At a prison in Southern France, women are allowed to serve their sentences alongside their young babies as part of an initiative meant to prevent causing harm to infants and their mothers alike. Baumettes women’s prison in Marseille has a small separate wing in which five mothers and a pregnant woman live apart from the rest of inmates, with access to a small courtyard and a playroom for a few hours every morning and afternoon. Four of the women have given birth while in prison, while one of the mothers chose to bring her young baby with her after she was given an 18-month sentence. According to Florence Duborper, the director of charity Relais Enfants-parents, there is “no good option” for the babies or the mothers, but that being together rather than separate appears to be best for both.
“Maintaining the mother-child bond seems to be most important. To be incarcerated without her child, for many mothers, is a wrenching, physical pain,” explained Duborper.
For their mothers, who are allowed to sleep alone in their cells with their children, life is largely “not bad,” said one mother. But another mother added that the lack of readily available medical care still keeps her and the other women on edge.
“We panic straight away if we spot a fever, because it is almost impossible to get a doctor to come here,” she confided.
At the 2018 Women in the World Summit in April, activists Topeka Sam and Holly Harris painted a stark image of the reality faced by women in America’s prison system. In particular, they spoke to the plight of incarcerated pregnant women, many of whom are forced to give birth while in handcuffs — without even the chance to hold their babies afterwards.
Watch highlights and video of Sam and Harris’ appearance at the Summit below.
Read the full story at Bangkok Post.