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Friday, December 12, 2008

Prison Parenting Program: Can you be pro-family and pro-incarceration?

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is calling on the B.C. provincial government to reinstate the mother-child program at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.  The prison parenting program was cancelled in April of this year. 

British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth has called for the reinstatement of the program and a legal action has been launched on behalf of five incarcerated women affected by the program’s cancellation.

Megan Vis-Dunbar with the BCCLA today said “The loss of the mother-child program in correctional facilities is an unjustified infringement on the rights of both the parents and the children.  Apprehending newborns from female inmates causes serious harm to the child’s psychological and emotional development and profound psychological stress to the parent.  In addition, these harms disproportionately affect Aboriginal women and children because of the over- representation of Aboriginal women in Canadian prisons.”

When mothers are incarcerated the Ministry of Children and Family Development apprehends the children when family members are not available to take on the responsibility. According to the BCCLA, woman often have to take legal action to regain custody of children who have been placed in foster care during their incarceration.  Under the BC Child Family and Community Services Act , a child under five years-old who has been in temporary care for over 12 months automatically becomes a ward of the state and may be put up for adoption.

“The loss of this program is devastating to vulnerable families.  Single mothers who are incarcerated must have the option of being able to reside with their infant children.  Anything less is inconsistent with our commitments under the UN Declaration of Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Vis-Dunbar.

The question, of course, is whether or not the incarcerated mothers are fit to parent. Non-violent criminals who run afoul of the law may be fit to parent, while violent criminals may not.

Separating children from their parents, however, must surely only be done as a last resort.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 12, 2008 in Crime | Permalink


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Perhaps children should go to prison with their mothers. This could require mother/child prisons to be separate from usual prisons. Schools and appropriate mother/child accommodation would be needed. [Hopefully no bad unintended consequences would befall the child]

Posted by: dewp | 2008-12-12 6:22:51 PM

Prison is no place for a child/baby. If the mother goes to prison, the child/baby should go to foster care if there is no capable family member there.

Posted by: Markalta | 2008-12-12 10:17:13 PM

How's this. The baby/child goes with a capable mother to an appropriate mother/child prison. If the mother is not capable, the child goes to a capable family member. If no capable family member can be found, the child goes to foster care. Presumably, if we are smart and generous enough to find a way to house the homeless, we should be able to resolve the mother/child/prison situation.

Posted by: dewp | 2008-12-12 10:35:56 PM

As I was a Social Worker in a prison for women and a correctional facility for female, juvenile. offenders I doubt the ability of most inmates/residents of such places to properly care for children in any place, let alone specially stress-filled correctional institutions.

Posted by: James Pawlak | 2008-12-13 8:41:27 AM

Notice there is no equality? No parenting facilities for men in jail? Its an automatic assumption that men don't parent.
What is outragious is that fathers who attempt to be parents are frequently "criminalized" by judges determined to improperly do indirectly what they cannot do in an objective impartial court. Take Justices Denis Power and Alan Sheffield of Ottawa, they routinely issue orders against unemployed fathers for support at impossible incomes simply to cause their incarceration as a penalty for asking the courts for access, they also issue draconian orders that are virtual deportations orders under threat of jail. Interestingly, Russia has had parenting programs for women for decades, see youtube russiatoday. www.OttawaMensCentre.com

Posted by: Ottawa Men's Centre | 2008-12-13 11:14:24 AM

The welfare of the children should be the deciding factor, but as usual is being ignored. A prison is not an appropriate environment for children.

Ottawa Men's Centre is correct about the established and accepted double standard. Corrections Canada imposes the hiring of female correctional officers (guards) in all male prisons, and to do this they had to lower the recruitment standards. When male prisoners complained about these women invading their privacy in toilets and showers, the court dismissed their case. However male guards are now allowed in female prisons. Much of this non sense can be attributed to Louise Arbour.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-13 11:41:10 AM

Sorry about the typo for I meant to type that male guards are not allowed in female prisons.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-13 11:42:56 AM

I know a woman who raised her kids in a Japanese concentration camp where they were held for five years with other women and children. In spite of privations, this whole family is doing very well. Two are living in BC, and one, with great young children, is a Hollywood movie star.

Posted by: dewp | 2008-12-13 3:18:16 PM

dewp - sorry but as bad or unpleasant as the Japanese internment (not concentration) camps were, they had nothing in common with a prison environment. I state this knowing more than one person who was a child in such a camp and also from having worked in a prison.

The internees were not criminals nor did they behave as criminals in this camps or have a criminal mentality. The prison system is entirely different.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-13 3:27:30 PM

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