It’s nearly impossible to be a good mother when you’re stuck behind bars.
For incarcerated mothers around the world, the best they can hope for are nursury programs, which let children live with their mothers while they’re young. Beyond that they are limited to occasional visits.
There are few provisions for mothers in prison in the U.S., where more than 120,000 imprisoned women have children under 18, according to a 2010 Pew Research report. Only nine states in the U.S. have prison nurseries.
Photos of mothers behind bars around the world were collected in a recent Reuters photo series.
A prison in Lima, Peru opened a new nursery this month to offer better care for the 40 children there who are allowed to stay with their imprisoned mothers until they turn 3.
Research has shown prison nursery programs prevent developmental issues caused by a baby's early separation from its mother. Mothers involved in these programs also commit fewer disciplinary violations.
Here in Peru, the majority of women in prison are serving time for drug-related offenses. Research suggests this is true in other countries as well, including the U.S.
Around 1,700 women are serving time here at Ilopango women's prison in Ilopango, El Salvador, according to Reuters.
300 mothers live in Ilopango, where children can stay with their jailed mothers inside the prison until they turn 5.
Once the children are too old to stay with their mothers, prison authorities give them to relatives or hand them over to the state.
It's not surprising that so many of El Salvador's female prisoners have children. The country has one of the world's strictest abortion laws, outlawing the procedure even in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
El Salvador has imprisoned 628 women for having abortions or miscarriages since its abortion law was passed in 1998.
Argentine mothers can raise their children inside the prison until they reach age 4. 4-year-old Milagros peers at her mother Valeria Cigara (far inside the cell), 28, who was in prison awaiting trial for robbery in this photo.
Cigara, who admits that she is a drug addict and wants treatment from the prison system, gave birth to Milagros during her first jail term.
Silvia Rodas, who was convicted of robbery and attempted homicide when she was 19, talks with her daughter Anahi, 4, inside her cell at the Unidad 33 prison in Los Hornos, Argentina in this photo.
Anahi was 3 years old when Rodas began her 15-year prison sentence, and she lived with her mother behind bars until she was five.
Argentine law says children can only live with their mothers in prison until they're 4 years old, but Anahi stayed a year longer.
Rodas, now 25, did time in prisons all over Buenos Aires for bad conduct, and distant Bahia Blanca prison was the last one willing to take her in. Anahi, now 9, rarely has the bus fare to come visit her mother.
The Russian mothers also get breaks from their usual duties and tasks so they can see their children every day, according to Reuters.
Egyptian inmates gather with their children for an Iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan at al-Qanatir prison in Cairo.
More than 60% of parents in prison report being held more than 100 miles from their children, making it difficult and expensive to maintain strong relationships between parents and children.
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