Moms and babies behind bars

From Corrections in South Africa
Jump to: navigation, search

part of Corrections in South Africa

Inside Pollsmoor’s special Baby Mother Unit - Diana Mellow, 10 October 2016

Pollsmoor Babies.JPG

Under South African law, children can stay with their mothers in prison until age two. Women who are pregnant when they enter Pollsmoor live in a separate unit until they give birth, at which point they move to the Baby Mother Unit (BMU) with their newborns. The mothers choose how long to keep their babies in jail based on their own preferences and the availability of other guardians for the child. Until 2008, children could live in jail until age five, but the legislation was changed when new research emerged on the damaging developmental effects of early childhood imprisonment. See article here [1]

Children in prison with their mothers - South Africa leading the way

A child in prison is, at first glance, anathema; a prison is no place for a child to grow up and to play. However, the early months and years of bonding between mother and child are important, and most legal systems recognise this by allowing for a child born in prison to remain with the mother for a limited time. South Africa's own law provides for children to remain with their mothers for two years – but this is not cast in stone. If a mother is to be released within a few months after the two-year cut-off date, it may be in the child's best interests not to impose any separation at all. South Africa is a world leader in legal developments that will ensure that consideration be given to not send primary caregivers to prison at all. The precedent was set in the 2007 Constitutional Court case of S v M, where the University of Pretoria's Centre for Child Law made submissions as a 'friend of the court'. [2]- Author Opinion piece by Professor Ann Skelton, 22 April 2016