I was shocked to find out that female inmates are the fastest growing prison population today. With this in mind co-directors Nance Ackerman, Ariella Pahlke and Teresa Macinnes collaborated with a couple of inmates at a women’s prison in Nova Scotia to produce Conviction.
Correctional systems were implemented to protect society at large from convicted criminals and to attempt rehabilitation of them. A film like this shows us that rehabilitation is not happening, especially with those most vulnerable in society. Jail has become more of a revolving door than a place which rehabilitates then reintegrates inmates back into society.
Our jails cost millions of dollars (to build, staff and maintain) and the average cost to incarcerate one woman is around $100,000. We the taxpayers pay for this and should demand something which works better. The film poses the question that certainly our money and resources could be used in a different way that would bring about better results for everyone involved.
The subjects here are in provincial and federal prisons. The picture created is women who have been marginalized and just end up in prison because of their circumstances. Stats are frightening in that more than half of the women in prisons are racialized, most are mothers, most are poor, and many have mental health and/or addiction problems. Violence is also a constant in the lives of these women. Many have lived with it since childhood.
There is also the issue of not enough affordable housing being available so women getting out of jail don’t really have anywhere to stay. To compound this problem they can only get social assistance if they have an address. Sometimes because they have nowhere to go women just reoffend in order to have somewhere to stay/sleep/live. That cannot be the best we can do.
The team behind the film went into the prisons with art supplies, an art therapist and film equipment with the goal of understanding why women are the fastest growing prison populations worldwide. What the inmates come up with is a residence in which women leaving jail can live in to ease their transition back into society.
Conviction is a call to action. We can no longer allow women to be marginalized and victimized. Calls for us to question the status quo. I am sure we can think of better ways to support these women. Invest our money in people and not build more prisons. Invest that money in social, economic and health programs rather than locking people up.
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