Mother vindicated of child prostitution released on appeal, struggles to start over after years in prison

After nine months locked behind bars in Magdalena Prison, I finally got to see my oldest child. The moment we saw each other, we took off running and I swept her up in my embrace. Looking into one another’s eyes, I begged her, “Please don’t cry.” I knew if she did, it would destroy me.

  • 10 months ago
  • September 12, 2023
6 min read
Roxana Carrizo spent two and a half years in prison for a crime she did not commit. Roxana Carrizo spent two and a half years in prison for a crime she did not commit. | Photo courtesy of Ye Jinghan on Unsplash
Roxana Carrizo lived her entire life in Quilmes, Buenos Aires. She struggled to make ends meet, working in a cleaning cooperative to pay rent. After authorities wrongly arrested her, she lost everything including her four daughters. Now out of prison after being proclaimed innocent on appeal, she lives with her brother and works as a hairdresser, a trade she learned while in jail.
After being incarcerated for over two years, Roxana Carrizo won on appeal and was released from prison. Media coverage indicates that when she requested custody of her daughters back, the system instructed her to hire a lawyer and take it to family court. Her four daughters, who testified on her behalf, have not been returned to her. In addition, she lost her home while in prison.
The lack of support most formerly incarcerated women experience from the government, society, and sometimes their own loved ones, points to an urgent need to destigmatize incarceration.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — When I discovered a 24-year-old man began dating my 12-year-old daughter, I nearly lost my mind. Disgusted and mortified, I filed several complaints to make him stay away from her. The man’s mother, who approved of their relationship, began threatening me. When I refused to stop, she went to the police with lies. [Latin American media has covered Roxana’s story, and the court system found her innocent on appeal.]

This woman told the police I was prostituting my daughter to her son. Despite my claims of innocence and pleas to protect my daughter from this pedophile, the police arrested me. I felt horrified as I entered a living nightmare, imprisoned for two and a half long years. Nothing made sense anymore and every day felt like torture knowing my child was out there on her own.

Read more Crime & Corruption stories from Orato World Media.

False allegations send desperate mother to prison

On February 25, 2021, my youngest daughter was hospitalized for respiratory issues. I rushed to the hospital by foot as fast as I could, unable to afford a bus pass. My heart raced as weaved through the streets, aching to be by her side. When I got there, the doctor stopped me abruptly outside of her room. “You are not allowed in,” he said, in a very hostile voice.

The doctor handed me a piece of paper. The declaration written upon it demanded I give up custody of my daughter. I went into complete disbelief, struggling to grasp the gravity of the situation. Before I could fully process what happened, the authorities arrived and arrested me. Overwhelmed by the sudden stress, I began to hyperventilate.

They forcefully handcuffed me while my daughter cried and screamed from her hospital room. Rushing out, she clung to my legs as they began to take me away. My heart felt as though it broke in half. “What is happening,” my mind screamed. I felt like I might faint at any moment. Then, they explained the accusation, claiming I prostituted my daughter in exchange for meat.

“Is this a sick joke,” I wondered, staring at the police in utter shock. They offered no explanation, hustling me off to the prison where they threw me in a cell. After a little while, some women arrived, taking me out of the cell to gather my information. “What are you doing here,” one of them asked, looking down at me like a piece of trash. That look upon her face remains etched in my mind to this day. I struggled to answer, absolutely confused why I was there in the first place. I began to cry and begged them to see my daughters. They pushed me back in the cell and closed the doors.

They tried to kill me, but for my daughters, I clung to life

For the first few days, I refused to eat. All I could think is, “I want to die.” One single prison guard looked kindly upon me, keeping me isolated from the rest of the cell block. Due to my alleged crime, this guard knew the other prisoners would harm me if they had the chance. I still cannot say why she decided to protect me.

Soon, the authorities put my daughters – who were four, nine, 12, and 15 – in a home. Night after night, I cried myself to sleep in that tiny cell with no windows. I never had visitors or word from the outside world and I constantly wondered where my daughters were. As the days passed, I worried I might rot from the inside out. I decide to remain positive and my anger and sadness started to fade.

After nine months locked behind bars in Magdalena Prison, I finally got to see my oldest child. The moment we saw each other, we took off running and I swept her up in my embrace. Looking into one another’s eyes, I begged her, “Please don’t cry.” I knew if she did, it would destroy me.

A short time later, I received a transfer to Batán Prison and quickly feared for my life. I could feel a situation escalating with the prisoners there. One day, during a shower, a group of women came in and beat me half to death, cracking my spine. Despite the horrific pain I endured, it never compared to the pain I felt when I realized, “If I die, my daughters will end up alone.” Every fiber in my being clung to life.

Those who ruined my life remain free, while I struggle to go on 

Eventually my girls went to live with my mother but not before they experienced tragedy. In the temporary children’s home, they endured beatings and extreme neglect. When I found out, I wanted to burst out of prison and kill everyone. I felt rage at the world for stealing their childhood and stripping them of everything.

In my cell, a feeling of powerlessness consumed me. When I recovered from my own beating, the prison transferred me to unit 47 where I lived isolated and alone for a very long time. My family refused to see me, believing the lies in the media and blaming me for their misfortune.

Then, one day, some inmates recommended me to a lawyer who came to see me. In desperation, I told him the entire story. I’ll never forget how he looked me in the eyes and promised, “We will fight this thing.” In early July of 2023, the trial began. Each of my daughters took turns testifying and proclaimed my innocence. The new trial proved it, and the courts released me from prison, but I never got justice.

The monsters who incriminated me and the ones who abused my daughters remain free. Today, I live on borrowed time. I lost my house and struggle to find work. Few people believe I am actually innocent and the weight of those allegations feel heavy. I still do not have full custody of my girls and every day I wonder, “How was this allowed to happen?”

They arrested an innocent woman, destroyed a family, and now they sit and watch in silence as we try to pick up the pieces of shattered lives.

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