Our mission is to advance equity-centred approaches to protect the health and bond of mothers with lived prison experience and their children.

Welcome!  We are thrilled to offer this roundtable and bring together such inspired, gifted and dedicated leaders focused on the health of incarcerated mothers and their children.

The Bonding through Bars Roundtable is an unprecedented opportunity to bring mothers with lived prison experience together with international thought leaders to explore a research agenda and take action.

From May 5th to 10th, 2013 our Canadian team will have the privilege of working with international visionaries such as Pushpa Basnet (founder of Butterfly home Nepal and 2012 CNN hero of the year),  Chesa Boudin (author, lawyer, Rhodes Scholar and child rights expert), Sharon Content (founder of Children of Promise) and activist, Sharon McIvor who successfully challenged the Federal Government to amend the Indian Act, (the “McIvor” amendments).  

These and many other leaders in the field will work closely with our Planning Circle, over six days to address the systemic hardships of children affected by parental incarceration. Often silenced under the clamour of judgment directed toward their mothers, children are left without recourse or a platform to express their needs or indignation.  Our goal is to amplify and strengthen our collective knowledge to improve the health of children by supporting the health of their entire family.

The Rights and Realities of Children of Incarcerated Mothers 
Through a public panel discussion, we will highlight what many of our international delegates are doing to change the lives and paths of children whose parents are living behind bars. We will also hear from lawyer Geoff Cowper on the current BC Supreme Court challenge on a mother’s constitutional right to be with her baby while incarcerated.  Everyone is welcome.  This is a free/by donation event.
Wedneday, May 8th, 8-9:30pm Details here

The relationship between mother and child is fundamental to life. When that relationship is injured, far reaching consequences result for future generations and for society as a whole. According to the Elizabeth Fry Society, approximately 25,000 children in Canada are living with their mother behind bars.   These children are more likely to encounter extreme poverty, trauma, grief and to be victims of violence. Despite its critical importance to the health of our families and communities, there is a serious lack of research on this topic.

We propose a pioneering inquiry into how a cross-disciplinary, equity focused approach can have a lasting impact and provoke systems change to support the needs and health of incarcerated mothers and their children.

Fast Facts
: In Canada, forty percent of women in jail were separated from their own parents because of incarceration; now they are mothers raising the next generation and fifty percent of their teenage children have already been in youth custody. A study by Dr. Julie Poehlman shows that children of incarcerated mothers were subject to multiple biological and environmental risks.  

Sixty percent had been exposed to chemical substances before birth, forty five percent had complications at birth and over twenty percent were born pre-term. Poehlmann also assessed the quality of children's attachment relationship with mother and caregiver, an important index of many aspects of children's wellbeing.  Only about one-third (37%) of the children had secure attachents with thier mothers and caregivers, compared to sixty to seventy percent among other children.

Finding Solutions 

Socioeconomicfactors play a big role in the criminalization of women. An estimated sixty percent of incarcerated women were unemployed at the time of arrest.  Similarly, an astonishing eighty two percent of federally sentenced women and ninety percent of federally sentenced Aboriginal women have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse.  

The vast majority of women in the correctional system have experienced neglect, violence and a legacy of child abuse. Survival strategies include: drug abuse, sex work, stealing food to feed their children and/or welfare fraud.  Such survival systems have serious generational consequences. Finding solutions requires pulling at the roots of inequities that undermine the health of generations.