ACT for Incarcerated Fathers

On March 9th, 2003 the Partnership for Violence Free Families began a new avenue of program delivery with the ACT Against Violence Program.

Since 2003 parents, early childhood educators and social service providers residing and working in Allen County, Ohio have participated in the ACT Program. As the ACT Program became more known throughout the community, they were invited to hold parenting sessions for the inmates at Allen Correctional Institution (ACI), a medium security state prison.

The pilot program, led by ACT facilitator Donna Dickman, began in March and concluded after eight weeks of one-hour sessions. The degree of success was immense, both from the response from the participating inmates, and from the reports of the ACI officials.

Through verbal and written reflections, it was apparent to the facilitators that the participants gained a large amount of knowledge and that beliefs held about child rearing had changed. The ACI officials greatly supported the curriculum of the ACT Program and even more, appreciated the changes in behavior they saw with the pilot group. ACI has now completed the paperwork necessary to make the ACT Program a RAP Program (Reentry Approved Program) with the State of Ohio, making it a core course in one of the seven domains of information ex-offenders are required to take before release.

"Jay", an inmate at Allen Correctional Institution, reflected with his class upon the lessons learned during the ACT Program he participated in over eight week sessions. Jay has five daughters at home, and his wife is assisted by her father in helping raise the girls. During a phone conversation that week, Jay found that his pre-teen daughter was found kissing her boyfriend in school and the school called home to report it.

The mother handed the discipline over to her father who then spanked the girl as punishment. Upon hearing this from the mother, Jay explained why that wasn't the best thing to do and informed his wife how he has learned differently. He then asked to speak to his father-in-law and repeated the information. Jay said that before they got off the phone, both he and his father-in-law were crying, and came to an agreement on the best disciplinary path to take without the use of physical punishment. At this time, Jay has requested and is being considered for training as an ACT Facilitator to assist with future in-house ACT Programs.

Due to the success of the pilot course, Dickman arranged a second round with fourteen inmates participating. After feedback from facilitators and participants alike reflecting the desire for more time, the second round was expanded to a ten-week program. Ten inmates signed up for the waiting list for the September 2006 sessions.