Parenting Behind Bars - A Novel Idea Program

Posted By:  Liz Goodrich
Date Posted:  3/22/2006

As part of the Deschutes Public Library’s A Novel Idea … Read Together the community-reading project offered by the Deschutes Public Library and the Deschutes Public Library Foundation, the Family Resource Center presents a program titled, “Parenting Behind Bars,” on Saturday, April 1 at 2:00 p.m. in the Brooks Room of the Bend Public Library. The presentation is free and open to the public.

This year’s selected novel, González & Daughter Trucking Co. by María Amparo Escandón is almost entirely set in a Mexicali prison for women. Like incarcerated women around the world, the characters in the novel struggle to keep their families together in spite of their prison sentence. Women in the Deschutes County jail face the same challenges. In hopes of helping women inmates successfully transition back into their roles as mothers and productive members of our communities, the Central Oregon Family Resource Center has been offering a pre-release class called Parenting Behind Bars to women in the county jail. The program is sponsored by a Sagebrush Classic Grant through Deschutes Children's Foundation and has been approved by the Deschutes County Sheriffs Department and has their full endorsement. It is just one of many parenting programs offered through the Resource Center.

According to Executive Director, Vicki Ertle, incarceration affects families in many ways, but research shows the impact weighs most heavily on children. “Children suffer psychologically from the lost bond with the parent and are more apt to present delinquent and antisocial behavior,” says Ertle. She sites the growing use of methamphetamine as the most significant factor in public health and law enforcement challenges. “100% of terminations of parental rights by child protective services last year were related to methamphetamine,” says Ertle. The Parenting Behind Bars program helps participants make the connection between their drug use and the dangerous impact it has on their children, their family and their community. The majority of parents in the Parenting Behind Bars classes are in jail because of alcohol and other

drug related charges. Corrections and social services providers like the Family Resource Center realize that pre-release programs such as inmate parenting classes are one critical way to provide better outcomes for both inmates and their
children. Ertle says, “parenting programs in jail increase the odds of better outcomes for the family. Parents coming out of jail are challenged on many fronts. Our programs teach skills in self-care, problem solving, anger management, and how to build healthy support networks.” The life skills Ertle and her staff teach the incarcerated parents can help develop more self-sufficiency and that hopefully translates to less criminal behavior.

During the month of April, the Library will be hosting a variety of events in support of the Novel Idea … Read Together project. The programs are designed to give residents of Deschutes County a context for better understanding this year’s selected novel. The story of Libertad, her father and her fellow inmates at the Mexicali Penal Institution for Women, is a story that has feet planted firmly on both sides of the U.S. and Mexican boarder and explores the themes of family, freedom, redemption and the power of storytelling. For a complete listing of Novel Idea programs, please call 312-1032.

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