CJI’s mission is to end mass criminalization and incarceration by building and strengthening the infrastructure of the grassroots criminal justice movement to fundamentally transform the U.S. criminal legal system. We fund where the movement is developing, shifting and growing. We believe this movement should be led by those most impacted by the injustices of the current system, working in alliances across race, class, faith, gender, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status and age.
CJI CELEBRATES ANDREA JAMES & THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF INCARCERATED & FORMERLY INCARCERATED WOMEN AND GIRLS
Deborah Peterson Small, a native New Yorker, criminal defense lawyer, Founder of Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs and proud FreeHer Circle Member for a Just Sisterhood.
Last week the Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI) staff and FreeHer Circle members traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to join more than 500 formerly incarcerated women and girls and other criminal justice activists at the second Annual Conference of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (National Council). The National Council is the outcome of work begun by Andrea James, a formerly incarcerated woman from Boston, Massachusetts who began organizing her fellow women prisoners while serving time in federal prison. They formed Families for Justice as Healing (FJAH), “with the goal to raise public awareness of women as the fastest-growing incarceration population and to use our voices to create a more accurate portrait of who we are, what we had learned and what we could contribute to this dialogue.”
The National Council works to end the incarceration of women and girls and to shift society from a criminal legal system focused on punishment, to a system based on human justice. In many ways, Andrea James has shown herself to be a visionary leader. She describes her perspective this way:
We must turn the discussion upside down and instead of focusing on “re-entry” seriously think about what we need to do for “no-entry.” We must acknowledge the centrality of violence and sexual abuse of women and girls, racism, poverty and homophobia as drivers of the criminalization and incarceration of women and girls. If we do not, we will just be tinkering around the edges. Only when we step back and look at the complex big picture, will we be able to begin to undo some of the immeasurable harm that has been done and invest in resources to help communities begin to heal and thrive. Read More