Women in Prison

aiff-logoThe last few days I have had my annual wake up call. I saw several films and documentaries that touched my heart, triggered constructive thought and tweaked my conscience. Some felt familiar and some were a call to action.

Mothering Inside (click here to see trailer) was a combination of all that I look for in our local film festival. An issue I had never considered is now front and center in my consciousness. This film gives touching insight into the lives and difficulties of incarcerated women and their families. And the Family Preservation Project began here in Oregon. Sadly, it could end here, too.

I hope not. Judging by the film and the young mothers who bravely stood before the audience and answered questions about outcome, this program can change outcomes, break family cycles, and give incentive to women who want a different life for their children than the paths they have chosen for themselves. It offers hope to the women while providing love in continuity to their children. Hopefully, it will become a pilot project that will move across our nation.

This isn’t a simple issue. Setting aside the need for total prison reform and the issue of funding, it still leaves a bundle of requirements that may be hard for inmates to meet. In addition to their own commitment they must have family or friends  on the outside who believe in the mother.  And who are willing to take care of the children and to do all that is necessary to deliver them to prison each month. These caregivers must provide the encouragement and connection that fuels incentive to keep the process going.

First and foremost, however, this program needs us all to understand what a difference Family Preservation can make. It needs us to believe that changing the paradigm of a family and altering expectations of children can improve our world exponentially.  It requires us once more to put our money into what may seem far removed from our lives but that indeed is part of the fabric of it.

Not all education is done formally in schools. Some of it is teaching how to parent, how to connect, how to have hope, even in a women’s prison.

And some highly effective education is accomplished in the dark of a theater while eating popcorn. Time to call my Congressmen.




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