WOMEN in Canadian prisons have lost a true friend and advocate. Marianna Lorraine Stack, 73, died suddenly on Easter Monday, Apr. 6th, in her birthplace of Saint John, NB. Stack was the co-founder and president of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saint John, an organization that helps to improve the lives of marginalized and imprisoned women in New Brunswick.
She developed a number of programs through the Elizabeth Fry Society including the innovative Mother/Child Read-Aloud Program conducted at provincial and federal prisons. This program provides books for incarcerated mothers to read to their children on tape, after which the book, tape and a cassette player are sent to the child. She was a coordinator of the Christmas Gift Program, which allows women inmates to send gifts to their children at Christmastime. At any given time 25,000 children have a mother involved with the Canadian justice system.
Stack was also involved with the Atlantic Region of Elizabeth Fry Societies and served on the Board of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. She frequently visited and assisted women at the Saint John Regional Correction Centre, the Madawaska Regional Correction Centre and the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia.
Stack was also the founder of the Anti-Shoplifting Program conducted for Grade 5 students in Saint John area schools. She understood young students for she had been an elementary school teacher for over 35 years and a vice-principal for a decade.
For her passion for equality and justice for women in prison, Stack was a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick in 2008 and of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 2010 Stack, on behalf of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saint John, accepted the New Brunswick Human Rights Award, which recognized the dedicated volunteers who had assisted accused women in receiving legal aid and advice, who had acted as mentors and had helped to preserve the relationships of women inmates with their children.
Stack was also an active member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Rothesay. She represented the Anglican Ecclesiastical Province of Canada on the Canadian Anglican Cursillo Secretariat and was a lay director of the Cursillo Community in the Diocese of Fredericton.
Marianna Stack was an avid reader and enjoyed her garden and traveling. She is survived by her two daughters, Deirdre Wade and Janice Stockall, as well as her two sons-in-law and three grandchildren and her special friends Denise Durette and Roy Carson.
–Sources: Fundy Funeral Home and Deirdre L. Wade, Q.C.
The international Elizabeth Fry Society was named after Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), an English prison reformer, social reformer and Christian philanthropist who has been called the “angel of prisons.”
Currently there are about 500 Canadian women in federal prisons. About 80 per cent of these women have histories of physical or sexual abuse, which increases to 91 per cent among Aboriginal women, according to the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. The Association says women inmates are “primarily poor or homeless, undereducated and have addictions or mental-health problems such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders.”