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Table 3 Included studies and publications

From: The needs and experiences of mothers while in prison and post-release: a rapid review and thematic synthesis

Study (Included publications)



Study design (Methods of data collection)


Data analysis

Descriptive Studies

 Aboriginal Women with Dependent Children Leaving Prison Project (Baldry, 2009; Baldry etal., 2008a; Baldry etal., 2008b)

Western Sydney, New South Wales

To understand the needs of Aboriginal women exiting prison and their dependent children and the availability of services to address those needs

Qualitative study (interviews or focus groups with mothers and interviews with service providers)

n = 17 Aboriginal mothers < 6 months after exiting prison; Unknown number of agency and service providers

Qualitative analysis guided by the project logic

 Mental illness as a mediator of mothers’ participation in the Victorian Criminal Justice System (Burgess, 2016)


To examine the experiences of mothers with a mental illness, as they navigate Victoria’s criminal justice system, to plan the care of their children.

Exploratory embedded mixed methods approach (structured interview schedule)

n = 38 mothers in prison (n = 19 with and n = 19 without mental illness) n = 2 mothers released < 18 months ago (n = 1 with and n = 1 without mental illness); 4/38 mothers identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Quantitative data: descriptive Qualitative: thematic and content analysis

 Children: Unintended victims of legal process – A review of policies and legislation affecting children with incarcerated parents (Flat Out Inc. and VACRO, 2006)


To provide insight into the subjective effects of current Victorian laws and policies, regarding the children of women prisoners, on those who are enacting them, and those who are acted upon.

Qualitative study (qualitative interviews)

n = 15 mothers (12 in prison, 3 in community < 18 months post release), n = 12 police officers, n = 11 solicitors, n = 6 judges and magistrates, n = 12 interim carers of children of imprisoned women; 0/15 mothers identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Qualitative analysis (details not described)

 The impact of maternal incarceration on adolescent children (Flynn, 2008, 2011, 2012; Flynn, 2013; Perry et al., 2011)


To examine the impact of maternal imprisonment on 20 young people, aged between 10 and 18 years, whose mothers were incarcerated in the two women’s prisons in Victoria.

Qualitative study (in-depth semi-structured interviews)

Data from 20 adolescents was gathered from: n = 15 mothers (1–18 months post- release), n = 14 adolescent children (10–18 years); n = 3 professionals; 1/20 children reported Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage

Thematic analysis

 I’m still your Mum: Mothering inside and outside prison (Stone, 2013) (Stone etal., 2015; Stone etal., 2017)


To understand the effect which maternal incarceration has on the relationships between incarcerated mothers and their children.

Qualitative study (semi- structured in-depth interviews with professionals; discussions and meetings with key stakeholders)

n = 6 professionals who case-managed mothers while in prison and upon their release; meetings and discussions with n = 24 key stakeholders who advocate for incarcerated mothers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of participants not reported.

Thematic analysis using a standpoint feminism perspective

 Maternal incarceration, child protection, and infant mortality: a descriptive study of infant children of women prisoners in Western Australia (Dowell et al., 2018)

Western Australia

To describe the exposure of children aged less than 2 years to maternal imprisonment in Western Australia, their contact with child protection services, and infant mortality rate in Western Australia

Retrospective longitudinal cohort study using linked data

All children born in Western Australia between 1985 and 2011 whose biological mother was imprisoned at least once between their date of birth and 18th-birthday and a randomly sampled comparison group with no imprisonment match on age, gender and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.

Statistical analysis, using a log-binomial regression model

 Women and Gestation in Prison: Becoming a ‘Good Enough Mother’(Walker et al., 2019; Walker, 2018)

7 prisons across the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania

To explain the institutional context for pregnancy and motherhood in prison and examine the “archaelogy” of current approaches

Qualitative (In depth interviews)

n = 25 imprisoned women (pregnant or had been pregnant in prison during the preceding 2 years); n = 14 correctional services staff; 7/25 women identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Social-structural Grounded Theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1997)

Program evaluation

 Sisters Inside Health Support Program Evaluation (ESSQ Community Services Consultancy, 2018)


To evaluate the Sisters Inside throughcare post-release program focusing on women with dependent children

Participatory Action Research (interviews with support program workers, written feedback from program participants and monitoring data)

n = 6 Health Support Program workers; n = 13 program participants and program monitoring data from n = 109 participants; 4/6 Health Support workers and 73/109 program participants identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Not documented

 Evaluation of the Parents Under Pressure program (Frye & Dawe, 2008)


To determine whether women within the correctional system were prepared to engage with an intensive, individualised parenting program (PUP), and whether participation in such a program was associated with improved levels of maternal functioning and child behaviour.

Mixed methods pre post study (semi-structured interview and self-report questionnaires at baseline, post intervention and 3 months post intervention)

n = 12 mothers and their 12 children; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of participants not reported; 49/90 program participants identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

ANOVA, comparison of scores to normative data.

 Evaluation of Mothering at a Distance Evaluation 1 (Perry et al., 2009; Perry et al., 2011)

New South Wales

Evaluation of the development, implementation, effectiveness and sustainability of the Mothering at a Distance program

Mixed methods using appreciative inquiry approach (quantitative: participants, completion rates; data from the Department of Corrective Services’ Offender Integrated Management System (OIMS); qualitative: narrative-based interviews pre- and post-program and questionnaires at the completion of the group and 8 weeks; Facilitators: post- program interview and questionnaires)

n = 90 program participants; n = 30 facilitators; 49/90 program participants identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Quantitative: descriptive statistics; qualitative: content analysis using a priori themes

 Evaluation of Mothering at a Distance Evaluation 2 (Rossiter et al., 2016)


To generate new knowledge about incarcerated parents and their parenting skills and knowledge, their learning and support needs, while in prison and when they return to the community. To evaluate two parenting programs, Mothering at a Distance (for Aboriginal mothers) and Hey Dad for Indigenous Dads, Uncles and Pops. (Only the evaluation of Mothering at a distance included in this review)

Mixed methods (survey of mothers in custody, interviews with stakeholders and review of evaluation data)

n = 64 mothers in prison; n = 19 key stakeholders; 52.3% of mothers identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Not documented

 Evaluation of Mothering at a Distance Evaluation 3 (Rossiter et al., 2015, b)


To identify participants’ views on impact of the Mothering at a Distance program.

Mixed-methods study (open and closed questions in a survey for program participants)

n = 135 mothers; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of participants not reported.

Quantitative: descriptive statistics; Qualitative: in depth engagement and development of themes