Movies | Film
Viewers of director Jenifer McShane's documentary "Mothers of Bedford," are hit with a cold hard fact: Women are the fastest growing population in today's U.S. prisons. Eighty percent of those women are mothers of school-aged children." Is it possible to become a better mother while serving time in a maximum security prison? Mothers of Bedford, an award-winning feature documentary, tells the story of five women who are incarcerated in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County. The film looks at their lives through the lens of motherhood. Many parents find it hard to imagine being away from a child for a week – Imagine being separated for ten or twenty years?
In the Bedford Hills faciltiy, just over half of the 750 prisoners are mothers, serving sentences of five to 25 years or life for robberies, drug-related crimes or worse. Mothers of Bedford explores the effects of a long-term prison sentence on the “mother-child relationship.” The increase of women being imprisoned and the effect it has on their children is a statistic that does not get much media attention. Director Jenifer McShane’s thought provoking film gives the viewer a chance to step inside the prison walls through the eyes of the filmmaker, who followed five women at the prison for four years, documenting their struggle to have a role in their children’s lives.
The five women followed in Mothers of Bedford, each have children who participate in a program at the "Children's Center of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility," that helps the incarcerated mothers maintain and improve their relationship with their children. The program was founded by Sister Elaine Roulet over 30 years ago after she realized that many children whose mothers go to prison often lose contact, which can cause untold damage to a mother-child relationship, no matter how strong the positive effects of the rehabilitation program is for the incarcerated woman.
At one point in the film, Sister Roulet tells of a poem she wrote about a child who needs to study for a vocabulary quiz and asks his father what the word "prison" means. "Prison is a place where bad people go when they do bad things," the father tells his son. The son responds: "Where do good people go when they do bad things?" Sister Roulet does not intend to paint the mothers as innocent victims. “Yes, they have committed crimes and people need to pay for their crimes. However, being guilty of a crime does not make that person a bad mother,” she believes.