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Connecting incarcerated mothers with their children.

An estimated 20,000 New Zealand children are affected by parental imprisonment.

Although the number of imprisoned men is much higher, there are roughly 800 women in New Zealand prisons at any given time. Meanwhile, the Families Commission reported in June 2015 that an estimated 87% of female prisoners are mothers.

Once inside, it can be difficult for mothers to maintain meaningful relationships with their children, while children with an imprisoned parent are known to be at risk of poor social outcomes.

Many mothers behind bars have little information about how their children are doing, where they are located or if siblings are living together - and simply lose connections to their children.

In 2015, Stacey Shortall decided to do something about this.

With a group of fellow volunteer female lawyers, Stacey has been visiting Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) in Wiri.

Called Mothers Project, they all give their time monthly - free of charge - to sit down and listen to the prisoners, talk to them, and help them maintain, or repair, relationships with their children on the outside.

Stacey, who is also the founder of the Who Did You Help Today Charitable Trust, has since expanded the project into Arohata and Rimutaka in Wellington, and Christchurch Women’s Prison - meaning the project now visits every women’s prison in New Zealand every month.

Since the Mothers Project started, over 265 imprisoned mothers - parents to over 800 children - have been helped one-on-one by a volunteer Mothers Project lawyer.

You can hear Stacey speaking to RNZ about Mothers Project here.

Photo supplied by Mothers Project.