24 Children In Prison With Their Mothers

By Bill Oketch & Isaac Otwii

 About 24 children are locked up in the seven prisons of Lira, Oyam, Kole, Alebtong, Otuke, Apac and Dokolo districts with their only crime being born to mothers suspected of breaking the law.

nursing mothers  in prison

Currently, there are 228 female inmates in the seven prisons. In Lira, 12 children are incarcerated with their mothers.

Some of the confined children were born in prisons and their definition of home is the congestion, stench and dark corridors that greet them at the detention facilities.

With such an environment, many have grown up knowing that they can only relate with people putting on yellow uniforms or those clad in prisoners attires.

However, there a number of challenges associated with children growing up in prisons’ environment, some of which create an everlasting impact in their lives.

Winnie, a toddler, started living in Lira Women prison at the age of one year.

The environment she was accustomed to for the two years was encircled by prisoners she had been presented to by her mother.

For the child to adapt to the environment, she had to start relating to her mother’s friends, who always cared for her whenever the mother was out for work.

Now aged three, Winnie can only relate well with those wearing yellow clothes because they have always provided a shoulder to lean. In fact, yellow has now become her favorite colour.

Before she was taken to live outside prison, Winnie lived with her parents and relatives who have been incarcerated at Lira Women and Lira Main prisons.

The family members were remanded to prisons by the High Court in Lira over the alleged murder that occurred in their home village.

A social worker at Lira Women Prison who is familiar with Winnie’s social behaviour and story told this newspaper that the child had started misbehaving. “She started learning bad manners. She could behave like the elderly,” Ms Grace Miriam Amongi told Daily Monitor.

While Winnie has been resettled with her grandmother at Apala Sub-county in Alebtong District, the rest of the family members are still facing trial at the High Court in Lira, on charges of murder.

This opens a bigger debate on whether Ugandan prisons have the capacity to accommodate children. Yet argument for keeping them in prisons is that the children are allowed enough time to bond with their mothers.

Recently, Daily Monitor visited the various facilities and found no day care centres set up for the babies or even special facilities for mothers.

Inmates with children have neither the toys nor energy to play because of the challenges they are faced with.

“As they are here, they may have enough clothing. Some organisation has been supporting us once in awhile but the assistance is inadequate,” said Ms Amongi.

Lack of proper diet is also another challenge the children face. They are accustomed to feeding on beans and mingled maize flour that is served in the afternoon and evenings.

Source: allafrica.com

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