Children serving time with their mothers
This is much better than the closed prison. My daughter is not afraid of people anymore,” says Ramona (31), a Lithuanian inmate in the newly established prison-house for female offenders raising children while serving time.
“The children themselves have not committed any crimes, and therefore they do not belong in a closed prison environment. That’s why the project ‘Women serving sentences with children’ is so important,” says Loreta Skrickiene, Deputy Director for Social Rehabilitation in Panevezys Correctional Service.
“A real home”
“We are allowed to go outside and buy things at the store. This is a big change from what we are used to. When we were confined to a closed prison, my daughter Victoria was afraid of everything. She had never seen a car or other children. Now she loves to interact with new people. This is a real home,” says Ramona.
Victoria, hardly two years old, has spent most of her life in prison. According to Lithuanian law, a child under the age of three will stay with its sentenced mother in prison. However, new national regulations increased the living conditions for imprisoned children. With the implementation of this project, the correctional service is now able to meet the requirements.
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The house in Panevezys was opened in April 2016. So far two mothers and three children live here. Photo Credit: Maria Knoph Vigsnaes/FMO
The house is built to accommodate five inmates and their children up to the age of three. There is always one guard with a background in social work present, and the inmates are not allowed to bring other people to the premises.
“The women love the house, the premises are clean and they want to take care of it,” says Loreta.
The project is financed through the Norway Grants. Its aim is to increase focus on vulnerable groups in prison such as female inmates raising small children.
Both Loreta Skrickiene and Edvardas Norvaisas believe it’s important for the women and children to interact with other people outside prison. Maria Knoph Vigsnaes/FMO
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A new concept
An open prison solely for female offenders with children is a new concept in Lithuania. Good behaviour and the amount of time left to serve are the key factors in qualifying for an entry into the open prison. Initially, the guards were following the women everywhere, but after some preliminary testing they have changed their approach.
“When the project was implemented, we experienced some negative reactions from the neighbours. Now they greet each other hello,” says Edvardas Norvaisas, Director of Panevezio Correctional services.
The women don’t have a set schedule, but they have to inform the guard where they are going and be back as planned.
“The Correctional services try to be flexible because of the children, and we see that they learn how to interact and talk much faster,” says Edvardas.
He believes both the mothers and their children are better prepared for a normal life after release.
“This house makes it possible to not just help them in becoming good mothers while they are serving time, but also to gain an understanding of how to live a normal life,” Edvardas says.
We have other interesting projects in Lithuania financed through the EEA and Norway Grants. Read more about them here:
Improved Conditions for Inmates of Vulnerable Groups in Prison (Improved Health Care Services, Reduced Accessibility of Psychoactive Drugs for Addicted Inmates and Create Necessary Conditions for Re-socialization of Female Inmates with Children)
Justice and Home Affairs
Prison Department under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania
Type of Institution:
The project aims at improving conditions for vulnerable groups in Lithuanian prisons. The objective of the project is to improve health care service provided, in particular for three different groups: inmates with physical and mental disabilities and high-risk infectious diseases (AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis etc.); those addicted to drugs; and female offenders raising small children. This will be achieved firstly by creating a special rehabilitation unit for drug addicted inmates in the Closed Prison No. 2 of Pravieniskes (with capacity of 30 places), secondly, by moving the current prison hospital to new facilities in Pravieniskes (in total 140 hospital beds will be built) and installing new medicine equipment, and thirdly, by establishing premises outside closed prison for at least 5 sentenced women inmates to raise their children up to 3 years of age, under supervision of prison staff. Implementation of this project will contribute to the improved quality of health care services and re-socialization of inmates from vulnerable groups.