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University of Wisconsin–Madison

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

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.

Principal Investigator

  • Julie Poehlmann-Tynan
    Professor of Human Ecology, and Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Center for Child and Family Well-being, and the Center for Healthy Minds


  • Michael Massoglia
    Professor of Sociology


  • Pajarita Charles
    Assistant Professor of Social Work
  • Karen Holden
    Professor Emeritus in Consumer Science
  • Margaret Kerr
    Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Lesley Sager
    Faculty Associate in Design Studies