Parenting is already a tough job, but everyday, women in Oregon are figuring out how to continue to connect with their kids while serving time.
In a new documentary, “Mothering Inside,” Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom examines how women at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility maintain ties with their families.
“(I wanted to) shine a light on people that we usually put an X through, and show their ability and strength,” said Lindstrom in an interview with OPB’s Think Out Loud.
Since 2010, the Wilsonville prison has hosted the Family Preservation Project, which teaches inmates about parenting while allowing the women to see their children twice a month. Of the nearly 30 women who have participated in the program, none has returned to prison.
Despite the program’s success, the Oregon Department of Corrections cut funding and is moving to likely end FPP later this year. Superintendent Heidi Steward said that while Coffee Creek believes in the program, it’s an expensive endeavor. Annual costs come out to about $300,000, which only helps about 11 women at a time out of 625 inmates.
“We also believe that we can take this money and invest it more wisely and invest in more women in Coffee Creek,” said Steward. “I have to figure out how to touch more moms with that money.”
FPP coordinator Jessica Katz agreed that there are other struggles to make the program work, in particular getting the kids to the facility.
“It requires supporting the family with gas cards,” said Katz. “We make phone calls Saturday morning to give a little nudge to get a child there.”
Steward said that prison still has programs available to moms, including Head Start programs, parenting, services for pregnant women and visiting hours outside of the regular schedule. Former inmate Katrina Going, who participated in FPP, said these wouldn’t have been enough for her.
“There was no way for me to participate in those programs,” said Going, referring to the prison’s rules that would have kept her from seeing both her son and daughter. “I would have gotten out to two children who didn’t know their mother.”
An early cut of the movie was released last week for a small audience, including Mayor Charlie Hales, Steward and some of the FPP participants and their children.
If you’d like to see the documentary for yourself, the Hollywood Theater in Portland will host a showing Thursday.