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Incarceration of children inhuman

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The practice of incarcerating children with their mothers is inhuman, to say the least. These innocent children suffer for the crimes of their parents and anyone in their sane mind would never support such cruelty.

The prisons the children are thrown into were built for adults and far fewer of them than today as such there are no facilities for children, meaning that their moral, social and psychological development is stifled from the outset.

As the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Human Rights correctly noted on Thursday, the prison environment does not respect the rights of children.

We have a situation where innocent children are locked up with hardcore criminals in our jails that have a reputation for all the bad things in our society, including poor sanitation, overcrowding and poor diet.

Children need a special diet different from that of adults and prisons do not offer such alternatives. Our prisons are notorious for serving inferior food and it would be folly to assume that the authorities would spare a thought for the young ones to provide a diet commensurate with their age.

What this means, as the committee noted, is that the poor souls are compelled to share adults rations, which in most cases are inadequate.

Do the authorities think about the health of these youngsters? It is fact that children are vulnerable to socially communicable diseases and to expose them to poor sanitary conditions as those found in our prisons is akin in some cases to sentencing them to death.

It boggles the mind what we want to achieve as a nation when we throw innocent toddlers into prison simply because their mothers are criminals. Are we saying the young souls are criminals by descent?

Apart from the dangers of contracting diseases, what kind of moral development would we expect in these children when they grow up shut up in prison walls with criminal adults? We can surely not expect such children to grow up with self-esteem because of the incarceration blemish.

We should, as a nation, feel guilty for condemning these children to a hard life for something that is not of their own making.

Those in authority should not continue turning a blind eye to such deliberate inhuman treatment of these children. No one would want their children or relatives to spend their childhood doing time for crimes they did not commit.

But this is exactly what the authorities are doing: condemning other peoples children to prison for crimes they are not even aware of.

We should all stand up with one strong moral voice to condemn this evil until alternative arrangements are made to ensure that these children grow up in an enabling environment so that they live a normal life.

As we celebrate 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens, lets not match the conditions he exposed!

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