“The first thing we must all come to understand is that women’s human rights affect all human rights,” Benalioulhaj said. “Women are increasingly becoming the heads of single parent-led homes. To a large extent, they are responsible for supporting, nurturing and educating their children. The health of a mother determines the health of a child, future generations and society at large.
“When a mother is taken from a family, whether by death or incarceration, the ripple effects of her loss are felt by everyone and there is an added burden to her extended family, friends and community members. The lack of stability shifts itself outward.”
These ripple effects are the focus of Women Behind Bars and will drive much of the panel discussion following the film screening. Panel members are Laura J. Pitman, deputy director, Female Offender Operations, Oklahoma Department of Corrections; Sheila Harbert, director of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars of Eastern Oklahoma; and Benalioulhaj. Sharp will moderate the discussion.
The OU College of Liberal Studies’ sponsorship of the screening ties into the college’s 50th anniversary celebrations, a milestone being marked this year.
“Ever since its founding in the 1960s, the college has sought to help students understand complex issues by using an interdisciplinary approach,” said College of Liberal Studies Associate Dean Martha Banz. “Today more than ever, we recognize that most of our seemingly intractable social and political issues are highly complex, which means that effective solutions will need to be equally multifaceted.
“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, what better way to highlight our history and tradition than to put those guiding principles into practice as we study the complicated issue of women’s imprisonment.”
Women Behind Bars premiered at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City in June. It has also been shown to various schools and organizations throughout the state.