Mothers in Prison: 'The ladies do long for their children'

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Mothers in Prison: A Parent24 Series
Mothers in Prison: A Parent24 Series

Venessa Padayachee, a social worker and member of, trains community members to become mentors and life coaches for people who are released from prison and youth at risk.

"Every year over 45 000 prisoners are released and more than 87% of these reoffend," she tells Parent24. "With our help and by embarking on one of our programmes, the reoffence rate falls to less than 8%."

Padayachee says: "I visited the Mom and Baby Unit at Pollsmoor Prison once. It was not in the main section of the prison but a separate building. It was like a house on the prison grounds. The moms with babies shared rooms."

She said the correctional officials were female, and that moms had to take care of their own babies and take turns to cook. 

This article is one of a series on Mothers in Prison. Read the previous article here: Separation, and a new home for the children 

The stress of prison life

"I know it is not easy for the moms as they have the stress of prison life and have to take care of their babies. I know it was a comfort for one of the women I met, as she was pregnant going into prison. It was what kept her going and gave her hope."

"It was very hard, I am sure, when her daughter had to leave at two years old. Given that prison environment, locked away from the world, is challenging, it is better for the children to go into the care of relatives," she says.

"The ladies do long for their children. I know of women who can't wait to get home to their children. They also face the danger of their children not recognising them," Padayachee says.

She explains that the babies are meant to stay with their moms so that they can bond but once they are out, they get attached to others. 

'...she is a criminal' 

"One lady's baby was removed was put in foster care, and I remember it was two years later and the foster mom hadn't brought the child to visit," she says.

Padayachee tells us she intervened and spoke to the social worker.

"We agreed to take the 2-year-old and his foster mom to visit, with the social worker. On the way there, I heard the remark by the social worker that this mom should have no rights to her child because she is a criminal. I had to disagree that the lady was still a mom and longed for her child." 

Padayachee admits it was heartbreaking to see that the child didn't want to go to the mom in prison. Although. eventually, he did. It was very painful for the mom, she says.

Next: 'The day when she had to let go, it was terrible to watch her...'

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


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