Each of the 51 women imprisoned in Central Ibarra Penitentiary is also a mother. The Ecuadorian courts allow the women to choose to bring their children to live with them as they serve hard time. The opposite of prisoners, the children are free to come and go as they please. But the youngest spend all their time with their mothers, never setting foot outside. Neglected and broken toys are often ignored. One meal a day is served per prisoner and the families receive no extra food. Likewise, the women are forced to share tiny bunks with their children. Fights often break out among the children as they mimic the aggression they see daily. Despite rough conditions, the mother/child bond provides solace in a hostile environment. Forty-foot walls and a watchtower serve as haunting reminders that misplaced children live in jail. Even in the darkness of imprisonment the mothers hope for a future for their children brighter than their own.
This story was produced as part of UF’s Florida Fly-Ins program in 2006. To read an extended version of the story written by Vanessa Garcia click here.