Santa comes early for prison tots

Geraldine Pienaar, the department’s Western Cape regional director for development and care, said the prison’s baby-mother unit used Christmas celebration as one way to normalise an abnormal environment. Picture: supplied

Babies born behind bars at Pollsmoor prison have received early Christmas gifts from their mothers’ jailers.

The prison’s baby-mother unit held a Christmas party for seven tots on Thursday November 30, and a prison warder dressed as Santa handed out clothing, toys, books, toiletries and other gifts to the babies’ mothers.

It was all part of the Department of Correctional Services’ initiative to bring a little Christmas cheer to the lives of the 58 infants who are behind bars with their mothers in the country’s jails.

The law allows female inmates to be with their babies for two years after giving birth after which the child is placed with a caregiver nominated by the mother.

“The first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial for development, and, in understanding this, the department provides food, clothing, health care and appropriate facilities for the period the child is in a correctional facility,” department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said in a statement.

Speaking at the Pollsmoor event, Geraldine Pienaar, the department’s Western Cape regional director for development and care, said the prison’s baby-mother unit used Christmas celebrations as one way to normalise an abnormal environment.

“We use events such as these to encourage our mothers who are incarcerated and show them that while they may only spend up to two years with their children in this facility, they may have exposure to some tender moments through the celebration of Christmas and witness the spirit of giving through the generosity of others.

“When you look around this facility, you will see the festive mood, which has been created for the babies. All the spoils are here for them.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu attended the function at Pollsmoor.

“The mothers who are here today are first-time mothers, and motherhood should be the best experience that all women in South Africa look forward to. However, the circumstances in which you find yourself should not limit you as you might be raising tomorrow’s leaders, and remember that it takes a village to raise a child. Together we can work with you to give these children the life that they deserve,” she said.

“The early Christmas lunch initiative will be remembered by these babies, and we are creating a memory that will last for a lifetime because in our eyes, these are tomorrow’s leaders — scientists, teachers, doctors and diplomats. We are here to support their development.”

Pollsmoor Prison warder David Carelse dressed up as Santa for the event. Picture: supplied