UCI News

Million-dollar grant supports research on family engagement among the incarcerated

Social ecology team to lead the comprehensive assessment

May 4, 2021
Million-dollar grant supports research on family engagement among the incarcerated
From left: Nancy Rodriguez, Elizabeth Cauffman and Susan Turner. UCI School of Social Ecology

A $1.1 million grant from Arnold Ventures will fund research on an expansive examination of family engagement among incarcerated persons and correctional staff who are responsible for all aspects of family contact and engagement.

“By conducting a comprehensive assessment of the family engagement landscape, the project will lead to greater transparency and accessibility, and enable correctional systems to pursue and implement efforts that lead to healthy family engagements and support for those who live and work in prisons,” says Nancy Rodriguez, professor of criminology, law and society. “Our work will lead to greater transparency of policies, practices, and programs of family engagement across state systems. This information will allow for greater access to family members and programs that support family engagement.”

Rodriguez is conducting the research with colleagues Elizabeth Cauffman, professor of psychological science, and Susan Turner, professor of criminology, law and society. As part of their project, the researchers will study the perceptions and discretion of key correctional personnel who directly oversee family engagement opportunities and processes and assess how their views and decisions relate to outcomes such as job satisfaction and burnout.

Research will commence this summer. Findings will inform correctional policy and practice by leveraging the ongoing work of the Prison Violence Consortium, a collaboration of researchers and administrators of seven state prison systems, dedicated to reducing and preventing prison violence.

“We are confident that information from this research will move and transform prison systems in important ways,” Rodriguez notes.

“The degree to which opportunities for contact and family-centric initiatives effectively reach and serve incarcerated persons will impact the degree to which incarcerated persons are equipped to succeed in the community,” she explains. “Identifying the institutional and interpersonal barriers to all forms of contact and engagement will allow for removal or easing of such barriers.”

Last year, Arnold Ventures awarded Rodriguez a $2.7 million gift to conduct the most comprehensive study to date into the sources and consequences of prison violence in seven states. Findings from the three-year, multi-strategy investigation will be used to create an evidence-based framework for reducing and preventing incidents of violence.

Arnold Ventures is a Houston-based philanthropy with a core mission of investing in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. Arnold Ventures’ investments are guided by a belief in data-driven policymaking and a desire to increase the effectiveness of social spending through the use of rigorous evidence about what works. This includes supporting bold ideas to safely reduce prison populations, improve culture and conditions, increase transparency and bolster prospects for successful reintegration.

If you want learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu. Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Social Ecology plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting: https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/uci-school-of-social-ecology.