Parenting, Prison, & Pups


Parenting, Prison, & Pups is a research partnership between The Good Dog Foundation, Pace University’s Dyson College – Department of Criminal Justice, Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), and the Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC).

The multi-year research study will test two different methods of providing inmate mothers with skills training in parenting. Both methods will use an evidenced-based (i.e. supported through research) teaching curriculum called Parenting Inside Out, and two of the four class groups will introduce Animal-Assisted Therapy using specially trained therapy dog teams.

Therapy dogs have been shown to benefit people in a number of different ways, including:

  • Reducing anxiety and stress and increasing well-being
  • Facilitating better communications
  • Enhancing the learning environment

We expect both methods of teaching parenting skills – with and without Animal-Assisted Therapy – to be of significant benefit to program participants as well as to their families. At the end of the program we will assess what, if any, differences there are in outcomes for each method we are using.

This is the first research program of its kind, and we are excited by the potential to be supportive of incarcerated mothers. Approximately 70% of female inmates are responsible for a minor child, affecting a population of at least 1.7 million children nationally. We hope our research will show that Parenting, Prison, & Pups can enhance the bonds between inmates and their kids, reduce recidivism, and mitigate inter-generational offending patterns.

For the Family Members of our Inmate Students

This course is designed as a skills training program for incarcerated parents and is held weekly over two months. The curriculum is rigorous and requires tremendous diligence from our students.

Only women who attend all of the sessions, actively participate, and complete all out-of-class assignments, will receive a certificate of completion and graduate from our program.

Our students are working on the following skills:

Implementing Effective Parenting Styles
Effective Speaking Skills
Effective Listening Skills
Effective Problem Solving skills
Engaging in Child Centered Play
Learning The Child’s Job and the Parent’s Job
Giving Effective Directions and Encouragement
Providing Structure Through Rules, Rewards and Consequences
Going Home: What to Expect with their Children
Managing Healthy Adult Relationships
Stress Management
CPR and First Aid Certification


If you have any questions about this program or the curriculum, please contact Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox, the Director and Lead Trainer of our program via e-mail:

Please Note:
No confidential information can be given about any of our individual students. We cannot confirm their attendance, but if you are invited to the graduation, it means your family member successfully completed the program.

Our next program at WCDOC will begin in Sept 2020.  Family members of our students will be personally invited by their loved one to attend our graduation ceremony Monday, November 3rd from 5:30 to 7:30PM.

Our next program at MCC will begin February 2020.  Family members of our students will be personally invited by their loved one to attend our graduation ceremony on Tuesday, April 7th from 5:00 to 7:00PM.

All visitors must be approved prior to admittance.

PPP is in the process of completing its third year at both jails.  Our first classes at both MCC (Metropolitan Correctional Center – a federal jail) & WCDOC (Westchester County Department of Correction – a county jail) proved beneficial for our prisoner mothers and for the Pace Students involved with the program.  Data collection and analysis is ongoing.

Benefits of PPP

  • Statistically significant decreases in depression and parental stress, as well as higher levels of self-esteem, for female prisoners at the federal jail
  • Statistically significant decreases in depression, as well as higher levels of parental knowledge for female prisoners at the county jail, who presented with much longer histories of drug use and criminal justice involvement
  • More confidence in parenting skills and better relationships with family members reported for both groups
  • Better communication skills reported for both groups
  • “It wasn’t just a regular parenting class, it was more than that.  It felt so good and it made me feel so good as a person”  (Prisoner Mom, WCDOC)          
  • “This class opened us up in ways that we normally wouldn’t. People were more responsive.  There were many benefits.  For me, personally, it was a benefit for me to think of myself as a mom and the methods I utilized. “ (Prisoner Mom, MCC)
  • Pace Students learned they could have a positive impact & wanted to engage in more public service
  • “This was more of a class on humanity as much as civic engagement or criminal justice. We got to see a population that is looked down upon, stigmatized, ridiculed, but hearing them really hit me in the heart” (Pace Student, Westchester)


News 12 Westchester reports on PPP:

Please watch a video of our PPP Director being interviewed on Newsbreakers:

Listen to our PPP staff and students in an Interview on 880 News with Sean Adams: using-dogs-help-incarcerated-mothers-parenting-skills


Other articles/links regarding Parenting, Prison & Pups​


Journal Articles

Collica-Cox, K.  (In Press).  Civic Engagement for the Future Criminal Justice Professional: Serving the Underserved in a Correctional Setting.  The  Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship.

Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G.  (In press for 2020).  Prisoner parenting:  Parenting from a federal jail.  The Journal of Correctional Health Care, 26 (2).

Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G.  (2019).  Parenting From a County Jail:  Parenting From Beyond the Bars.  Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 40 (7), 593-604.

Collica-Cox, K., & Furst, G.  (2019).  Implementing and Studying Successful Jail-Based Programming for Women:  A Case Study of Parenting, Prison & Pups – Waiting to ‘Let the  Dogs In’  Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5(2), 101-119.  ​

Programming for Women:  A Case Study of Parenting, Prison & Pups – Waiting to ‘Let the  Dogs In’  Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5 (2), 101-119.

Collica-Cox, K., & Fagin, B.  (2018).  Parenting, prison & pups:  Parenting with a purpose.  Corrections Today, 80 (3)24-32, 10. ​

Icons made by Freepik from and licensed by CC 3.0 BY