Parenting for prisoners

Published:05 May 2020

Incarcerated men often experience multiple barriers when trying to attain the skills and knowledge required for positive fatherhood roles and relationships. However, thanks to a collaborate pilot project, a small group of incarcerated fathers have fostered confi dence, along with their educators, CQUniversity Midwifery students, Jessica Cullen writes.

I will be using the information provided in the future,” one prisoner said. “This project will provide younger prisoners with the opportunity to learn to be better fathers,” another said. This is just a snapshot of the positive feedback provided by the incarcerated men of the Capricornia Correctional Centre, Rockhampton region, who took part in the collaborate fatherhood pilot project – M2: Midwives for Men – in January 2019.

The project, implemented by CQUniversity, Queensland Corrective Services and Queensland Health, was an extension of the successful pilot project at Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre, and was established due to the prevalent, and well-documented challenges that incarcerated men are exposed to during their transition to fatherhood. It successfully improved paternal experiences of incarcerated men, through education and knowledge acquisition about fatherhood, and provided quality learning experiences for CQUni Midwifery students, through the development and provision of structured one-hour information sessions over a one-week period.

Student benefits

Project team member, CQUni Lecturer Bridget Ferguson says M2: Midwives for Men had a two-fold benefit for the six participating CQUni Midwifery students. “Not only were students able to develop educational sessions, based on six topics, they were also able to advance their clinical teaching skills by delivering this information face-to-face in a small group,” Bridget explains. “Students prepared and delivered educational sessions as an assessment item in the CQUni Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry) course, and followed their sessions with a demonstration of practical application on the knowledge provided. “For example, during the educational session – Newborn Behaviours and Needs – prisoners were taught the normal behaviours of newborn infants in relation to feeding and sleeping patterns and cognitive development. Routine care of the newborn infant was incorporated into this session.

“Shortly after, prisoners were required to demonstrate infant bathing, dressing, swaddling and safe sleeping techniques, in line with current guidelines, using the simulation equipment provided to them by CQUni Midwifery and Nursing academics, and Midwifery students. “This particular project allowed participating students to foster the integration of theory to real-life parental education, under supervision, providing them with an extraordinary tertiary education learning experience – one they won’t forget any time soon.” Other educational session topics included the transition to fatherhood; what to expect when she’s expecting and supporting new mothers; recognising a sick newborn; supporting optimal infant feeding; and, sexual and reproductive health.

Prisoners' benefits

Capricornia Correctional Centre Deputy General Manager, Superintendent Alexis Livingstone says all prisoners felt that the project met their expectations and five of the six participants would take part in future sessions, if they were offered. “Questions put forward by the prisoners were appropriate and participants generally appeared appreciative of the information and the opportunity to participate in the project, particularly the practical components such as cleaning baby feeding products and neonatal resuscitation,” she explains. “All prisoners reported that the project met their expectations and provided them with a better understanding of parenting and infant care. It was suggested that, moving forward, future sessions should cover the next stages of life – raising older children and teens, and how to navigate parenting as a single person. “Given that the findings prove the project was successful, and given its uniqueness in exploring the specific needs relating to pregnancy and the active role played by men pre, during and post pregnancy, we are interested in engaging in discussions regarding the continuation of this initiative. “This project could form part of the suite of programs already available to prisoners, relating to criminogenic needs, including domestic violence and family relationships.”


Alexis says prisoners also provided valuable feedback in terms of the limitations they experienced when nominating for the project. “Reports indicated that prisoners were slow to nominate for the project, and although it’s unclear as to exactly why, interestingly, prisoners expressed some confusion around the project’s name,” she says. “It seems that it was off-putting for some at first, presumably due to the confusion around what the session would cover, and whether the content would be relevant to them. It was suggested by the prisoners that the project title be changed to Parenting Young Children or something similar.” Bridget added to this limitation, saying that upon reflecting on the project, it was evident that the delivery of content was dependent upon the individual student’s capability to teach face-toface to a small group of people. “Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry) students are already Registered Nurses who hold a Nursing qualification, and have a degree of experience as health professionals who are required to engage in patient education and contribute to staff in-services,” she says. “Therefore, it was surprising that most students were significantly challenged by speaking to and engaging with a small group. It is, however, acknowledged that the students may have felt confronted and uncomfortable speaking to incarcerated men in a prison setting.

Future prospects

“The project’s successes and limitations, along with the newly established relationship between the participating organisations, will provide a strong foundation for the continuation, future development and expansion of the project, or adaptions for future student and prisoner cohorts,” says Bridget. “The transferability of project findings has potential depending on the context in which the project is delivered. Although correctional facilities differ across the country, the overarching characteristics and social determinants associated with male prisoners are somewhat consistent. These factors alone make this project worthwhile considering for implementation at other locations.”

The project team comprised of CQUni Lecturers Tanya Capper, Elspeth Wood, Bridget Ferguson and Belinda Anderson, and Senior Lecturer Adele Baldwin; Capricornia Correctional Centre Deputy General Manager Alexis Livingstone and Manager Offender Development Nicole McCance, and Queensland Health (Offender Health) Nurse Unit Manager Alan Wentworth.