In Europe, children sometimes end up in prison. Not because they have done something wrong, but because they are the (unborn) child of a convicted, accused or interned woman. Bruges prison even has a special ward where young children can live with their imprisoned mothers. Read the story behind the podcast Here Mum Lives Now here.
July 2022. After about nine months of polite emailing and a weekly first-name phone call, we finally get permission to visit the mother-child ward of Bruges prison.
Bruges prison is one of the largest prisons in Belgium. The building oozes 1970s style, even though it was only opened in the early 1990s. There are very few places in Europe where pregnant convicted, accused and incarcerated mothers can go. In a special ward, mothers can keep their children of up to three years old with them. After that, the children have to leave, possibly leaving their mothers behind in prison.
Shooting in a correctional institution is not easy anyway, both the press service and the prison administration have to give permission before we can even meet the incarcerated persons. There are major privacy concerns, both of the people incarcerated and the people working there.
However, we - Katrin Lohmann and Wederik De Backer - knew these sensitivities from our years of experience with the prison radio project Radio Begijnenstraat, which Katrin has coordinated for 10 years from vzw hell-er on the psychiatric ward in the prison in Antwerp and (occasionally) Merksplas. We never want to talk about people, but with people, and look for journalistic forms, where people co-author their stories.
Within the prison there is always a healthy distrust, when we visit.