Maddie’s five-year-old son, Harvey, had been living with her at Tarrengower Prison for four years. But he was moved to live with his grandmother, in a small, rural community. This was a big change for Harvey, so Maddie was approved to use video visits to keep in touch with her son while she was in prison.

This went well for Harvey. He’d started school, and loved showing his mum his school uniform and his homework. He showed her when he lost a tooth and started growing a new one, and they regularly measured his height against the wall as he grew.

We know video visits aren’t just a second best option for those who can’t visit their loved ones in prison – VACRO’s research shows that they are different, but equally important.

For kids like Harvey, who live far from the prison, an in-person visit can be stressful, uncomfortable, and take a lot of time. There isn't a lot of privacy, and the prison environment can be inhospitable. It's difficult to have natural parent-child interactions in a place like that. 

But video visits help overcome this environmental barrier. They let mums like Maddie integrate into their kids' daily lives. Harvey can chat with his mum in a place where he feels safe and comfortable, at the time of day that suits his routine. He can show her his toys, play songs he likes, and eat his lunch while they take. A video visit can never replace an in-person visit, but they're an important addition.

In Maddie’s case, the video visits were so beneficial to her relationship with Harvey that she requested more frequent calls. Even though she and Harvey no longer live together, they still have a strong, close and loving relationship.

Maddie’s story shows how family connection doesn’t stop when a person goes to prison. The resilience she showed in starting video visits after her son moved away shows what’s possible when families are supported to come together in new ways. When Maddie leaves prison, she’ll have a loving family to return home to.

More information about VACRO's family work