Children With Incarcerated Parents Wellness Program

Academic Enrichment Grant 2020-2021 Project Summary

Dr. Louis Bourgeois

VOX Press • Oxford, MS

As a natural outgrowth of our prison education program, we are seeking support this year to implement our Children with Incarcerated Parents wellness Program. Parental incarceration negatively impacts children in all areas of life — from diminished academic achievement to decreased social interaction to debilitating strains on children’s overall physical and emotional well-being. Children of incarcerated parents are significantly more likely than are other children to drop out of school, to have difficulty securing employment once their education is complete, to participate in abusive and violent relationships, and to face arrest and incarceration themselves as adults. Our program is the only one in Mississippi that allows both incarcerated parents and their children to learn together. The goal of the project is to improve fundamental reading and writing skills for 100 inmate parents and 100 children who have one or both parents serving long-term sentences in the state of Mississippi. The program objective is to improve GED test taking scores for the adult inmate students and will improve overall academic performance for the children of the inmate students. In recent years, a growing number of states have funded and implemented programs to address the unique social, academic and emotional needs of children of incarcerated parents. In Mississippi, no such programming has been funded or proposed by state government, however, and the children of incarcerated parents are forced to cope with the challenges of poverty, social ostracism and absence of reliable adult supervision without any type of special support from their schools, communities or state governments. Imprisonment has had a disproportionately devastating impact on the region, with one in every five persons reporting a relative in jail or prison. The region’s literacy rate is among the lowest in the nation, with only 70 percent of adults achieving a high school education and illiteracy rates reaching as high as 30 percent in some school districts.The workshops of VOX’s Children with Incarcerated Parents Wellness program, will take place once a week during prison visitation hours for 3 groups of female inmates and their children a Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi, and 3 groups of female inmates and their children at Washington County Correctional Facility in Greenville, Mississippi; offering students an alternating balance of direct instruction, facilitated classroom discussion and individual creative assignments. Each week begins with the assignment of readings in literary and non-fiction texts identified by the instructor, followed by group discussions and interpretations of the respective materials. Readings and discussions are then followed by creative writing assignments related to the type of literature (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) represented in that week’s reading and discussion. Through the repeated process of reading, group discussion and personal expression, students are encouraged to develop technical and creative skills that are informed by both their exposure to and interpretation of traditional literature and their creative reflection on their own personal interests and experiences.

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