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31.05.2007 General News

Children who stay with mothers in prisons hamper – Prison officer


Children who stay with their mothers in prisons are denied their basic rights to pre-school education.

Their growth, survival and development are therefore affected by their environment, a senior Prisons Officer has said.

These children, aged between 18 months and 24 months do not get their age mates to play and grow up with and have to feed on food ration as the adult prisoners.

Chief Superintendent Jeduah Mahama Abudu of the Legal Department of the Prisons Service said this at a day's seminar on; "Addressing Critical Gender Issues Affecting Women in Prison Custody," organized by the Abantu for Development in collaboration with Women in Broadcasting and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

He noted that as much as the Prisons Regulations of 1958 allowed the child of a female prisoner to be received into prison with its mother until it had in the opinion of the medical officer been weaned, it was a nuisance and infringed on the privacy of other inmates.

Mr Abudu explained that budgetary allocation to the Prisons did not cover these children and they had to share the limited resources with the adult prisoners. "Prison ration we all know is not appropriate for consumption by these little ones.”

He said structures and arrangements in prisons were not conducive for the growth and development of children in areas such as lock up time, solitary confinement and outdoor labour and emergency situations such as disasters and riots and called for a second look at the law.

"The limited space in prison cells to accommodate these children of prisoners has brought additional responsibility for prison officers in the sense that we have to do with what we have to make life in the prisons a bit comfortable for these children.”

Mr Abudu said there were 234 female prisoners in the eight prisons throughout the country with the exception of the Central, Upper West and Upper East regions, which did not have female prisons.

He noted that stigmatisation of mothers in prisons affected their children who lived with them in prisons and this affected the growth of the children.

"These children find it difficult readjusting themselves back in society, especially when they have lived in prison for too long because there was no family member to take care of them.”

He called on husbands not to neglect their wives and children when they are in prison and called for the establishment of Mother and Baby Units at every prison to ensure continuous relationship between mother and child as was being practised by Nsawam Prisons.

He advocated the establishment of facilities where children and their caregivers could stay up to at least 72 hours in an apartment in the prison, whilst laws relating to the maintenance, care, protection and promotion of the rights of children should also be fully implemented.

He recommended the use of mandatory pregnancy test for female offenders in order to determine their condition before their sentencing and what punishment options should be applied.

Nana Oye Lithur, a gender advocate who delivered a paper on; "Reproductive Health Care of Female Prisoners: A Critical Gender Concern” recommended that current medical health care provided to female prisoners be provided by an independent agency to allow them to design specific procedures and practices to improve the current reproductive health services for the female inmates.

She called for internal monitoring and quality improvement systems, which involved an ongoing review of prison health care procedures as well as medical records to ensure that female prisoners received adequate care.

Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, Regional Coordinator of Abantu for Development, said the number of women in prison was gradually increasing though they constituted a smaller percentage compared to their male prisoners and called on women to be careful not to indulge in activities that would send them to prison.

"Women are care givers and losing them to prison custody will affect the upbringing of their children. There are some who will lose their marriages should they be in prison.”

She said although women in prison had committed various degrees of crimes and were being punished, their rights should be protected just like any other woman.

Source: GNA