Parenting Programs for Inmates Have HUGE Impact


The 7th Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall and Captain William Cope, assistant administrator for the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center are among the nation’s law enforcement professionals who support parenting classes for inmates. They have seen how effective the classes can be.

“Providing quality parenting programs for our inmates is an important component of preventing the cycle of child abuse and incarceration for our next generation,” said Hall. His staff works with The Family Center to offer weekly parenting classes for men and women inmates at the Davidson County Correctional Development Center.  TFC staff also teaches parenting classes at the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center and the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center.

Hall and Cope understand the correlation between incarceration and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In the late 1990’s, the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente conducted landmark research called the Adverse Childhood Experience study.  Incarceration of a parent was one of 10 types of childhood adversity highlighted in the study.  “Rates of childhood and adult trauma are very high among those incarcerated,” said Cope.  “To be serious about rehabilitation is to be serious in understanding the connection between ACEs and criminogenic risk factors,” he continued. 

Having a jailed parent can lead to a toxic stress response in a child, causing the body’s stress systems to go on “high alert” and remain there. Many children’s futures are undermined when stress damages the brain, affecting learning, memory, emotional control, planning, understanding consequences and thinking abstractly.

Middle Tennessee jail inmates enrolled in a TFC-led parenting class learn about the ACE study and then complete a questionnaire to learn about how their own adverse childhood experiences have affected their lives.  Currently, 55 percent of TFC parents who are in jail also had a parent who was incarcerated. Addressing their ACEs not only helps rehabilitate the inmate but also benefits their children by helping to halt the multi-generational cycles of incarceration. Hall has witnessed positive results in Davidson County as Cope has in Rutherford County.  “Inmates report improved knowledge of the importance of parenthood, innovative parenting skills and enhanced contact with their children as being very beneficial to building stronger family relationships.  Over the years, TFC parenting classes have helped reduce recidivism,” Cope concluded.

Classes attract national attention

The Family Center’s jail-based classes for incarcerated parents were spotlighted in May on ACESTooHigh. The news site reports on research and best practices related to reversing the negative affects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Read the article...