Meet Joanne

She’s a caring person and loving mother who set the gold standard for rehabilitation with support from The Elizabeth Fry Society – but is now serving a two-year prison sentence.

Joanne experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs throughout her life that led her here.
She lost her first son to Trisomy 18 as a newborn. She was diagnosed with Leukemia. Then, she lost almost all her extended family due to unexpected deaths and complications with relationships. Her emotions became too hard to handle. The pain led her down a dark path of depression, grievance and alcoholism.

One night, she and her husband had a disagreement while playing cards and she later stabbed him in the chest while he was sleeping.

She blacked out and was taken to jail. She sat in her cell feeling horrible about hurting the man she loved, who was fighting for his life in critical condition at the hospital. Joanne knew that what she had done was wrong and felt undeserving of rehabilitation or forgiveness.

Elizabeth Fry and The Abundance Program

Luckily, she met someone from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia at the jail, who helped her see that she was more than the mistake that she had made. Known as E-Fry, the organization is devoted to improving the lives of marginalized women, girls, non-binary, and gender diverse individuals who have been subject to systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Their Abundance Program, funded by United Way Halifax, offers a series of supports that help those women break the cycles that lead to criminalization and re-integrate. They offer programming both in jail and in the community and provide a range of court navigation services. They also offer employment opportunities through their thrift shop, the Abundance Store, and offer participants safe and affordable housing at their transition home, Holly House.

Taking strides

Within two days, E-Fry arranged to get Joanne reading glasses. Within two weeks, she was released to serve house arrest at Holly House while she awaited trial.

During the nearly one-year period that she was there, Joanne dedicated her time to self-growth, recovery, and new beginnings. She became an essential component of the Abundance Program and played a key role in developing the Abundance Store. She ran the foodbank, which serves approximately 60 to 65 marginalized families per month. Through her role as a Peer Support Mentor, she became a defining support in the lives of two young mothers navigating single parenthood. She sought numerous forms of mental health and addictions support. And, she also mended her relationship with her husband, who joined her in a softball league and was a regular visitor at Holly House.

“E-Fry is my family. They’re my supporters. They gave me a second chance. I could have been in jail for the past year awaiting trial and facing a sentence of up to 14 years.” – Joanne

Valuable support

Joanne set the gold standard for re-integration and rehabilitation with her commitment to making positive changes, but her growth was enabled by E-Fry. Their Executive Director, Emma Halpern and her team gave everything they had to get Joanne a fair sentence. Her husband even provided a forgiving victim statement, touting the growth and continued love that she had shown him. She was set to receive either a 2-year conditional sentence allowing her to stay at home on house arrest with her husband, or 3-4 years in federal prison.

Unfortunately, despite tremendous efforts from everyone involved, she received a sentence of two years in federal prison. Although this outcome was unexpected, the progress that Joanne made with the support of the Elizabeth Fry Society should be considered a success. Their ongoing support during her sentence will be incredibly valuable to her future growth upon release.

Watch Christina Martin honour Joanne with her performance of “Golden Tears” at Songs of the City 2023.


Golden Tears – Christina Martin


Elizabeth, you held my hand when I got the call,

And though I am scared I’ve got friends who will soften my fall,

The space and you showing me how to be loving, we’ve worked hard on this,

I’m grateful for knowing, your kindness is glowing, I know I’m blessed,

I could have used you Elizabeth, when I lost my child,

Pain drove my way fast and promised he loved me for miles,

I turned to a stranger I promised myself I’d avoid,

I damaged my family, myself and my whole precious world,


When I cry they are golden tears,

Over my scars, mending the years,

When I cry, I cry golden tears,

When I cry, I cry golden tears,


Elizabeth, we’ve come a long way, now I see the light,

You’ve helped me grow wings with a plan, I’ll continue to fight,

I’ll question the things that don’t feel right inside of my heart,

Challenge the negative thoughts and hold on to good parts,


When I cry they are golden tears,

Over my scars, mending the years,

When I cry, I cry golden tears,

When I cry, I cry golden tears,


When I cry they are golden tears,

Heartbreak to love, mending the years,

When I cry, I cry golden tears,

When I cry, I cry golden tears.