Alternative Penalties Give Mothers, Children a Better Deal in Iran

Alternative Penalties Give Mothers, Children a Better Deal in IranAlternative Penalties Give Mothers, Children a Better Deal in Iran

The judiciary recently agreed to some alternative penalties in lieu of prison terms for female drug offenders recommended by the Office of the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs.

Based on the latest figures, women constitute 4% of all prison inmates in the country. Most women are in detention for drug-related crime and 65% have no criminal history.

Incarceration of women is not only punishing, it can have punitive emotional and social consequences for their families, in particular children, IRNA reported.

A report released a few months ago said 400 to 430 children under the age of seven were locked up with their mothers because they didn’t have any other family member or relatives to take care of them.

Under a law approved in 2010, children of female prisoners can live with their mothers till they reach the age of two. As per law, children over two years of incarcerated mothers should be transferred to a separate kindergarten in prisons (if the prison has one) or sent to welfare centers.

Although in recent years a number of kindergartens were established in some of the country's prisons, including Qarchak Varamin Prison in southeast Tehran, many psychologists and education experts say in order to be psychologically healthy, children should not reside in prisons with their mothers; but they should not live without their moms either.

"Therefore, the best way to solve the problem is keeping mothers out of prison with the help of alternative penalties," says Monika Nadi, attorney at law and member of the Tehran-based NGO, Children’s Rights Support Association.

Opinion of Experts

Neda Khosravipour, a senior expert in private law said the rate of women who commit petty drug-related crimes is relatively high in the country. Studies indicate that many women, who are caught dealing in drugs, "were actually exploited and abused by other men or a male family member."

"Although nearly all prisoners face social rejection in the community and by employers, the post-release consequences and rejection are more severe for women than for men."

It should be mentioned that the women may be exploited or harassed again after returning to their families; therefore women empowerment programs are necessary along with implementation of protective laws; otherwise the possibilities of being abused by men or family members again will continue, said Homa Davoudi, university professor and head of Iran Bar Association office, Alborz Province.

Alternative punishment usually includes providing social services in different institutions, cash penalties and suspension of some social and economic rights.

According to the Islamic penal code, revised in May 2005, for all intentional and unintentional offenders (male and female) sentenced to less than three months and less than two years, respectively, the use of alternative punishment is compulsory.

Recently, Asghar Jahangir, head of Iran Prisons Organization said there are more than 220,000 Iranians in the country’s prisons that have capacity to accommodate 80,000 inmates. “Alternative sentencing can effectively reduce the prison population.”


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints