Mothers in Prison: A special investigation into maternal incarceration in South Africa

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How do mothers end up behind bars?
How do mothers end up behind bars?

It's no secret that prison conditions in South Africa are grim.

Inmates are subject to inhumane living conditions caused by extreme overcrowding, inadequate ablution facilities and poor healthcare provision, among others issues. Largely due to these conditions, prisons are rife with disease and sexual violence. 

Why should we care?

Many turn a blind eye to these issues, because they believe that this does not affect them, and even that the prisoners are getting what they deserve for their crimes. But prisoners do not stay in prison, and as they move back in to the population they face several challenges including physical and mental health issues and potential for further crime and violence. 


This is the first in a series on the topic of maternal incarceration. Find the complete series here: Mothers in Prison: A Parent24 Series 

One, albeit tiny, percentage of the prison population that is overlooked is that of the innocent children who are born behind bars and spend as long as two years incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. 

These children spend a hefty part of their formative years surrounded by these inhumane conditions, before they are forcibly removed from their mothers when they turn two. They are then placed with families who are as good as strangers to them, or fostered by actual complete strangers.

How does this affect these children? How do the mothers feel? Where are the fathers? Is there hope for reunification and reconciliation after an experience like this? 

In this series, Parent24 asks and answers these hard questions, uncovering some hair-raising stats, sharing true stories from imprisoned mothers, and speaking to experts and those on the ground to pull back the curtain on the seemingly cruel practice of removing children from their mothers when they turn two. 

Next: How does a mother end up in prison?

Find the complete series here: Mothers in Prison: A Parent24 Series 

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