June – November 2018
The rattle of the locks being closed in the heavy, metal gates and prison doors makes an impact on everyone. In order to get to the cell where 37-year-old Beata serves the sentence, you have to go through 12 such gates. This is a crossing of a certain border, even in those who came here to visit their relatives, a thought appears for a moment: what would happen to me here, if I couldn’t leave this place.
The penitentiary – it’s a place that’s hard to put up with for all the inmates. Supposedly, you can get used to it, but it requires time and, above all, a proper mental attitude. The first days and weeks are very tough. New surroundings, new people, new habits and many limitations – for most of the prisoners it’s a traumatic experience. According to prison specialists, women cope with isolation much worse than men. It’s caused by a psychological structure of the ladies. The women who ended up in Penitentiary in advanced pregnancy, are the ones who take serving the sentence the hardest. It is a shock, thoughts racing through the mind: how will it be, not so much for me as for my unborn child. Beata, who went to the Penitentiary in Grudziądz in April 2018, was in the fourth month of pregnancy. She is serving her sentence: 2.5 years in prison.
When you are in a cell for the first time and you ask what are the rules here, you hear: first of all – you don’t ask who is locked up for what. Beata doesn’t want to talk about her past, she believes that this place will permanently transform her, that it will change her life, and above all the life of her several months-old son Natan, who was born in September 2018. Because the penitentiary in Grudziądz is the only one in Poland with a gynecological-obstetric ward. Women can not only give birth to their children here, but also raise them up to the age of three, and if the court agrees – which is usually just a formality – even up to the age of four. If the women are healthy, the child is not in any danger, they are in a general cell for the first months of pregnancy. Of course, they are under the care of a gynecologist the whole time. In 29th month of pregnancy, they are moved to a special annex: a semi-open ward, with colorful cells, furniture resembling a home one… It was here, where Beata ended up with her son Natan a few days after the childbirth.