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In-prison family worker Tracy (left) and community-based family worker Trish outside CatholicCare’s Tasmania offices (Hobart Archdiocese)

A CatholicCare Tasmania program is helping prisoners strengthen their relationships with their children and build positive connections with their families and communities. Source: Hobart Archdiocese.

In December 2021, a young single mother was taken into custody and placed on remand in the Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison. By early February, a referral had come through to The Francis Program.

“She had never been separated from her children before, and she had not seen them or spoken to them since the day she was arrested six weeks earlier,” in-prison family worker Tracy explained.

“After a further four weeks of liaison with Child Safety Services, the grandmother and staff at the (children’s) new school, the first zoom call was conducted with support of the school social worker, reuniting the mother and children for the first time in two and a half months.”

The Francis Program, self-funded by CatholicCare Tasmania, assists incarcerated parents and caregivers in strengthening relationships with their children and building positive connections with their families and communities.

“It is an example of the Church’s commitment to supporting the most vulnerable and very much in line with our values and mission here at CatholicCare,” program team leader Denise Leonard said.

The program was inspired by Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous and Pope Francis. It meets a clearly identified service gap by responding to the family support need of prisoners either on remand or serving less than a six-month sentence within the Tasmanian prison system.

The importance of building these parent-child relationships is paramount, according to Community-based Family Worker Trish.

“Research shows that individuals who are incarcerated and receive family visits are 39 per cent less likely to reoffend,” she said. “Relationships are fundamentally important if people are to change.”


Program provides relationship support to prisoners and families (Hobart Archdiocese)