The Sunday Edition

Their moms do the time too: a support group for mothers of prisoners

When their children are sent to jail, mothers are often left on the outside looking in — without information or support. Christine Maki takes us inside the only support group in Canada for the mothers, sisters, and grandmothers of the incarcerated in her documentary "There for Me".
"I would get sick to my stomach every time I would go there, because the guards would make me feel like I was the one that committed a crime. You feel like a criminal yourself," says one of the mothers featured in Christine Maki's documentary. (iStockphoto)
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Picture a brown low-rise, a dingy room, a scuffed table surrounded by plastic chairs. On the walls, posters offering information on everything from rooming houses to legal aid. Gathered there — a group of women — who share one thing. They have a kid in jail. Or did have.

They call themselves the MOMS — Mothers Offering Mutual Support. The Ottawa group is the only group of its kind in the country. By agreement they don't discuss details of the crimes their sons have committed. They share practical information. They talk about jail conditions, and what can be done to change them.

But what they talk most about — at their once-a-month meetings — is what it's like to be a mother on the outside looking in. MOMS does not allow meetings to be recorded. But four members agreed to open up.

Christine Maki's documentary is called "There for Me".
"There's absolutely nothing, as a mother, you can do. Nothing at all," says one mother. "You just have to sit back, watch, and pray — and go to your MOMS group meetings." (Shutterstock)

Organizing for reform

MOMS is a support group for moms, sisters and grandmothers of those who are incarcerated. The group has also taken on an advocacy role, joining forces with justice reform groups to draw attention to conditions inside the prison system. On May 12th, the MOMS helped organize a forum at Ottawa City Hall called 'The Cost of Human Warehousing'. They want a provincial task force to examine conditions behind bars. They're also running a campaign to draw attention to a scanning device that limits family members' visits to inmates in federal penitentiaries.

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