New care homes for mothers and children in the penal system

The Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment (FSEP) to create care centres for mothers and children in women’s penal colonies


09.04.2014, Moscow

The FSEP intends to improve the organisation of support for mothers and their children in prisons, said Sergei Vorobei, head of FSEP’s department for medical-sanitation provision, at a meeting of the Russian Federation’s Council on Social Guardianship. He explained that there are currently 13 children’s homes in female penal institutions within the FSEP system, housing 671 children. Only 7% of children are in good health, more than half have various functional abnormalities and nearly 30% are suffering from chronic diseases. His department will be assessing proposals for setting up care centres for mothers and their children.

“At present, 80% of babies in children’s homes are breast-fed. These homes have also seen a noticeable drop in upper respiratory tract ailments in children, no recorded absences of convicted women from their children, and a two-fold decrease in instances of misconduct by mothers”, says Vorobei.

“We are proposing a new way of organising support for children in the penal system by establishing centres or units to provide care for both mother and child, In future, this organisational/legal framework will provide an opportunity for shifting the whole system to these centres”, said an FSEP member.

Medical care and preventative treatment in medical-sanitation units will form the basis of the new structure for children’s homes. Their principal functions will be looking after a child’s health, welfare and upbringing, whilst also maintaining the essential social bond between a mother and her child.

“Firstly, we will convert all children’s homes into joint accommodation for mothers and children within our penal system” according to Vorobei. Final, worked-up proposals will be submitted to the Russian Government. The first unit in Russia to provide joint accommodation for convicted women and their children was in the Mordovia Republic in 2002. Similar units have since been set up in areas around Moscow, Samar, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov, Chelyabin and Vladimir.

The programme co-ordinator at the Moscow office of the NGO “Penal Reform International”, Alla Pokras, believes that the subtleties of the relationship between a mother and her child should not form part of the penal system.” There are no early development specialists in this field out there, only generalist psychologists”, Pokras added. In her view, the law has to be reviewed.

“There is the concept of a period of grace, which can apply to women detained prior to sentence being announced and delaying its implementation. However, this is only the case for those who have committed non-violent as opposed to serious offences. Such a provision could however be extended to other forms of crime, depending on the woman’s behaviour, Pokras added.

According to Ekaterina Chistyakova, Director of the charity foundation for helping children with cancer and other serious illnesses “Give Life!”, and Elena Alshanaskaya, head of the charity “Volunteers for Helping Orphaned Children”, these proposed care centres for mothers and children should not only provide medical treatment, but also employ teachers, early development specialists and social workers, i.e. qualified people who can help women to develop caring child/parental bonds.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina

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