Where the playpen bars are cold steel

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

SA­MAN­THA JA­COBS cud­dles her 13-month-old son, hold­ing him close. He looks con­tent, with a big smile for every­one. It’s hard to imag­ine his only world has been be­hind bars.

Ja­cobs, 32, from Ma­nen­berg was five months preg­nant when she was ar­rested for shoplift­ing for the sec­ond time and sen­tenced to three years in prison. She gave birth at Groote Schuur Hospi­tal and three days later, mother and son re­turned to prison.

“At first I had a lot of sup­port from my fam­ily but af­ter the sec­ond sen­tence they stopped com­ing. I don’t blame them.” Ja­cobs has two other chil­dren, a boy, 12, and a daugh­ter, 10, who are cared for by her fa­ther and niece.

The moth­ers in Pollsmoor all have posters on their cell doors with pho­to­graphs of their ba­bies dec­o­rated with their tiny foot­prints in paint.

The walls are painted with car­toon char­ac­ters and there are stuffed toys in the cells. There is a play­room with ed­u­ca­tional toys and books, as well as scoot­ers and tri­cy­cles for the tod­dlers.

Ja­cobs says they are sup­plied with for­mula, nap­pies, clothes and shoes. She says the lack of sup­port is the hard­est part of be­ing be­hind bars.

“It’s not nice to be here with a child. You re­ally need your fam­ily.”

Cindy Khu­malo, 24, gave birth to a baby boy three months ago.

Orig­i­nally from Joburg, she moved to Cape Town for a boyfriend who made prom­ises that never ma­te­ri­alised, so she stole his jew­ellery and landed up in Pollsmoor.

Khu­malo hopes for a trans­fer to Sun City, a womens’ prison in Gaut­eng.

“It’s tough here with no fam­ily or friends – just my baby who is with me 24 hours. It’s stress­ful when he’s cry­ing.”

She says if she gets her trans­fer she will ask her mother, in Joburg, to look af­ter her young son.

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