A comparative policy study of incarcerated mothers and their young children in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and England

Farrell, Margaret Ann. (1996). A comparative policy study of incarcerated mothers and their young children in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and England PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Farrell, Margaret Ann.
Thesis Title A comparative policy study of incarcerated mothers and their young children in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and England
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1996
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 417
Language eng
Subjects 160202 Correctional Theory, Offender Treatment and Rehabilitation
160603 Comparative Government and Politics
Formatted abstract The research reported in this thesis is a policy study of the impact of imprisonment on incarcerated mothers and their young children, aged birth to eight years (that is, mothers whose children live with them in custody and mothers who are separated from their children), in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and England. The study investigated the experience of incarcerated mothers and their young children, the relationship between the prison environment or institutional ecology on the relationships of these mothers with their children. The study looked at both the prison system which makes and implements policies affecting families, and the institutional ecology of different prisons.

The research consisted of a cycle of policy analyses; interviews with policymakers, with inmate mothers, and with custodial and non-custodial staff; and observations within nine women's prisons and their respective correctional authorities in Australia and England.

The study has used an extended ecological metaphor to examine the institutional ecology of the prisons and the prisons' ecological niches, that is, the prison Mother and Baby Units, the prison wings which house them or the visits areas where they meet for visits. The experience of incarcerated mothers and their young children embedded in these ecologies was examined with reference to the dimensions of their mutual attachment, the support from within and external to the ecology for their ongoing relationship, their shared routines of food and eating and their play experiences. The study scrutinised the policy process of translating conventional or received wisdom into practice, rather than basing policies on tested wisdom concerning these dimensions.

The findings support the theory that the institutional ecology of the prison system as such, and of individual prisons, shows a mismatch between the male-constructed prison environment and the actual needs of inmate mothers and their children. The philosophy of incarceration, the mode of containment in prisons, prison rules and regulations were all found to run counter to the actual range of needs of incarcerated mothers and of their young children.

This study is seen as timely because it fills a gap in research literature on maternal incarceration; it provides a dual focus on inmate mothers and their young children; and it responds to a policy climate conducive to serious policy review and human rights discourse within the four prison systems under investigation.
Keyword Women prisoners -- Family relationships -- Government policy
Children of prisoners -- Government policy
Women prisoners -- Great Britain
Women prisoners -- Queensland
Women prisoners -- Victoria
Women prisoners -- New South Wales
Children of prisoners -- Great Britain
Children of prisoners -- Queensland
Children of prisoners -- Victoria
Children of prisoners -- New South Wales
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Variant title: Policy study of incarcerated mothers and their young children

 
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