Trapped in the system: Thousands of Saudi women released from prison are abandoned by their families

Published November 11th, 2015 - 09:30 GMT

Women protection and hospitality homes have taken in a total of 2,706 inmates after they were released from prison during the past two years, a report in Al-Madina newspaper said.

The report quoted a source in the Ministry of Social Affairs that the ministry runs women care facilities in provinces of Makkah, Riyadh and Asir. It also has the same facilities in the Eastern Province.

“The purpose of these facilities is to strengthen social and familial ties by offering released prisoners a healthy environment to rehabilitate. One of the biggest problems these facilities face is the rejection of most families of their inmate family members,” said the source.

The source also said legal advisers would advise to transfer the guardianship of these women to the judges.

Psychological consultant at the Umm Al-Qura University Medical Center Psychological Clinic Huwaidah Al-Haj Al-Hasan said the quality of the psychological consultation given in these facilities is very weak.

“The employees conducting the psychological therapy sessions for the inmates are unqualified. They are usually social workers who have been trained to look at the case from a general and reflective point of view. Their job is to communicate with the family of the inmate and deliver good news to her,” said Al-Haj Al-Hasan.

She added psychological consultancy is more than listening to the patient.

“Psychologists study strategies and treatment methods to solve the problems of the inmates. No one is addressing the inmates’ personal problems and needs through these sessions. With no experts to conduct the sessions, they are completely useless and ineffective,” said Al-Haj Al-Hasan.

She added many of the inmates are psychologically and emotionally broke and without the professional help, care facilities are no better for them than the homes they ran away from.

Former director of Jeddah Protection Home Sarhan Al-Ghamdi said social workers are of close age to the inmates themselves which adds intensity to their relationship.

“Social workers should be at least 40 years old. That way, inmates can look up to them and the former can treat the inmates in a motherly way. The statistics the ministry reported are not small numbers. Most of the inmates were sent to prison due to misconduct and behavioral violations,” said Al-Haj Al-Hasan.

He also said the cause of such a high number in behavioral misconduct is due to a lack of efficient parenting.

Legal expert Majed Qaroub said the Ministry of Social Affairs should cooperate with the Ministry of Justice to put in place a law to help these women.

“The guardianship of the fathers should be immediately revoked if they refuse to take their daughters back into their homes. The government is taking care of the inmate, yet her guardian remains her father. It is questionable and unjust. If her family is not accepting her, she should be legally protected and supported to move forward without them,” said Qaroub.

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