Motherhood is already a full-time job. Imagine how difficult it is for those moms facing an extra obstacle: incarceration.
What is it like to be a mother while in prison? Directed by Jenifer McShane, the documentary “Mothers of Bedford” explores the effects of long-term incarceration on mothers’ relationships with their children through the eyes of several women at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York. “Mothers of Bedford” won the 2013 Director’s Choice Award at the Seattle Social Justice Film Festival, and was featured as part of PBS’s series, “America Reframed.”
Women are the fastest growing population in the United States prison system, and more than 60 percent of all female prisoners are mothers of school-age children. (Read more about the incarceration of women in Jim Liske’s blog for the Huffington Post.) Bedford Hills Correctional Facility houses a children’s center when mothers can spend time with their children, as well as a comprehensive parenting program for prisoners. It serves as an example for other prisons.
“Mothers of Bedford” follows five women – Melissa, Tanika, Mona, Rosa, and Anneathia – over the course of four years during their incarceration, and features interviews with the prisoners and their family members. The film emphasizes that their experience in prison has given these women a new appreciation of their role as mothers.
One story captures the life of Melissa, who was pregnant when she arrived at Bedford Hills. While incarcerated, Melissa gave birth to her daughter, Emma, who spent the first eighteen months of her life in prison with her mother. Melissa’s release and reentry process are particularly emotional for both her and her parents.
Another story is equally heartbreaking and triumphant. Anneathia is serving a ten-year sentence at Bedford Hills and has two daughters in the custody of her mother, Luecrezy, a recovering drug addict. Luecrezy has a relapse that causes her to lose custody of her granddaughters, destroying the family’s stability. Yet Annethia and her family, with the help of mentors at Bedford Hills and the children’s center, are able to conquer this difficult obstacle.
“Mothers of Bedford” breaks the stereotype of female inmates as hardened and bitter, and reminds us that a mother’s compassionate heart for her children is universal. Often, these women dealt with the same difficulties as a mother on the outside: discipline problems, parent/teacher conferences, and worrying about their children’s well-being.
The film highlights each woman’s role as a mother being a significant part of their lives, and reminds us that the bond of motherhood transcends all boundaries.
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility participates in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree® program, which can help parents maintain that bond with their children by providing Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents. Learn how you can help remind children of their parents’ love for them despite distance by visiting www.angeltree.org.