the requirements for an evidence-based program are met by Parenting Inside Out.”
The $2.1 million longitudinal, randomized, controlled preventive intervention trial is 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 Sen. Milton Potter; Acting Attorney General Carol Thomas Jacobs; Dr. Sharon Jackson-McDonald, Justice Department program administrator for Access and Visitation; Peter Abrahams, BOC programs and grants manager; Hector Rivera, BOC St. Thomas warden; Cira Burke and Desiree R. Lambertis of Inspire VI, LLC; Dr. Suzanne Darrow-Magras of 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 the participants, who gave testimonials describing how the program changed the way they thought about and motivated themselves about parenting from the inside out.
Attendees also enjoyed the melodious sounds and celebratory voices of What It Is Band, featuring 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 post-secondary 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, the release stated.
“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,” it said.
Communication skills and solving problems are two of the most important topics covered, according to the release. 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,” the release stated.