Professor Leads New Parenting Class At Local Prison


Undergraduate Alexa Jackson (left) and Dr. Idethia Harvey (right) showcase a parenting exercise used in class.
Written by: Justin Ikpo (cehdcomm@tamu.edu)
Post date: October 25, 2016

A number of HLKN representatives have spearheaded a new parenting class for inmates at the Bryan Federal Prison Camp. The class is a result of the continuing partnership between the College of Education and Human Development and the prison to focus on different needs for its female inmates.

The origin of the class began after the 2015 Spring Health Expo, which graduate student Megan Hamilton Giebert and Dr. Lisako McKyer helped start. Dr. Idethia Harvey, in conjunction with former undergraduate Laura Nguyen '15 and undergraduate Alexa Jackson, developed the curriculum and taught the parenting class after meeting with officials at the prison who believed there to be a strong parenting need for the female inmates.

“It’s a six-week course that focuses on access right and responsibilities, communication, understanding Texas parenting laws, relationship building, and re-entry into society,” Dr. Harvey said. “The prison really wanted someone from the community to come in and help this unmet need.”

The Bryan Prison Camp is one of only two female camps of this kind left in the United States, according to Dr. Harvey. Unlike others, the goal for this prison is to provide rehabilitation for inmates and giving them new skillsets to achieve that.

“Being in this particular prison is a privilege and an opportunity for inmates to change their lives, get the right services, and rebuild past relationships,” Dr. Harvey said.

The prison houses a number of amenities including libraries, arts and crafts services, and classes in cosmetology and CDL certification. Dr. Harvey and the two students used supplementary materials to create the curriculum for the class.

The parenting class is held weekly throughout the six weeks. During which, inmates are able to participate in interactive discussions. As inmates serve time, they are often met with the challenge of maintaining proper communication with their children.

“Many inmates face obstacles in their role as a parent behind bars including accepting that their choices caused their children to suffer severe consequences based on their behaviors,” she said.

The discussions have been helpful in bridging such gaps inmates, Dr. Harvey said.

“The need for parenting is important and those who still have a relationship with their children can see that,” she said. “The classes have not only helped in showing inmates that people care, but they have also been helpful in easing the minds of inmates and their reality of living behind bars.”

The efforts put forth in the parenting classes work in conjunction with the prison’s upcoming Spring Health Expo, said Giebert. For its third year, the expo will pick up where the parenting classes leave off by providing additional health educational classes for inmates at the prison.

“This partnership is very important,” Giebert said. “Health is for everybody — whether you are a prisoner or not — and I think these services remind us of that.”