News

Children born in prisons | Prisons Dept. halts Govt. move

By Sarah Hannan 

Plans to release 46 children under the age of five years who were born within the prison premises whilst their mothers are serving a sentence or are under remand custody in prison institutions across Sri Lanka, have been halted by the Department of Prisons as the prison officials revisited the decision and advised against it, The Morning learnt.

“We do not recommend the Government’s decision to separate these infants from their mothers as they are under the age of five years. The politicians should think twice before they make such statements and issue directives to initiate such insensitive processes. They need to consider the wellbeing of the child and look at improving the facilities for mothers with children within the prison premises itself,” said Department of Prisons Commissioner (Administration) Chandana Ekanayake.

Earlier last week, State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle told The Morning that while the environment within the prison system is no place to bring up a newborn, let alone an infant, as sensible authorities, the Government should look at holding pregnant mothers, new mothers, and their babies in a better space.

“We are looking at seeking professional assistance from medical professionals, psychologists, and counsellors to ensure their mental and physical wellbeing is looked into. Much needs to be reformed, and the issues faced by imprisoned women will also be one of the top priorities,” Dr. Fernandopulle added.

Last week, following media reports on women prisoners bringing up infants within the prison compounds, the Prime Minister instructed officials to gather information about such mothers and their babies in all prison institutions that hold female inmates, and requested to take steps to remove the infants from the prison compounds.

A report was to be collated by Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya and presented to the State Minister of Prison Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation in the coming week.