It’s not all doom, gloom for babies with mothers behind bars : The Standard

Leah Wairimu (left) and Virginia Njuguna (right) during the interview at Nakuru Women GK Prison. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Leah Wairimu, 30, beams as her one-year-old daughter, Ciku, scoots across a playroom. She crawls to a baby walker, pulls herself up to stand — then falls over. Quivering, she looks at her mother.

“Aw, you want Mama?” says Wairimu. “Count!”
Wairimu gives the baby a black and white-stripped jumpsuit and hands her over to a caregiver.
It was time for the midday prisoner count at Nakuru GK Women Prison. Wairimu was convicted for killing her husband.
The mother of three hails from Langa-Langa in Nakuru and she got the one-year-old Ciku when she got married after the death of her husband.
Wairimu is happy that the prison authorities take care of her baby, but she wishes Ciku was living with the other children back at at home.
“I’m free to access my child anytime, she always gets milk something that I’m very grateful, though I wish she was outside with my other children for them to bond. But I’m here behind bars serving my sentence and I feel like I’m punishing her,” she says.
The facility has children nursery centre decorated with drawings of cartoons with a television where children can watch programmes.
On the other hand, Mercy Chemutai, 28, a mother of two was jailed for two years for arson, while she was pregnant and gave birth in prison.
“I came to prison when I was one month pregnant and I was scared about my life, but after interacting with other inmates and officer-in-charge I was able to accept and move on,” says Ms Chemutai.
To her surprise she was escorted by the warders to Nakuru Provincial General Hospital to give birth. However, after delivery of a bouncing baby girl, she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis.
Like other mothers in prison, Chemutai, counts days to her release, though neither her husband nor her family has visited her.
She was convicted after she torched a rental house in Eldama Ravine where her husband and mistress used to live.
“I wanted to burn the clothes of my husband’s mistress, but it is unfortunate I did something that I regret, and my child is paying for it,” she says.
Unable to raise bond
Serah Wanjiru, a remandee facing robbery with violence charges, is waiting to know her fate.
Wanjiru was charged last year, but was unable to raise bond forcing her to stay in remand with her six month old baby boy.
“Life has not been easy, my first day I cried, because I felt like everyone was against me but I learnt to adapt as days went by,” she says.
Most convicts are serving between six and five month imprisonment for being in possession of illicit brew.
At least 26 children are at the prison with their mothers.
The officer-in-charge of the prison Emily Momanyi notes that the number of babies in the facility has been ranging between 25 and 30 every year.
“We take care of these babies because they are in for mistakes of their mothers,” said the officer.
Ms Momanyi added that they have about 198 inmates, 26 of them are serving various terms with their babies.
“My main concern is to see these children living a happy life, we are facing some challenges for instance the prisoners are sleeping in the same room with the children, something which should not happen in this era,” she said.

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