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Vanier Institute


Handdrawn easter basket with parole, deferral and no action. From the cover of The Inside-Outlook, March 1973.  


Cover of The Inside-Outlook, November 1974.

The Inside-Outlook, published by the Vanier Centre for Women in Brampton, Ontario, holds a distinctive position within the Criminology Library's penal press collection, being the sole publication originating from a provincial correctional facility. In Canada, individuals serving sentences of less than two years are accommodated in provincial facilities. The abbreviated nature of these provincial sentences is reflected in the thematic focus of The Inside-Outlook, which places significant emphasis on events and training programs facilitated by the Centre to prepare incarcerated women for their eventual and imminent release. These programs encompass vocational work, parenting classes, and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous. The Inside-Outlook is also focused on informational and general interest, sharing news, songs, activities, jokes, and drawings to keep the women occupied and entertained.

This publication demonstrates a pronounced interest in what is happening 'outside', allocating dedicated sections to topics such as current fashion trends, popular songs, and essential information pertaining to parole, rehabilitation, and community resources. Notably, the content addresses post-sentence considerations, including reintegration into society through halfway houses, counselling services, and engagement with Children and Family Services.

InsideOutlook_Vol. 1_pg 20.jpg

Drawing of fashion trends, published in The Inside-Outlook, March 1973, pg. 20.


Drawing of a resident of Vanier, published in The Inside-Outlook, April 1974, pg. 34. 

The Vanier Institute is constructed based on a cottage-style design, wherein groups of up to twenty-four women reside collectively in one 'cottage' or open-style dormitory. Each cottage is conceptualized as a distinct community, represented by names such as "Invictus," "Kon-Tiki," "Hochelaga," and "Ingleside," all of whom provide their news and updates in The Inside-Outlook. Women from all the cottages came together for communal activities, notably vocational training sessions, which encompass skills such as sewing and cosmetology, as well as collective gatherings like the Native Sisterhood ("Indian Group") and Alcoholic and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

The Inside-Outlook, unlike other publications in the penal press, makes no references to subscribers and does not feature a letters to the editor section, and instead appears to be entirely inward driven. In fact, how the Criminology Library came to possess such a large collection of this publication, which is not held by any other institution, remains uncertain. 

The emphasis on the lived experience of women serving short sentences within the context of minimum-security incarceration presents a distinctive departure from the perspectives and writings of women confined in the Prison for Women, as portrayed in Tightwire. The Inside-Outlook offers a unique viewpoint on the impact and understanding of incarceration for women in a minimum-security setting with shorter sentences. 


Excerpt of article, "Abortion" published in The Inside-Outlook, October 1974, pg. 44

The subject matter of The Inside-Outlook centres the needs, rights and desires of the women of the Vanier Institute. It offers a snapshot of the knowledge and perspectives prevalent among women during the 1970s. Notably, the authors demonstrate a willingness to engage with challenging and intricate issues, such as domestic violence, drug addiction, and abortion. An anonymous contributor crafted an exceptionally informative five-page article on abortion, underscoring the assertion that "abortion is our right – our right as women to control our bodies."

During the period of the article's publication in October 1974, access to abortions in Canada remained criminalized and uneven. The prevailing legal framework mandated a three-doctor panel's approval for an abortion, allowing termination only if they determined that pregnancy posed a threat to the woman's life. The anonymous writer exhibits both knowledge and passion, providing detailed information on travelling to New York state to obtain an abortion, a recently available option following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Additionally, the writer delves into the nuanced considerations surrounding the selection of abortion methods based on the pregnancy's duration, providing an analysis of the pros and cons associated with different types of medical abortions, such as vacuum suction, dilation and curettage, and saline injection.


Design and pattern for a stuffed cat and giraffe, published in The Inside-Outlook, November 1974, pg. 37

On the lighter end of the spectrum, discussions pertaining to fashion, sewing, and other creative endeavours were frequent topics among the pages of the Inside-Outlook. The Vanier Centre provided vocational classes in sewing, prompting numerous women to adapt and share these newfound skills with their peers. A constant and consistent theme in The Inside-Outlook revolved around the challenges many women faced due to their separation from their communities, families, and, most notably, their children.

In November 1974, an article furnished step-by-step instructions for the creation of stuffed toys—a giraffe and a cat—possibly intended as Christmas presents. For those lucky enough to be released in time for the holidays, these were gifts they could bring home with them, while others might complete them in time to mail them or to gift within the confines of the visiting room at Vanier.

Click through the images below to read articles and see drawings that appeared in The Inside-Outlook