The Project

Unconditional was inspired by the experiences of my grandmother, whose youngest son has been in and out of prison for several years. This project aims to provide a voice to women whose stories are often silenced. I entered into this project interested in exploring the disenfranchised grief mothers experience when they lose their children to the prison system. However, over the course of the last year and a half, I have learned about many other feelings and difficulties facing mothers whose children are incarcerated. I was shocked by the systemic issues that make having a child on the inside superfluously difficult, from the condemning procedures required to be processed before a visit, to the unspeakable conditions of some Canadian prisons, to the to the debilitating financial costs of defending your child and maintaining a relationship with them. The women I spoke with have been blamed for the actions of their children– sometimes even by said child– and yet every woman I met while working on this project (even those not featured in the final product) have invested unimaginable resources into maintaining a meaningful relationship with their child. A mother’s love is unparalleled and, truly, unconditional.

Unconditional was produced in the Documentary Media Program (MFA), Ryerson University, 2017


The Artist

Annalise Nielsen is a multi-media artist whose work focuses on human experiences and social rights issues. She received her BAH from Queen’s University in 2015 with a major in Film and a minor in Psychology. Annalise uses the skills and knowledge gained from this combined degree to explore untold stories and encourage audiences to analyze issues from a new perspective.

You can find more of her work at www.annalisenielsen.com.






If you are a family member to an incarcerated person and you are looking for resources, please consider:

Canadian Families and Corrections Network

Mothers Offering Mutual Support (Ottawa)

The John Howard Society of Canada

The Elizabeth Fry Society


Unconditional was made possible thanks to a number of dedicated and supportive people.

Special thanks to:

Louise Leonardi

Eliot Wright

Paul Aflalo

Lauren Bridle

Don Snyder

Vid Inglevics

Pranay Nichani

Mia Nielsen

Rick Nielsen

Sardar Farrokhi

McKenzie Haringa

Franny Delaney

Alexa Oakley

Sadaf Pourghorbani

Leala Hewak

Ken Robinson

Leighe Brownlee

Byron Murray

Sylvia Nowak

Ellie Haringa

Kyra Nielsen

Erica Nielsen

Drew Ursel

Elisabeth White

Chad Crouch

Erik Strom

Anna Ward

Victoria Harland






Episode 1: Yvonne
  • Episode 1: Yvonne

    Episode 1: Yvonne

    May 18, 2017 • 16:28

    “I was worried, at 77, that I would never see my son again. I figured I would be going to my grave and not see him no more.”

  • Episode 2: Dinny

    Episode 2: Dinny

    May 18, 2017 • 23:51

    “The depth of the sorrow you feel when your child has done something very wrong— I mean, it’s not a little thing, it’s not like he’s taken someone’s pail in […]

  • Episode 3: Rebecca

    Episode 3: Rebecca

    May 18, 2017 • 23:47

    “When you were younger I could always stand in front of you and protect you. I may not be able to protect you anymore because you're an adult, but I'm not going anywhere.”

  • Episode 4: Jackie

    Episode 4: Jackie

    May 18, 2017 • 26:43

    “It seemed he would disappear inside himself. I just put it down to, 19-years-old, baby, no job, living with your parents. I didn’t realize there was other things happening up there. I had no idea.”

  • Episode 5: Wendy

    Episode 5: Wendy

    May 18, 2017 • 25:45

    “He had the perfect life. I thought everything was perfect. How could he do this?”

  • Episode 6: Farhat

    Episode 6: Farhat

    May 18, 2017 • 23:51

    “It's like a dream-- it's like a nightmare. It was behind glass, he came in that orange suit..."