Under the law of the land, children aged six and above are allowed to live with their imprisoned mothers to enable them to get motherly love and also give the parent the satisfaction that their children are with them. This arrangement, however, has mostly negative effects as it does more harm to such children than good, and the benefit that mothers get from having their children with them is cancelled out by the fact that they grow up in the tough atmosphere of prison. Children spending time in jail, even with their mothers, in their impressionable age is undesirable considering that it is almost impossible for them to escape the influence of bad inmates. It is universally acknowledged that some of those under-trial and convicted adults, if not a majority of them, turn into hardened criminals after they come out of prisons. This is one of the consequences of living in jail.
Children are more prone to accept bad influences as they tend to imitate adults living around them. Now this is set to change, at least in Punjab, due to the endeavours of Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). The Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) has agreed to give a helping hand by accommodating children above the age of six, living with their incarcerated mothers, in their facilities where they will be provided better food, education, recreation and other facilities for their proper development. While living in CPWB facilities they will have regular contact with their mothers — they will meet their mothers once in a month, and child and mother can also talk to each other over phone.
According to the JPP, at present more than 125 children are living with their mothers in jails across Punjab. The number is unlikely to decrease in the near future. Most women prefer to have their children with them in prison to give them in the care of their relatives. The CPWB initiative is commendable.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 13h, 2021.