Moms behind bars: what it means to be a mother in eshowe correctional center

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Mother and Child Unit

This second section will look at the specific issues regarding the mother and child unit in Eshowe Correctional Facility. It will address some of the physical issues with the facility as well as the way the prison environment affects the unit. According to the DCS Amendment Act of 2008, female inmates with babies are allowed to bring their children into prison with them until the child is two-years-old. This is supposed to address issues of maternal-infant bonding as well as the more practical concern of where to send the babies of inmates if there is no one to care for them. I spoke with one woman in the mother and child unit in Eshowe Correctional Center. She was pregnant when she entered custody and gave birth while incarcerated. She decided to keep her daughter with her because she had nowhere else to send her. The mother's parents had died and she had virtually no extended family that could care for her infant child. She said she was happy that her daughter was in prison with her because “they give me everything I need for a baby.” This indicated that her happiness came from her daughter's physical comfort; she had clothes, food, and shelter at no expense to the incarcerated mother. The social worker with Comm Corr also mentioned this physical care as a benefit for babies born to incarcerated mothers. “The child is cared for and the mother is able to look after her child. They get a food ration. I think for mothers with babies it is better that way because these children they bring a long with them, they know they have food to eat and a bath and they are safe.” The social worker mentioned the two main concerns of women separated from their children due to incarceration: adequate food and cleanliness.

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