Meet the women who work and live at Grand Valley prison in Kitchener
Kitchener, Ont. has been home to Grand Valley Institution for Women for 20 years
For 20 years Kitchener, Ont. has been home to Grand Valley Institution for Women, one of Canada's six federal prisons for women.
Located on Homer Watson Boulevard, the building is easy to miss and many people do, but in mid-November a small group of people came up with a plan to bring the institution out into the open.
Community Justice Initiatives arranged to have people from the prison — employees, volunteers and inmates — attend a three-day event alongside researchers and community workers.
It all happened in downtown Kitchener, at the Walper Hotel, and CBC News was there, speaking to everyone involved.
Darla Fortune, researcher
Fortune's research focuses on Community Justice Initiative's Stride program, which helps women in prison form relationships with people in the community, so that they have a circle of support when they finish serving their sentences.
She said many women fear leaving the prison, because they think people outside the prison walls will know where they've come from and will judge them for their past crimes.
Jesse, Grand Valley inmate
CBC News agreed to refer to Jesse by first name only, as former inmates can have a hard time finding work and housing after they are released.
"I just want the community to know that women are so much more than their crime," Jesse said.
Patrice Butts, mother-child coordinator
"We need to really keep in mind that, more often than not, when we sentence a woman we often are sentencing a child or children as well," said Patrice Butts, who coordinates the Mother Child Initiative at Grand Valley.
By helping the women maintain strong relationships with their children, Butts said "everybody does better."
Laini Lascelles, spiritual advisor
Laini Lascelles, a spiritual advisor at Grand Valley, said teaching these women about their Indigenous identity is one way to prepare them for their release.
"We're always stressing that this isn't your home, this is temporary," she said. "You're here for however length of time — make the most of it to do the work that you need to do on yourself."