Alarmed By the Rising Numbers of Women in Prison; Kamloops & District Elizabeth Fry Society Presents National Film Board documentary “Conviction”.

Kamloops, B.C. –  Over the past decade there has been a 30% increase in the number of federally sentenced women and a 60% increase in the number of Indigenous female inmates. The greatest increase came from BC where in 2016-17, 47% of women admitted to federal custody were Indigenous – nearly double the percentage 10 years ago. To call attention to this issue, on October 11, 2019, at 6:30pm Kamloops & District Elizabeth Fry Society in partnership with Addiction Matters Kamloops will be presenting a screening of a Photo Voice Video and the National Film Board documentary, Conviction, at the KFS Paramount Theatre. A panel discussion will follow and will include, a criminal defense lawyer, an addictions specialist, an RCMP officer, a TRU professor, an Indigenous woman and a woman with lived experience.

Conviction follows women on the inside to imagine what they would have needed in their lives to avoid incarceration, and flips the narrative away from pop culture’s voyeuristic lens and hands it to the women who are being victimized, marginalized and criminalized in our society. Not another ‘broken prison’ film, Conviction is a ‘broken society’ film – an ambitious and inspired re-build of our community, from the inside out. With more women in prisons than ever before, the film invites viewers to question the status quo, and to consider a different kind of society that better supports the most vulnerable among us.

The experiences of women with lived experience are essential in making meaningful change. Now in Recovery, Nicole Obrigavitch is the woman with lived experience on the panel. “The guilt and shame of my addiction combined with societal stigma and lack of options led me to some pretty dark places and eventually to prison. When I was released, I was clean but I had new barriers and not a whole lot of support”, said Nicole “when things were especially difficult, I would think about the other women I had been in prison with and saw how they were struggling too. I kept thinking why isn’t there some sort of program that offers holistic support? A place that incorporates housing, where you could deal with your trauma and related addiction issues and also obtain educational support or employment training? We need to talk about these issues so that the public is aware of the gaps in services that lead to relapse and recidivism.

Nearly 73% of female prisoners are suffering from a mental health disorder and nearly three- quarters of these women have also lived with substance dependence or abuse. Addiction Matters Kamloops is a collaborative coalition of organizations, groups, and individuals working in the field of addictions or with the social issues that surround substance abuse. The coalition exists to build relationships, awareness, and education opportunities to address stigma related issues surrounding addiction. Their Photo Voice Video which will be shown prior to the documentary screening features the perspectives of individuals and families affected by substance use in our community. “We need to talk about addiction and incarceration and recognize the correlation between the two and the lack of support our society offers for women struggling in our justice system” said Cassandra Schwarz, Executive Director of Kamloops & District Elizabeth Fry Society. “We need to do better and find ways to break the cycle of incarceration.”

The Screening of Conviction, Photo Voice Video and Panel Discussion are free to attend. A suggested donation of $10 is welcome to support the work of the Elizabeth Fry Society. All funds raised will support the creation of a Women’s Recovery House program.

In the Community

“The Elizabeth Fry Society has given me the opportunity to provide a stable and secure environment for my children. As a single mom, I struggle less economically and can provide better quality food for me and my children.”

“When I first moved in I was pleasantly surprised to see a gift of household items to get a fresh start. I very much appreciated this help!”

“A couple of years ago I was pregnant, quite young and about to be homeless. I was not aware of all the programs and help available, Elizabeth Fry gave me a place to call home for my children and I feel safe and welcome. EFry has helped me take the steps to get where I need to be. Thank you!”

“Since I have been living in Efry housing I have been able to focus on my recovery and I have also secured employment. I am very grateful for my housing and if I had not secured it I probably would not have had so much success. “

“Efry housing has given me many opportunities to live a better life because I can get a few extra things every few months, nothing big unless I wait for it but a few things I enjoy. “

“Because of Efry housing I am able to attend school full-time to achieve a diploma in psychiatric nursing. If I did not live here, I would not be able to afford rent and go to school full-time. “

“My daughter, who is an only child is able to play with other children in the building. We have a community of parents helping each other out and the kids have friends nearby. “

“Going to school full-time is the most positive aspect for me and was only possible with the subsidized rent through Efry and BC Housing. “

Stories of Impact