Babies in Prison


Babies in Prison

In Zambia, when a mother is sentenced to prison and she has a child aged 4 or under, the child will often go with her. As conditions in Zambian prisons are notoriously bad, Kids Alive Zambia has launched a new programme to provide practical, spiritual and emotional support for both mother and child. Crucially, we are also working with the prison authorities to advocate for systems reform so that children are better cared for when behind bars.

There are many babies and toddlers literally languishing behind bars with their mothers in the six main women prisons in Zambia, scattered throughout the country. Conditions are poor and overcrowding means there are no individual cells, with inmates often having to sleep en masse on the floor. Children always sleep next to their mothers and never have their own bed or cot. There are no dedicated resources for the babies and toddlers – no nappies, clothes, medicine, toiletries, cleaning facilities, etc. Food is scarce, with no additional or specific nutrition for breastfeeding mothers. Hygiene is especially bad, with all inmates living in dirty conditions, typically living in one set of clothing for their entire prison sentence.

The children are brought up living alongside criminals, picking up unhealthy behavioural habits, including those of their mother. Exposed to bitterness, anger, violence and subservience their critical years of development are traumatic. The long-term impact of being raised in this oppressive environment is devastating, with their mothers desperately needing counselling, mentoring and support to better care for their child's well-being. These children really couldn’t have a worse start to their lives. 

Kids Alive want to minister to them to create an enabling environment, so their stay in prison is as good as possible; and they and their mothers will come out knowing God and equipped and ready to live a normal and fulfilled life. 

How it will work

A Case Worker will be assigned to each mother and child who will assess the status and needs of the child, mother and siblings and devise a plan. Overseen by the Case Worker, volunteers, our Child Psychologist and the prison chaplaincy, emotional support and trauma care will be provided.  Regular visits to the mother and child will take place to assess their progress and the affectiveness of our interventions.

A special Christian programme will be developed for the mothers where, on a weekly basis, they will focus on God’s heart for children, motherhood and parenthood.  We will pray with them and help them on their spiritual journey and believe this will have a massive impact on these mothers, truly transforming them. We will also pray that they in turn will witness to their fellow inmates.

Crucially, we will provide each of the mothers and children with an ongoing supply of essential items which will include food, such as porridge, ‘nshima’ and rice; additional food and nutrition for breast-feeding mothers; supplies of fresh clean water; nappies and toiletries; hygiene support materials such as sanitisers; washing detergents and also developmental toys to stimulate learning for the child.

We will work closely with members of the close and wider family to assess if it is in the child’s best interest to be with them. Where the mother’s prison sentence is 5 years or more – and where there are no suitable options for the child to be with their wider family - we will also consider whether the child should be fostered. Working closely with the our Social Worker, the volunteers and the social authorities, a suitable family will be found and the family integration model will be followed.

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25: 36-40

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