Mothers of Bedford: Mothers in Prison
This post by guest contributor and film director, Jenifer McShane
For many women I know it is hard to imagine being separated from their children for a week or a month. Imagine being separated for ten or twenty years. What does that mother-child relationship look like?
Later this month my recently completed documentary, Mothers of Bedford, will screen at my favorite CT movie theater, Madison Art Cinemas!
It has been a long labor of love taking years of fundraising, filming, and more fundraising. I was inspired to make Mothers of Bedford when I learned about Sister Elaine Roulet’s work inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Sister Elaine decided that bars could not separate a child from their mother’s love and pledged to make it easier for mothers to see their children. I was struck by the hopefulness and love involved in her work. By founding The Children’s Center inside the prison and promoting opportunities for incarcerated women to see their children she has created space for positive change in the least likely of settings: prison.
As a mother myself, I was fascinated by the work happening in The Children’s Center as I observed the inmates working hard to maintain their role as mother. The issues the mothers in prison worry about: school grades, hanging with the wrong friends, and dating are not all that different from what the Guilford moms I know are worrying about. Of course, mothers in prison do not have day-to-day access to their children and have limited control. They also often have boat loads of guilt about being in prison and how that is affecting their child.
In my daily life parenting two boys I delight in the joy they bring to my husband and me but am also amazed at how challenging the role of mother can be. I say this as someone who has the benefits of education, a happy marriage, and safe environment to raise my children. What if I had none of these things? Is it possible to remain close to children from prison?
Every day I hear people who see the world definitively in black and white. In contrast, I believe many of life’s situations are somewhere in the complicated, gray area where problems are not easy to define or solve. Of course, there are the occasional exceptions, but generally speaking, regardless of why the mother is in prison, it can only benefit all concerned to allow a mother to nurture and possibly strengthen the relationship with her child.
My goal in making the film is to illuminate and raise the level of discussion regarding incarceration. Over the past several years, with the permission of the NY State Department of Corrections I have visited incarcerated women and their families in an effort to document their stories and have their voices heard. Mothers of Bedford gives us a look at a life that most of us know very little about. It has been a transforming experience for me, as I hope it will be for those who watch the film.
Mothers of Bedford is showing at Madison Art Cinemas February 17th @ 7:45 followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Jenifer McShane. Jenifer lives in Guilford with her husband and two sons.