Sunday, June 15, 2008

I read the following article in the local English Language Newspaper on Sunday, the Buenos Aires Review, a supplement to the Buenos Aires Herald. I am not as well versed in the humanities as I would have liked to be, but I do recall pondering over a rhetorical question raised by the famous post-modern philosopher, Michel Foucault - "What is so astonishing about the fact that our prisons resemble our factories, schools, military bases, and hospitals-all of which in turn resemble prisons?" (see an interview with Foucault on this theme published in the New York Times in August, 1975). I think all human beings are by nature compassionate creatures, and perhaps some of us are more sensitive at certain junctures. Today's Buenos Aires Herald article brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat because I felt the pain of these mothers with children in jail, and because I felt sad for all human beings. Maybe the prison theme is salient in my mind, as I just read last week a thoroughly riveting story first published in 1948 called "The Tunnel" by Ernesto Sabato, the renowned Argentine author, about an Artist, Juan Pablo Castel, who is in prison because he had murdered the one person in the entire world who understood him, his would be lover, María Iribarne. How sad it is to think of the fragility of human life, how most of these women did something that they probably came to regret, but it is now too late. I think the journalist Marcela Valente has done a really great job of transmitting to the reader the poignant situation of the mothers behind bars.

Raising Children Behind Bars

LA PLATA, Argentina, Jun 12 (Credit: IPS - Marcela Valente) - Soledad Acevedo was an 18-year-old mother of two eking out a living by means of menial casual work in 2002 when she was sent to prison in the Argentina province of Buenos Aires, accused of armed robbery and attempted homicide. Now she is 24, and is excited as she meets with IPS in her cell.

She is happy because she has just been told that she is about to be placed under house arrest. It’s not exactly freedom, but until her appeal goes through, she will live at her sister’s house, with her nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son, who she was separated from when she was arrested, and with the daughter who has lived with her in prison since her birth in 2006....

She leaves the cell with just the clothes on her back. She runs down the corridor, laughing and crying at the same time, giving kisses and hugs to inmates who come to say good-bye, getting her special hair-do all messed up in the process. In a kind of farewell ritual, her block-mates slam the heavy iron doors of their cells over and over again, to make sure the entire prison knows that one in their midst is getting out.

See the full artcile at:

Raising Children Behind Bars, Marcela Valente, ISP

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