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Seth Wenig, Associated Press
Malayasia Blackwood, 7, left, and Samara Johnson, 6, play in the yard of the Drew House in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. The program, called Drew House, is one of a kind in the nation, where mothers arrested on felonies can live with their children, instead of in prison. The program has been lauded as a success that should be replicated around the country, but the small house is already full, and without additional funding and space, it can’t grow.

NEW YORK — A unique program in New York City allows mothers to live with their children in a private apartment building instead of prison while they serve out court mandates.

Five families live in the building, all sent there by the district attorney's office for felony offenses. Some involve drugs, others weapons, and still others violent crime.

The women attend parenting classes and therapy. Their children go to school and receive medical care and tutoring. If the mothers complete their requirements, the charges are dropped. If they break the law or don't show for a session, they get the maximum sentence.

The program has been lauded as a successful, more supportive and cheaper alternative to prison. But space is running out, and it needs funding in order to grow.