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 initial phase of the partnership, from 2015-2019, was designed to test two different methods of providing inmate mothers with skills training in parenting. Both methods use an evidenced-based (i.e. supported through research) teaching curriculum called Parenting Inside Out. The test groups introduced Animal-Assisted Therapy using specially trained therapy dog teams. Updated information on the study is available on the Pace website at:  https://ppp.blogs.pace.edu

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


Study results to date indicate that both methods of teaching parenting skills – with and without Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) – are of significant benefit to program participants and their families. However, those prisoners enrolled in the courses with AAT appear to achieve deeper levels of trust, engagement and learning retention. The therapy dogs are establishing a safe environment for prisoners to process trauma-based feelings and provide a safe environment for children during in-prison reunification. Data collection and analysis is ongoing.

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.


Course Details

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

Prisoner-students work 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




Please contact Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox via e-mail:  kcollicacox@pace.edu


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 the PPP Director being interviewed on Newsbreakers: http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/riua9

Listen to PPP staff and students in an Interview on 880 News with Sean Adams:  https://wcbs880.radio.com/articles/stories-main-street- using-dogs-help-incarcerated-mothers-parenting-skills


Other articles/links regarding Parenting, Prison & Pups 













Journal Articles

Collica-Cox, K.  (2020).  Civic Engagement for the Future Criminal Justice Professional: Serving the Underserved in a Correctional Setting.  The  Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 12 (2), 10-21.  https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/jces/vol12/iss2/3

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. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01612840.2019.1565877?af=R&journalCode=imhn20

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.  https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/jper/vol5/iss2/4/

Collica-Cox, K., & Fagin, B.  (2018).  Parenting, prison & pups:  Parenting with a purpose.  Corrections Today, 80 (3)24-32, 10.  http://www.aca.org/ACA_Prod_IMIS/DOCS/Corrections%20Today/2018%20Articles/May%202018/Collica-Cox_Fagin.pdf ​