Children delivered in prison and those brought along by their incarcerated mothers will no longer have to share cells with their mothers at the Nsawam Prison.

To facilitate this, the prison authorities have built a baby-friendly unit within the female section to serve as living quarters for convicted nursing mothers until the children come of age to be separated from them.

The facility was started on a pilot basis in 2006 and has since become part of the prisons reform programme. So far, 24 mothers and their children have benefited. During this period, 11 babies were born in the prison while 10 were brought in by their convicted mothers.

Before this, children born to mothers serving prison terms were made to be with their mothers in the cells together with other inmates, a situation which exposed the children to all sorts of dangers and health risks.

Assistant Director of Prisons, Charity Araba Magnusen, in charge of the Female Unit, who spoke to the Times about the initiative, said moved by the plight of such children, the Prisons Ladies Association took the initiative to refurbish part of the building of the vocational training centre to cater for the needs of pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies during their incarceration.

She said the building has been furnished with beds, cots, and baby-friendly decorations to give the innocent children the opportunity to grow up in a conducive environment.

Mrs Magnusen said besides being with their children, the mothers were not given any preferential treatment in serving their term adding that the children’s welfare was topmost until they could be weaned off and transferred to a children’s home.

“When the babies are about one-and-a-half years, ready to be weaned, their immediate family members are notified to come for them. If they fail to show up by age two, we take them to the Children’s Home.

After the mothers had finished serving their terms, they are allowed to reunite with the children. She said ever since the unit was established, nursing mothers had been transferred from other prisons to the unit, being the only baby-friendly unit in the country.

Mrs Magnusen said one of the spectacular achievements of the unit which has the potential to boost the financial fortunes of the prison, is the soap-making factory which was set up with the assistance of STEP, a non-governmental organisation.

STEP taught the inmates how to make powdered and cake soaps and “since then we have been producing substantial quantities of both types of soap.”

The soap is distributed to the women who help in its production while the rest is sold to officers and inmates of the male prison. She said the soap is of high quality and is up for sale to the public.

Source: The Ghanaian Times/Ghana