New Life Stories is a charity which helps incarcerated mothers in prison stay connected to their children.
Salma (not her real name) is one such beneficiary from the programme. Salma was imprisoned for approximately 5 years for drug trafficking in 2010. Her husband was also incarcerated. 2 relatives took care of Salma’s children who were aged between 20 months and 10 years old. For the first 4 years of imprisonment, Salma had little news of her children. She only saw them 3 times during that period.
Volunteers from New Life Stories visited her regularly and updated her with happenings in her children’s lives. Volunteers even taught her to read children’s stories which they recorded and sent to her children.
The charity has helped many women like Salma who:
- Are divorced;
- Are unmarried;
- Have no contact with the other parent; or
- Have husbands in jail.
Many of these women are jailed for drug-related offences. More often than not, the grandparents are the ones who look after the children while the women are incarcerated.
Salma’s child said of Salma: “I missed her. At times, I forgot what she looked like so I imagined (her appearance). My younger sister always asked me, where’s mother? I explained to her that she’s in prison but she did not understand.”
According to co-founder Saleemah Ismail, the charity was formed to “heal strained ties between mother and child” with the hope that “this would help the women to change for the better and stay out of trouble.”
Other than helping the incarcerated mothers reconnect with their children, volunteers would visit the children to read to them in the hope of helping them pick up the English language. They would also teach the children positive values.
See: Theresa Tan, “Connecting mums in jail with their kids”, The Straits Times, 27 November 2016
Children of Incarcerated Parents Singapore
In my years as a divorce lawyer in Singapore, I have represented incarcerated parents who do not have access to their children. Many of them are genuinely concerned about their children and blame themselves for not being able to care for them.
While it is impossible for such parents to have care and control of their children, it may not be a bad thing for them to have regular and reasonable access to their children provided that they are genuinely interested in the well-being of their children. After all, parents will always be parents. They are a part of the child’s life and it is healthy for children of incarcerated parents in Singapore to get to know their parents.
On a final note, the charity may wish to extend the goodwill to fathers in the future.
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