The women's prison where inmates aren't locked up

For the advocates of tough sentencing, the Boronia women's prison in Perth represents everything that's wrong with the criminal justice system: too soft, not enough of a deterrent for those who break the law.

The manicured gardens with park benches, the comfortable accommodation with chic artwork, and the presence of the women's young children offer a standard of living that would be beyond many innocent people on the 'outside'.

But for the inmates at this 'pre-release' facility, and the staff that oversee them, it represents a genuine attempt at rehabilitation, and does much more than traditional prisons to prepare the women for a life of work and responsibility after release.  

The one-off prison facility has been running for 15 years and is home to up to 95 women who live under the watchful eye of Superintendent Jan Allen who believes in a 'hands on' and 'community and family minded' approach to keeping women behind bars.

Boronia jail, pictured, is a unique women's jail in Perth, Western Australia, which helps women get ready to live in the outside world

Boronia jail, pictured, is a unique women's jail in Perth, Western Australia, which helps women get ready to live in the outside world

These three women are peer support prisoners - they help new women coming through and act as mentors for the other residents

These three women are peer support prisoners - they help new women coming through and act as mentors for the other residents

One of the prisoner's children plays with a wheelbarrow outside her house - the young girl's mum says it is great to be able to bond with each other again

One of the prisoner's children plays with a wheelbarrow outside her house - the young girl's mum says it is great to be able to bond with each other again

This little boy has been with his mother in custody since he was born - but they only moved to Boronia recently

This little boy has been with his mother in custody since he was born - but they only moved to Boronia recently

At Boronia women are expected to keep their homes clean, work, train or learn between Monday and Friday and take responsibility for their actions - in return for this they get greater freedoms, can have their children live with them and have a better chance of not going back to jail after their release. 

'If you are going to be deprived of your liberty anywhere, you want it to be at Boronia,' Sup.int Allen said.

She admits the women are given a lot of opportunities – but they are still locked up.

'They still can't go to a friend's funeral, watch their kids graduate or see their sick relatives,' she said.

Daily Mail Australia visited the facility on Wednesday – and spoke to some of the women about their experience in prison and how Boronia compares to the traditional jails they have been in.

The women agreed that at Boronia 'you are treated like a human being, not a number or a last name' like the other facilities they had been in. 

Rose had been injecting methamphetamine since she was 16 

By the time Rose (not her real name) walked through the doors of Boronia prison in January she had been to some of the toughest women's jails in the state – 'never worked a day' in her life and had been 'injecting methamphetamine' since she was just 16. 

The prisoner was offered her first job on Wednesday morning – something she never could have imagined.

The facility is run by Superintendent Jan Allen, pictured, who first started working in prisons 30 years ago

The facility is run by Superintendent Jan Allen, pictured, who first started working in prisons 30 years ago

The facility caters to up to 95 women - there is space for six women with children currently - but this is to be expanded

The facility caters to up to 95 women - there is space for six women with children currently - but this is to be expanded

Rose, 30, pictured was offered her first job on Wednesday morning – something she never could have imagined

Rose, 30, pictured was offered her first job on Wednesday morning – something she never could have imagined

This woman is pictured tending to beans in the vegetable garden where many of the prisoners work 

This woman is pictured tending to beans in the vegetable garden where many of the prisoners work 

'I have never worked a day in my life or even looked for a job before,' she said. 

'I am so happy, I never thought I was good enough for a job before.

'I didn't think I would be accepted with my past – I started shooting up methamphetamine when I was 16 and became a really horrible person,' she said. 

'I have been to jails all over the state but I'm not going to come back again.'

Rose is a peer-support leader in the prison and will be eligible for release in October. She will be able to start working before that – so she will be on the right track when she comes out.

Women can apply to work outside of the facility in the last 12 months of their sentence. 

These mothers will be allowed to have their children with them until they are four - after that they are allowed to stay on weekends and during the school holidays

These mothers will be allowed to have their children with them until they are four - after that they are allowed to stay on weekends and during the school holidays

'I get to actually sit down and teach her things,' one mother said of her daughter who has lived with her since February

'I get to actually sit down and teach her things,' one mother said of her daughter who has lived with her since February

The women who work in the supermarket get qualifications in retail and supermarket management. This woman is stocking the shelves, ready for the afternoon rush

The women who work in the supermarket get qualifications in retail and supermarket management. This woman is stocking the shelves, ready for the afternoon rush

Women also work in the kitchen, under the careful eye of a trained chef who can also mark them off on their apprenticeships

Women also work in the kitchen, under the careful eye of a trained chef who can also mark them off on their apprenticeships

The women cater the staff's lunches everyday -  giving them the opportunity to try out a variety of skills

The women cater the staff's lunches everyday -  giving them the opportunity to try out a variety of skills

Jane believes 'living here is like living in the community'

Jane, 42, also ended up behind bars after forming a drug addiction – and is quite open about her progress, she has spent almost two years behind bars and has been in Boronia since November.

'Living here is like living in the community. You're not just locked in a cell here, you have more free time, and it reminds you what you could have on the outside and why you don't want to come back to jail,' she said.  

 Ruth said she looks forward to seeing her grandchildren now - instead of dreading them coming into a prison environment to see her.

Before women get to Boronia they serve time in other jails, so many are institutionalised by the time they set foot into the aptly named 'pre-release centre'.

'If I don't cook my own dinner at home it doesn't appear, and my clothes don't get washed if I put them in a bag at the door,' Sup.int Allen said.

The prison is located in Perth - just a few kilometres from the CBD and opposite Curtain University

The prison is located in Perth - just a few kilometres from the CBD and opposite Curtain University

This photograph was taken just before the main lunch-time service at the facility on Wednesday

This photograph was taken just before the main lunch-time service at the facility on Wednesday

The women are pictured here chopping up fruit for salad - they are expected to wear their uniforms to work each day

The women are pictured here chopping up fruit for salad - they are expected to wear their uniforms to work each day

The women are also responsible for washing their own clothes and preparing dinner when they get home at night

The women are also responsible for washing their own clothes and preparing dinner when they get home at night

The women also serve the lunches to the staff - guards work 12-hour shifts which means they must be fed a hot meal, so the initiative not only helps the women train but helps the facility 

The women also serve the lunches to the staff - guards work 12-hour shifts which means they must be fed a hot meal, so the initiative not only helps the women train but helps the facility 

The women are expected to cook their own dinners, wash their own clothes and keep their own homes clean. They also have to shop for themselves. They are given a house budget, depending on the number of women living in the home at the time, and are to plan their own meals around that. 

They also have to think about whether the food they are cooking is healthy – and must plan their meals around a colour-coded 'healthy eating pyramid' – 60 percent from the green category, 30 percent yellow and 10 percent red.

'If they have too much from the red or yellow categories they are told to go back and try again,'Sup.int Allen said. 

But the approach doesn't work for everyone, and some women who are given the opportunity to live at Boronia for the rest of their sentence choose to go back to mainstream jails where they don't have to 'think to be in jail'. 

Other staff pay six dollars for their meals - and a dollar for dessert - with many choosing to eat from the restaurant

Other staff pay six dollars for their meals - and a dollar for dessert - with many choosing to eat from the restaurant

This woman is pictured giving salad to the staff during the lunch time rush - offering a large variety

This woman is pictured giving salad to the staff during the lunch time rush - offering a large variety

Boronia feels more like a garden than a jail

The prison has an agricultural plot which is home to a dozen ex-battery hens who were saved from death row, and a thriving vegetable garden. 

There is a green house and a fish-farm all looked after by the on-site horticulturalist and an inmate who has decided to keep the whole area up-to-scratch – looking after it Monday-Friday is her full-time job.

The jail's most 'regular threat' is people trying to take shortcuts through the facility – 'not realising it is a prison'.

But the biggest threat is men jumping over the 'tennis court style' fences to get to the women. 

The prison doesn't feel like a clinical government-run institution, from the garden where the women have made a cheeky gnome garden for a 'short member of staff' to the spotless five-bedroom homes of the general population to the smaller purpose-built children's homes where mums can live with their babies until they are four.

The centre is covered in artworks, gardens and park benches and feels more like a park or garden than a

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