Prison programme not for Otago

An Invercargill Prison programme to help incarcerated fathers bond with their children is not being considered for the Otago Corrections Facility.

Last week, the Department of Corrections opened a new child-friendly, low-security visitors area at Invercargill Prison.

It was part of a programme to support communication and relationships between fathers in jail and their young children.

The new visitors area at Invercargill Prison was designed to engage fathers and their children in activities and conversation that helped strengthen relationships, build parenting skills and prepare them for release.

A Corrections spokeswoman said the programme was not being considered for implementation at the Otago Corrections Facility, but other initiatives were being developed to help Otago prisoners' rehabilitation.

Invercargill Prison manager Stu Davie said prison visiting areas were commonly stark, barren spaces and it was difficult to balance security measures with children's needs for family interaction.

Prisoners were looking forward to using the new facility with their children, he said.

Book, toys, arts and crafts will be included in the children's visitor centre, which will be open every Sunday.

The initiative was supported by the charity Pillars, which advocated for children of prisoners.

Pillars chief executive Verna McFelin said a stable, supportive family environment throughout a person's jail sentence was a key factor in the prevention of reoffending.

Even in jail, father-child relations could benefit the child, she said.

Without intervention, children of prisoners are six or seven times more likely to become prisoners than the children of non-prisoners.

About 20,000 New Zealand children have at least one parent in prison.

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