Lawmaker seeks programs for incarcerated mothers and their children

THE loss of parental care especially the severance of maternal bond due to incarceration and the long term effects this will bring to the affected children and society has prompted a lawmaker to file a measure seeking to craft programs for incarcerated mothers and their children.

Rep. Maria Evita Arago (3rd District, Laguna), author of House Bill 6692, said the bill seeks to mitigate the adverse effects of the separation between the incarcerated mother and their children.

“Efforts should be made to protect family life despite difficult circumstances by providing specific provisions on the placement of children of incarcerated women, establishing programs for health and social services and providing friendly visitation programs,” Arago said.

Arago said the incarceration of parents affects the emotional, psychological and financial development of a child who is forced to be separated from their parents.

She added that incarcerated mothers and their children are especially affected because the mothers are known as the primary nurturer of their children.

In filing the measure, Arago cited Article11, Section 12 of the Constitution which affirms that the State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.

The bill to be known as the “Mothers in Jail Act” mandates the court to give an appropriate warning of the special consequences for a defendant’s parental rights that may result from a plea of guilty or conviction.

Under the measure, the court shall provide the defendant with a reasonable amount of time to appropriately attend to the needs of his or her minor children for safe and appropriate care prior to accepting a guilty plea.

The court in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shall explain the various options available to the defendants.

A coordinating body comprised of representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Corrections (BoC), DSWD and the Department of Health (DOH) shall be established to provide for specific procedures for the placement of children of defendants or for infants born to women
already incarcerated in state prisons.

The Coordinating Body shall establish programs designed to provide counseling, health and other social services to the incarcerated parents and their children.  Mothers and children shall be assured by the institution where parent and child are detained access to health care services and medicines, including reproductive health care and medical attention, gynecological and pediatric services.

The bill directs prison facilities to establish child-friendly visitation opportunities for mothers and children where a special visitation room shall be provided for this purpose.

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