Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Geoffrey Nelson

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Women are the fastest growing prison population in the world. Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of federally sentenced women identified as having a mental health problem. The goal of this study was to determine how the Waterloo Region can create a seamless support system for women with mental health issues leaving Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI). An anti-oppressive framework was used, which emphasizes issues of power and oppression within the lives of individuals who have been marginalized and oppressed. Three participant groups took part in this research: (a) 12 women with mental health issues who had previously been or are currently incarcerated in GVI, (b) approximately 70 participants at a forum on the reintegration of federally sentenced women with mental health issues, and (c) 16 individuals who work with federally sentenced women, either in GVI or in the community. The findings demonstrate that all women, regardless of their mental health status, need the same resources and supports. The findings from the interviews with women are consistent with other research in this area in that criminalized women experience abuse, poverty, loss, substance use issues and mental health problems. The barriers they experience include a lack of affordable and decent housing, lack of employment opportunities and the prison environment, among others. In order to create a seamless system, changes at the structural level need to occur, including increased housing options, decreased power imbalances in the prison environment and increased employment opportunities. These changes will be difficult to make under the current neo-liberal ideology that our society by which our society is governed. However, change is possible. Ideological and practical recommendations are made that will help create a seamless support system for these women when they return to the community.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons