Mothers and daughters reunite for culture fest at women's prison

Tian Shengjie
To encourage rehabilitation, Shanghai Women's Prison is holding its annual Mother Culture Festival, allowing the mothers of prisoners to visit and embrace their daughters.
Tian Shengjie
Mothers and daughters reunite for culture fest at women's prison
Ti Gong

A prisoner talks to her mother, hand in hand, during the Mother Culture Festival on Wednesday at the Shanghai Women's Prison.

"I haven't touched my mother's hands for 10 years," said a prisoner Lin Jin (pseudonym). "No words can fully express my gratitude."

She was a corporate executive and was arrested for economic crimes. Now she's a member of the prison's art group and had a leading role in a stage play called "Law and Emotion" on Wednesday's stage.

She was the last person to find out about her mother's visit on Wednesday. It was the best possible surprise. When her mother walked on stage at the end of the show, Lin slumped to her knees with tears.

"I will be released a year later, and my mother's visit gives me the confidence to rehabilitate harder during the remaining time," Lin said. "I don't want to fail to live up to my mother's expectations."

Lin's mother, surnamed Li, said she can see her daughter's progress in rehabilitation, and she will wait for her to come home.

Many mothers of prisoners are elderly people. Although some of them have difficulties in walking, they visited the prison on this rainy day and treasured the opportunity.

Mothers and daughters reunite for culture fest at women's prison
Tian Shengjie / SHINE

A prisoner hugs her mother during the Mother Culture Festival at the Shanghai Women's Prison.

Over 10 prisoners had "zero distance" with their mothers during the annual Mother Culture Festival on Wednesday. On stage, offenders gave their mothers flowers and hugs.

Close contact is a luxury in prisons. Usually, they talk with their family members via phone behind a plate glass window during the monthly visitation.

"When they feel love, they can love themselves and others," said the director of the education department of the prison surnamed Xia.

She added that the program is expected to impress the criminals with a mother's qualities, including toughness, kindness and tolerance, helping them to take responsibility for family and society as daughters, mothers and wives.

This is the 10th year of the festival. More than 100 mothers of prisoners have come into the prison and met their daughters hand in hand. Although the family members couldn't go to the prison during the lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, they showed concerns to their loved ones behind the high walls during the festival through videos.

She said: "This morning, the prisoners have just been informed the good news that their mothers will come, and many of them are flustered because, out of guilt, they don't know how to face their mothers after they committed crimes," said the deputy director of the prison's Cell Block III, surnamed Yao.

"But when they hug each other, the barriers have been torn down," Yao said.

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