A Hand in the Darkness| 1hr : 39mins
Director: Matthew G Baker | Producer: Rozlyn F Young
Focus Years: 2015 | Country: Canada
In a series of interviews following Teresa Strong at home and as she drives around Edmonton, this documentary tells the story of a young woman lost in addiction and crime. Toni Sinclair, Executive Director of Edmonton's Elizabeth Fry Society, remembers her first meeting with Teresa in prison. Together, the two women go on a journey that culminates in Teresa's moving speech at the society's 35th anniversary gala.
Teresa was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta to teenage parents. After her mother left them, Teresa's father worked hard in the city's booming oil sands to raise his two girls. Reflecting, Teresa realizes now that the mental abuse she suffered from her step mother was part of an antagonist relationship with a woman who just wasn't her mom. Desperate to visit her mother, Teresa endured physical abuse from an angry, alcoholic step dad. In her early teenage years, Teresa was already experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Her father sent her to live in Calgary and she ran away from home. From there, Teresa connected with a local man who promised to take care of her. At 16, Teresa became a prostitute addicted to crack cocaine.
Dr. Joanne Minaker, Associate Professor at MacEwan University, discusses how the social relationships of marginalized women influence their experiences within the criminal justice system. Her research into how we can foster caring relationships reflects Teresa's search for a family. After years of intense physical abuse from her first pimp, Teresa became a member of a large prostitution family. She worked on a street corner in Calgary, making enough money to support a lavish lifestyle and her drug habit. During this time, Teresa had her first daughter. However, she had to abandon her daughter when the father, her pimp, was sent to prison and his crew confiscated Teresa's home and all of her belongings. Teresa fled to Victoria, was nearly arrested for accessory to murder, and finally landed in Edmonton and joined a prominent gang.
In Edmonton, Teresa was in and out of jail, for prostitution, soliciting for the purpose, and trafficking. She had more children, who were all apprehended by child welfare, and participated in a robbery that resulted in her final five year sentence. During that sentence, Teresa connected with Toni and the programs offered through the prison and the Elizabeth Fry Society. At the Elizabeth Fry office, interviews with staff highlight the need for more housing programs and the strain on their resources with increasing prison populations across Canada. Teresa completed her prison time and successfully petitioned to get her children back. Now, Teresa works full time with criminalized women in Edmonton. Toni invited Teresa to speak at the EFry 35th anniversary gala and we documented her inspiring speech to her community.