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Mothers Offending Against Their Role: An Australian Experience

NCJ Number
Women and Criminal Justice Volume: 9 Issue: 4 Dated: 1998 Pages: 47-67
A Farrell
Date Published
21 pages
This study investigated the impact of the prison environment or institutional ecology on incarcerated mothers and their young children, aged birth to 8 years (that is, mothers whose children lived with them in custody and mothers who are separated from their children) in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria (Australia), and England.
This study was the Australian component of an international comparative policy study, "Incarcerated Mothers and Children: Impact of Prison Environments" (IMCIPE). The study drew on data from policy analyses; interviews with policy makers, inmate mothers, and custodial and non-custodial staff; and observations within six women's prisons and their respective correctional authorities in the three Australian States. Within the three Australian prison systems reviewed, each had some official family visits. There was, however, no financial assistance for families to visit and make telephone calls from the outside. The only practical support was an escort service provided by a community agency. This program provided volunteer escorts for the children to and from prison visits. There was ample evidence to indicate that many women were relatively geographically isolated from their families. The high cost of public transport and car travel was prohibitive for many inmate families. The study concludes that current prison policies are antithetical to the needs of inmate mothers and their families, as they fail to provide adequate opportunities for the maintenance of family ties. There should be policy reform that allows opportunities for home detention or community service for the purpose of maintaining family ties. Also, there should be practical support for the inmate mother within and outside the prison, especially financial support for grandparents and outside caregivers to make visits to distant prisons. 3 tables, 2 figures, and 46 references