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Canada: More than 60 per cent of incarcerated women are mothers — Listen

The fastest growing prison population in Canada is racialized women. The trend may be connected to rising poverty rates and the criminalization of attempts to cope with poverty



By Vinita Srivastava and Boké Saisi, The Conversation

Mother’s Day was just a few weeks ago; it can be a complicated day. For some, it could mean a bouquet of flowers or a breakfast in bed. For others, it can mean mourning the loss of a loved one or dealing with a haunted past. And still — for others — like the 66 per cent of incarcerated women in prison who are mothers, it can mean something else entirely.


Despite a reduction in crime in the last 20 years in Canada, many women attempting to make ends meet for their families end up colliding with the prison system.


In Canada, women’s prisons are filling up. In fact, the fastest-growing prison population in Canada is racialized women More than one in three women in federal custody are Indigenous. And the percentage of South Asian women and African Canadian women in custody is also disproportionately high.


One of the reasons the women’s prison population is rising, experts say, is poverty.


Amidst a financial downturn and ballooning economic inequality, criminalizing attempts at survival is staggering. And the effects on families are devastating.


Adding to this is the complexity that 87 percent of all women in federal prisons in Canada have experienced physical or sexual abuse and many also live with mental health issues.


On this episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient, we are joined by Rai Reece, professor at Toronto Metropolitan University who researches prisons and feminist criminology. Lorraine Pinnock also joins us. She is the Ontario Coordinator for the Walls to Bridges program which helps women with education when transitioning out of the system. It’s a transition she has made herself. In 2011, Lorraine was incarcerated at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. She has two children.

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