At least 12 babies are currently in Malawi prisons alongside their convicted mothers who are serving various jail sentences in 2018, Malawi News Agency (MANA) has learnt.
The development shows a decrease from last year when Malawi Prison Service (MPS) recorded 14 babies in all the prisons in the country.
In an interview with MANA Tuesday, MPS Public Relations Officer (PRO), Smart Maliro, attributed the drop to the release of their mothers who completed their sentences.
“Last year (2017), we registered 14 young children who were in various prison stations across the country with their convicted mothers, but right now the number has gone down to 12,” he said.
He said Maula, Dedza, Zomba, Chichiri and Mulanje prison stations are the ones currently keeping babies alongside their convicted mothers.
He added: “Chichiri has five babies while Maula has three. Zomba Central Prison has two while Dedza and Mulanje have one apiece.”
However, Executive Director for Eye of the Child, an organization that advocates for promotion of child rights, Maxwell Matewere, said the drop is not impressive as children continue to be subjected to inhumane prison conditions which their mothers are exposed to during the entire prison sentence.
“Much as the statistics indicate the population drop of children in prison to 12, this shows that there is no progress because by virtue of having children in prisons, we are failing to protect them,” he said.
Matewere, therefore, emphasized the need for prison officials to ensure that the children are accorded conducive environment where they can develop socially, physically and mentally as well.
He acknowledged the requirement by law that whosoever has committed a crime upon being found guilty by a competent court should serve a jail sentence.
“But convicted mothers should however be encouraged to leave their children at home. If they insist to go [to prison] along with babies, then the prison authorities should provide a conducive environment for their development,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Association of Early Childhood Development in Malawi (AECDM) Executive Director, Arch Malisita has expressed concern over the development, adding that children in prisons rarely have access to early childhood development (ECD) services.
He said plans are at an advanced stage to establish early childhood centres (ECD) in prisons and hospitals to ensure that children benefit from such services.