6 May 2016

Inside a prison on Mother's Day

10:42 am on 6 May 2016

Women at Wellington's women's Arohata prison are working to make the most of Mother's Day this Sunday.

On any given day, around 20,000 children have a parent in prison - and a high percentage of the 75 women currently at Arohata are mothers. More than 600 women are behind bars in New Zealand.

A Mother’s Day banner made by inmates for the visiting room.

A Mother's Day banner made by inmates for the visiting room. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

For the first time, Arohata is making the day special with the help of inmates, who have created cards, baked cakes and designed a festive banner for the day.

A mother of two, who is expecting to spend another six years in jail, said special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and Mother's Day can be difficult.

"This is my second Mother's Day in jail. It's hard but it will be good this year that we're making a big deal out of it."

She said both her children were coming to visit on Sunday.

"I know my kids are okay but it's good to be able to see them, and see all the progress they're making, because they grow up so fast."

A 29-year-old inmate who has been at the jail for two years was also helping with the preparations. "It's nice to be able to do it for all the mums. The ladies they can't wait to see their families and their kids for Mothers Day it's quite special."

She said Mother's Day - along with custard at Christmas - were among the things prisoners most looked forward to.

Prisoners in Rimutaka's Print Shop have designed and printed Mother's Day colouring-in cards for  mothers and children to complete together.

Mother's Day colouring-in cards have been produced by imates at Wellington's Rimutaka men's prison. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Arohata assistant prison director Mathew Allen said it was shaping up to be one of their busiest days yet.

"We will have children, in with the mothers, filling in some cards that we've had created by the prisoners at Rimutaka prison. There will also be face painting for the children and other activities.

"The team have been working really hard with the women promoting Mother's Day on the site."

Mr Allen said there would be more than double the usual number of visits and up to three times the number of children.

Mathew Allen, Assistant Prison Director, Arohata and Rimutaka prisons.

Matthew Allen expects more than double the usual number of visitors on Mother's Day. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Acting principal Corrections officer Stephen Bailey said being separated from family was hard on both the parent and child.

"It's not their fault that their parents are in prison, that their mums in prison, so it is difficult.

"I guess days like this just mean that it's an opportunity for the kids to get to spend some time with Mum."

Acting principal corrections officer  Stephen Bailey

Stephen Bailey said the day was an opportunity for the kids to spend time with their mothers. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Mr Bailey said building and maintaining relationships was an important part of rehabilitation for offenders.