"Motherhood is not, and never will be a problem. It is a gift, and one of the most wonderful gifts you can ever have," he said, noting that in their position, the women face the very real and unique challenge of caring for the life they have created.
"You are asked to care for the future. To make it grow and to help it to develop," he said, adding that as women, "you have an incredible ability to adapt to new circumstances and move forward."
Children themselves are a source of strength and incentive for the future, he said, explaining that their presence is also a reminder that life must be lived for the future, and not stuck in the past.
"Today your freedom has been taken away, but that is not the last word. Not at all," he said, and told the women to "keep looking forward. Look ahead to the day when you will return to life in society."
Pointing to the Gospel passage in Mark in which Christ is laughed at for saying the daughter of a synagogue leader was not dead but merely asleep, the Pope said Christ "pays no attention to ridicule and never gives up," but rather takes our hand and tells us to get up, just as he did for the little girl.
Sadly, he noted that a jail sentence can seem like just a punishment with no opportunities for personal growth. "This is not good," he said, explaining that initiatives aimed at job training and the restoration of relationships are "signs of hope for the future."
"Let us help them to grow," he said, adding that "public order must not be reduced to stronger security measures, but should be concerned primarily with preventive measures, such as work, education, and greater community involvement."
Francis closed his address saying life itself blooms and shows its beauty when we work hand-in-hand to make things better and open the door to "open up new possibilities."
He greeted all those who work and volunteer at the prison, who carry out "sensitive and complex" tasks. He also spoke to the authorities at the prison, asking them to provide "the conditions needed to carry out your work with dignity. A dignity that engenders dignity."