Of the 700 women being held in a Queensland correctional facility, a handful of them are mothers allowed to keep their young children with them on the inside.
Right now in the sunshine state there are 15 children living in prison with their mothers.
They are allowed to stay until the school-age of five and it is something that is encouraged by authorities.
“Those first five years, they’re very formative,” Jon Francis-Jones, head of Townsville Correctional Complex in north Queensland, said.
“The whole thrust of this is about maintaining family contact, that important mother-child bond. As for the negative impact on children, I think that’s completely outweighed by being separated from their mother.”
‘It gives you the incentive to do better’
Eight children, from three weeks old to three years, live in the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre’s Mothers and Babies Unit — a besser-block building with a shared common room, shared bathroom, separate quarters for each mother and her children, along with a small playground outside.
Surrounding the unit are other buildings which house regular prisoners in this medium-security.
Inmates are free to move around throughout the day.
The design is similar to that of a collection of university residential colleges, except surrounded by a razor wire fence.
Tamika (not her real name) has an 18-month-old boy and recently gave birth to a girl inside the prison.
She said having her children with her was a privilege and helped her think about a better future.
“My children are young, quite young so they won’t really remember this part of their lives and then for the most part they’ll be out,” she said.
“Having my children, it reminds me all the time that I don’t ever want to reoffend. It gives you the incentive to do better, to get down, do your time and get out.”
Group aims to give incarcerated mother confidence
Every Friday morning the mothers come together for a playgroup on the centre’s shaded basketball court.
Children who live on the outside are brought in to spend time with their mothers by workers from the charity Save the Children.
Sitting in a circle surrounded by toys and books the mothers are encouraged to play, sing and read with their children.
Early childhood educator Nikki Kerswell from the Townsville Library visits the playgroup once a month and it is her job to help the mothers with early education of their children.
“The aim is to help parents be confident in their ability to be their child’s first teacher, to reassure them what they’re doing is great, that singing to the child and reading to the child is really important,” she said.
Mr Francis-Jones said it was c.
“I think that it’s important that mothers are given that opportunity to understand there’s another way to live and hopefully when they go out those positive influences will shine through and will come to the fore,” Mr Francis-Jones said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who come back into prison themselves, then their children come back in. You see that intergenerational offending all the time, and it’s a crying shame.
“If we can address that in any shape or form then I think it’s responsible to do that.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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