There is a play called ‘Jail Baby’ being shown this week at the Asper Centre for Theater and Film at the University of Winnipeg, 440 Colony Street that I was fortunate to be able to attend on Saturday Night. Jail Baby [ Directed by Ann Hodges, with Nan Fewchuk (Assistant Director) Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore (co-writers] of how Aboriginal women are the majority in prisons. However it is much more than that. It makes us think about the direction we are moving in our society in our desire to create safe communities.
The play deals with some difficult social issues and is able to bring humour to the powerful message through short skits called ‘Lifestyles of the Poor and Marginalized’. These segments are more a statement of our prison system looking at both the cost and treatment of inmates as a result of our punishment mentality. With over 80% of Manitoba’s prison system being represented by Aboriginal women it is clear that something isn’t working. Everyone of those incarcerated has a story that led them to where they are. Often our discussions lead to supports we can provide them in prison. The so-called rehabilitation aspect of our judicial system. The statistics are clear about the success rates for individuals once they have become involved in our judicial system. Unless we start doing some things differently this cycle will continue. There is not just one solution but in order to bring about change it certainly will take the will of all of us working together.
I certainly have no answers but a strong belief that the long term solutions are at the front end prior to crimes being committed. It is also going to take a cultural shift in our thinking about our solutions to addictions, sexual-exploitation and poverty. I also think as a society we are generally caring but in our efforts to create safe communities we choose to take the easy but more expensive solution of jail.
The play in itself is worth the price of admission with some outstanding performances. However, don’t leave early as the Panel Discussion is interesting and encourages the audience to ask questions to the panel. A young aboriginal woman currently serving a life sentence in Alberta provides some insights into her journey.
I certainly would highly recommend to anyone to see this play and listen to the panel. We need to heighten our awareness and enter into a dialogue about different solutions in order to create a safe and caring society where everyone can be included.