Lived experiences of motherhood in correctional facilities
A comprehensive literature review indicated that there is a dearth of knowledge focusing on the experiences of female incarceration in South African correctional facilities. Even less is known about the lived experiences of maternal incarceration, especially those who reside in correctional facilities with their infants. Therefore, due to the dearth of research on maternal incarceration an exploratory analysis was conducted with the aim of gaining an in-depth understanding on the individualised everyday lived experiences of incarcerated mothers. Feminist theory served to guide this research. Through purposive sampling six incarcerated mothers who were residing with their infants in two correctional facilities in South Africa were included in the study as participants. Based on the literature, an interview schedule was developed that explored the multiple experiences of maternal incarceration. Each participant was viewed as an individual case study. The empirical findings of the study confirmed that separation from children and family is one of the most traumatic aspects of maternal incarceration. Intrusive thoughts about family became prominent therefore coping with negative thoughts and emotions were part of the everyday lived experience of incarceration. Mothers used their infants as a coping mechanism during incarceration. The overall conditions of the correctional facilities were found to be of an acceptable standard according to the experiences of mothers. Their incarceration experiences were related directly to overcrowding, hygiene, and the needs of mother and infant. Inmates experienced their diet as unsatisfactory while the diet of infants were of an acceptable standard according to the mothers. The participants experienced the correctional environment as not conducive to the developmental needs of the infant, and infants lacked the appropriate developmental stimuli such as age appropriate toys. The study found that while overall conditions of Mother-and-Child Care Units were up to standard according to the White Paper on Corrections (2005) the experience was still unpleasant. Therefore the findings of this study indicate the need to further critically evaluate the appropriateness of the incarceration of mothers with their infants, as this population is particularly vulnerable due to their unique situation. Recommendations for further research were formulated focusing on the plight of the incarcerated mother. More longitudinal research focusing on policy and practice is emphasised as the long-term impact of maternal incarceration on infant and mother are unknown.