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Improving Outcomes for Incarcerated Parents and their Children through Enhanced Jail Visits

Center faculty member Julie Poehlmann-Tynan and faculty from five departments across campus have received highly competitive funding from an initiative at UW–Madison called UW2020. The researchers have been awarded more than $340,000 over two years to explore transformative change focused on parent-child interactions, and ultimately the lifelong impact on children with incarcerated mothers and fathers.

This project will develop an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to bring about transformative change in the lives of incarcerated mothers and fathers, at-home caregivers and children through enhanced visits. 

Although family visits in jail are a key opportunity to maintain parent-child relationships and decrease recidivism for incarcerated individuals, several studies have linked children’s visits to jails with elevated child behavior problems and anxiety. Low-income children of color are disproportionately affected by parental incarceration.

The short-term innovation is to develop and examine the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of a multi-level intervention strategy to improve family visits between children and a parent who has been incarcerated in the Dane County Jail in Wisconsin.  

The intervention will focus on fostering positive family interactions through coaching during jail and home visits, creating family-friendly and child-appropriate spaces for jail visits, and promoting other correctional systems and facility-level changes that support child-parent contact such as offering in-home visits via laptops. The long-term goal is to evaluate a well-designed intervention to improve behavioral outcomes and family relationships for children with incarcerated parents as well as reduce recidivism for incarcerated fathers and mothers.

People Working on This Study

Julie Poehlmann
Julie Poehlmann-Tynan
Dorothy A. O’Brien Professorship in Human Ecology, Center for Healthy Minds
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