Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Bree Akesson

Advisor Role

Stacey Hannem

Second Advisor

Jennifer Root

Advisor Role

Kate Rossiter


Women are the fastest growing prison population in the world (ICPR, 2017). This holds true in the Canadian context, where 70% of federally incarcerated women are mothers to children under 18 (Sapers, 2015). Inevitably, the carceral experience is inherently familial: the experiences of criminalized women cannot be extricated from that of their families, and the experiences of children and caregivers cannot be extricated from that of the criminalized mother and other family members. Yet, there is a great deal that we do not know about incarceration and family life—particularly from the perspectives of caregivers, mothers, and children themselves. This multi-case study explores three families’ co-constructed narratives of life before, during, and after a mother’s federal incarceration. Utilizing collaborative family interviews as well as within-case and cross-case analyses, this research illuminates the varying roles family members assume as they mother and are mothered in the context of incarceration. Without a map or manual, incarcerated women, their children, and kinship caregivers transition between three roles: the navigator, the gatekeeper, and the peacemaker. Evident across families and generations, these themes point to the ways in which families are not only shaped by crime, but by the criminal justice system itself.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons