Natasha Prince, a 2nd year student in TCSPP’s D.C. forensic psychology program, admits that she used to be intimidated by prison detainees. “Even before meeting them,” she says, “I would read their case files and visualize tough, violent criminals who committed serious offenses ranging from robbery to first degree murder.”
But a TCSPP practicum opportunity working with adult offenders changed all that. In fact, helping those prisoners turn their lives around has become Natasha’s career calling. She says the opportunity to spend time with detainees in group and individual therapy sessions helped her understand and more fully value each prisoner’s background. At the same time, Natasha was also learning how to encourage them to make positive decisions in their lives moving forward.
Today, Natasha dedicates 24 hours a week to the correctional facility, applying theories and treatment approaches learned in forensic psychology classes to real-life situations. Her practicum supervisor encourages her to work independently and she has even established a new therapy group. “I saw a need to start a fathers’ group for detainees to discuss how to be supportive and active parents while being incarcerated,” Natasha explains. “Many prisoners have no contact with their children, and this can negatively impact the children in various ways.” During her weekly group sessions, Natasha covers various topics including domestic violence, substance abuse, and child development with a group of eight incarcerated fathers.
Natasha also provides community resources and assignments to her group, offering ways they can maintain, strengthen, or even establish relationships with their children while in jail. “One individual expressed concern about his relationship with his 5-month-old daughter,” says Natasha. “He was scared that he wouldn’t know how to parent a daughter and establish a bond. He is more familiar with raising a son.” Natasha encouraged this father to focus on his strengths—his artistic talent—and illustrate an alphabet book to give to his daughter once he is released. “Through this gift, his daughter will eventually know that he was thinking of her and trying to establish a bond with her while he was away,” explains Natasha.
Natasha’s experience at Prince George’s Department of Corrections has helped her gain confidence to establish connections with detainees and provide them the tools to create positive change in their lives—a cause that she hopes to continue to work for once she graduates.
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