In Italy, if you are arrested and sentenced to jail time, and you have a child, legally the child is allowed to accompany you in prison. But, after seeing eye-opening video footage detailing the daily lives of the children living in prison, in 2006, the director of San Vittore, the prison in Milan, decided to push educators to create a different structure in order to accommodate mother-prisoners and their children. It is for this reason ICAM (Attenuated custody institute for mothers) was born, a special prison built to accommodate mothers and their children.
11 mothers are now in the ICAM prison in Milan, and there are ICAM facilities that have opened in Turin and Venice as well.
The ICAM prisons are more child-friendly; their are only women guards that do not wear uniforms, and there are not bars covering the doors. The children therefore have a chance at a somewhat normal life; they are able to spend time with their mothers, play outside, and go to school.
Alba, 32 lives at the ICAM in Milan with her 4 year old daughter, Stella. Nana, 26 lives there with her 3 year old son, Savash. These women are a part of more than 300 who have passed through ICAM’s doors since 2006. At ICAM, the women are focused on being good mothers to their children, before they are eventually separated in order to serve out their jail time sentences.
Every prisoner is required to work while in prison, and this is an opportunity to learn that hands are not just built for stealing.
The purpose of prisons in Italy is to reinstate prisoners into the real world after they have served their sentences. Marina, 28, a prisoner that circulated through the ICAM system, decided to change her life because of the work she did in prison. The educators at ICAM and chef, Stefano Isella, asked Marina if she would be interested in leaving the Roma community and working as a caterer. She successfully cooked for a City Hall event, and she is now starting a new life for herself by searching for a job as a cook in a restaurant.