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Prison uses maternal love to reform inmates

By Zhou Wenting | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-17 10:13

A tearful inmate is comforted by a warder backstage.

Annual highlight

An annual highlight is when the mothers of 30 selected inmates visit the prison on or around March 8 to celebrate International Women's Day with their daughters. The visits have been a feature of the prisoners' lives since 2014, although three mothers were invited in 2013 as a pilot.

"A simple hug can solve many problems for mothers and daughters who have had poor relationships and found it hard to apologize on the phone," said Huang Yin, director of educational affairs at the prison.

"Some inmates said, 'My mother didn't come, but I felt like she was here. I really wanted to hug her.'"

The mother of an inmate surnamed Liu was one of the three invited to the prison in 2013.

Until they were reunited that day, Liu believed that her mother was keeping a distance between them, especially as she asked Liu to send letters to her grandparents' house rather than the family home.

The 33-year-old, who was convicted of fraud, believed her family was ashamed of her, and was not aware that her mother had been invited to visit the prison on the special day.

"As I stood on the stage reading an essay I had written about the poor relationship between us, my mother walked onto the stage and hugged me. That broke the ice in our relationship," she said.

Liu said they didn't talk much that day, but she began to share details of her life in prison with her mother in letters.

"Some fellow inmates, who will be in prison for another one or two decades, repeatedly urged me to be nice to my parents when I leave jail," said Liu, who is scheduled to be released in about two years.

"It's as though they think they will partly be able to realize their dreams of spending good times with their own parents through me."

During the celebrations around International Women's Day, inmates who have won plaudits for good behavior have their dearest wish granted, such as wearing their own clothes to have a photo taken with their mother, or having dinner together with no one else around.

"For some inmates serving long sentences, a photo with their mother is especially meaningful. Some mothers are too old to wait for the day their daughter will be released from prison," Huang said.

The activities have inspired some prisoners to write letters of apology to their parents and their children.

"To many inmates, their child is their hope, something to hold onto and live for. Without that, some would abandon themselves to despair," Huang said.

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