Children in Prison: Contemplating Processes and Decisions to Separate the Children from their Mothers in Uganda
Abstract: Introduction and context: With the number of imprisoned women who also double as mother continue to grow, so has the number of innocent children accompanying their mother behind bars. Around the World, different countries have approached this issue in different ways within their respective national policy and legal frameworks. For instance, having different time frames upon which such children can be accepted to be admitted to or get separated from living with their imprisoned mothers behind bars. However, appreciating the perspectives of prison staff and the imprisoned mothers regarding admission and separation of the children while their parents are in prison especially in low resource countries. with a population of over 256 children residing in prisons with their imprisoned mothers in Uganda, Uganda Prisons Services offers a good study site to bridge the knowledge gap. This degree report is based on master’s thesis study of the views on how imprisoned mother and prison staff relate with separating the children living alongside imprisoned mothers. The study was conducted in Uganda Prisons services involving two prisons in Central Uganda. Methods: The study employed a qualitative case study design and data was collected through indepth and joint interviews to reach nine imprisoned mothers and two prison staff. Three imprisoned mothers were engaged through in-depth interviews. Joint interviews were also conducted with six imprisoned mothers—involving a dyad in each of the interview. The mothers were either convicts, on remand or committal; and seven mothers were staying with their children inside prison and/or had their children in a day care centre affiliated to the prison. While the other two mothers had been with their children inside prison but separated few weeks prior to the interviews. Analysis of data was through thematic analysis adopting the six-phase criteria suggested by Braun and Clark (2006). The study used mental models and theories on group and role identity to facilitate an understanding of the perspective with which participants related with the topic under study. Findings: views obtained from imprisoned mothers were pre-occupied with the motherly-caring responsibilities and coping with prison time. While for prison staff, were about following the course of the law or seen in terms of additional/extra workload. Nonetheless, both showed concern about the child’s wellbeing and protection against excesses with-in the prison environment prison. It was interesting though that neither of them seemed concerned with - consideration for improving the inside prison condition for the stay of the child despite the elaborations on the perceived inadequacies relating to children’s stay in prison. Staff and imprisoned mother’s participation in separating the children is limited more to following of the law. Conclusion: Overall, there were competing perspectives about the prison environment with regard to admission of children to stay with their imprisoned mothers and the eventual separation. A reflection on the different perspectives presented could be of advantage in streamlining the process and decision to separate such children including the admission into prisons and post-separation period.
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