Prison, Mothers and Children

Prison, Mothers and ChildrenPrison, Mothers and Children

There is nothing more agonizing than being born in a prison and growing up in such an environment. At present, some women’s prisons in the country are host to a few hundred children, as according to a law approved in 2010, children of female prisoners can live with their mothers till they reach the age of 2 years.

“As the number of children in prisons is regularly fluctuating, we cannot announce the exact figure, but it is generally around 400 to 430 kids,” Parnian Ghavam, head of the Judiciary’s social work and counseling office said, Tabnak News Agency reported.

In response to a question whether living with the mother in jail and receiving maternal love in an unpleasant environment is better for a child than being sent off to welfare centers, she said psychologists and social sciences experts have different opinions on the issue.

“Therefore, the cultural department of the Judiciary is conducting a longitudinal study (an observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time and can extend over years. In a longitudinal cohort study, the same individuals are observed over the study period) to find the right answers,” she said.

The study will compare the social, psychological, educational and behavioral status of children born and living in prisons, with those placed in welfare centers, Ghavam said, adding that the results “will have a significant impact on our future decisions.”

Most women are in detention for drug-related crimes.

According to Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, women constitute 3.1% of the total number of prisoners in the country who number 210,672, according to figures released at the beginning of the current Iranian year (started March 21).


As per law, children over two years of age of incarcerated mothers should be transferred to a separate kindergarten in prisons (if the prison has one) or sent to welfare centers.

However, the situation of prisons differs from one province to another.

In Zanjan in the northwest, no facilities exist for children since female prisoners are few and cases of childbirth rare, but even if such instances occur, the newborn is handed over to relatives or welfare centers.

On the other hand, in Kermanshah in the west, prisons allow children to stay with mothers until the age of 5, as kindergarten facility exists.

Other provinces with kindergartens include Markazi in western Iran and Kerman in the southeast. Kindergartens follow the rules of regular pre-schools and have the same programs.

In some provincial prisons, one or more rooms have been allocated to nursing mothers and their infants.

The Women’s Prison in Tehran has a kindergarten which opened in February. There is also a separate section for nursing mothers and their babies, which is well-equipped, paying heed to health and sanitation needs.  

Ghavam said some of the women prisoners don’t have a family or relatives to hand over their child, but many who have husbands or relatives also prefer to keep their children with them.

The law also stipulates that the children’s length of stay in prison is not linked to the types of offenses committed by their mothers. All mothers (except those charged with child abuse), have the right to keep their children with them until they turn two years old.