The mission of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (National Council) is to end the incarceration of women and girls by building a movement grounded in support, coalition building, solidarity and human rights.
The National Council is the first national organization created and led by formerly incarcerated and incarcerated women. Our mission is to end incarceration of women and girls. We do this through a platform designed to provide connectivity, support, information sharing and coalition building, among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls and our movement family.
The National Council is a place where members share knowledge and powerful experiences as the women and girls most affected by the criminal legal system. Women and girls who know the realities of incarceration, the many hurdles faced after returning home, and the harm done to families and communities.
As members of the National Council, thousands of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls are connecting their reform and prison abolition work, to create a system based on human justice. As we grow in our membership and common purpose, we inform and shape the policies, programs and laws that directly affect us, and work collectively, as a national movement, toward our goal of ending incarceration of women and girls.
We held our first organizing meeting in New York City on December 5, 2015. Since then, the National Council has convened organizing meetings for formerly incarcerated women and directly impacted women and girls in Los Angeles, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago, Oakland, New Haven, Boston, New York City and Seattle. We aim to build a membership of 100,000.
In February 2016, we held our first Real Women Real Voices: Where the People Meet the Policy symposium at Columbia University. Since then symposiums, co-sponsored by law and divinity schools have been held at American University College of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Yale Law School, University of Washington, Seattle, and NYU Law School. Symposiums are open to the public and usually consist of three panels of formerly incarcerated, incarcerated and directly impacted women and girls. Panels have included Affects of Incarceration: Children & Family; Second Chances: Clemency, Pardons & Compassionate Release; and The Realities of Reentry: Housing, Education & Employment. At each symposium incarcerated women have been Skyped-in from state or federal prisons.
In February 2017, the first national convening of the Council took place in New York City. More than 125 women from twenty five states including Hawaii, Alaska, California, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Washington,DC, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Ohio. More than 90% of the women at the historic convening were formerly incarcerated and are leaders in their own states.
We are now forming state and city Council chapters. Chapters are encouraged to organize on specific issue areas that further the decarceration of women and girls including voter registration/felony disenfranchisement, clemency, pardons, and parole.
The Council is committed to supporting and including the organizing work of our sister organizations throughout the country as we build our movement to end the incarceration of women and girls.
The National Council thanks our generous funders: The NoVo Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, The Center for Community Change, the Women’s Donor Network and our individual donors.
Accomplishments and Highlights
December 15, 2015, through February 22, 2017
Real Women Real Voices: Where the People Meet the Policy: Symposiums have been organized by Topeka Sam in conjunction with law and divinity schools. They are open to the public and usually consist of three panels. At each symposium incarcerated women have been Skyped-in from state or federal prisons. Symposiums have taken place at the following schools beginning in February 2016: Columbia Law School, American University College of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Yale Law School, University of Washington, Seattle, and NYU Law School.
National Council Meetings: National Council Meetings are organized by Topeka Sam in conjunction with local hosts. They are open to National Council members which include formerly incarcerated women and girls and loved ones of incarcerated women. National Council meetings have taken place in the following cities beginning in Dec 2015. Los Angeles, CA, Atlantic City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC, Nashville, TN, New Orleans, LA, Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA, New Haven, CT, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Seattle, WA.
Membership: In the year since our founding, the National Council has more than 1,000 active members, not including the growing number that makes up our database of supporters.
The Declaration of the National Council: see http://thecouncil.us/ This document was written in January and February 2016 by National Council members and has provided an early blueprint for National Council action.
Selected Talks and Highlights
• Prison in Twelve Landscapes: screening and discussion with the filmmaker and Topeka K. Sam. Barnard College, February 22, 2017.
• Topeka Sam, speaker and others. “Voices of Black Experience: Inspiring Us to Resist the New Jim Crow”. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, Lincroft, NJ. February 17, 2017
• Dawn Harrington speaks on behalf of Primary Caretakers Legislation. NAACP Lobby Day, TN State Capitol, Nashville. February 14, 2017.
• Sarah Zarba, “Mapping the Carceral System: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Women of Color, Gender-Non-Conformity as Markers of Delinquency.” Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. February 13, 2017.
• Tiheba Bain, organized this event and Sarah Zarba was a panelist. “Family and Mass Incarceration- With a Focus on Women and Children. What the Church Needs to Know.” Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church. New Haven. Sponsored by The Council and Ladies of Hope Ministries and others. February 11, 2017.
• Alternative Sentencing for Primary Caretakers has been introduced in four state legislatures: MA, TN, CT and PA. A redraft of the Bill first introduced in MA in the current session can be found here: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/SD622
• Lois Ahrens, talk. “Made In America: Unfree Labor in the Era of Mass Incarceration”, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. February 2, 2017.
• Real Women, Real Voices Symposium at NYU Law School. January 25, 2017. More than 350 people attend.
• Meeting of the NY Chapter of the Council. Columbia University. January 24, 2017. More than 70 attend.
• The National Council charters a bus to the Washington, DC Women’s March on Washington. 50 National Council members. January 21, 2017
• Donna Hylton, Founding Member of the National Council. Speech at the Women’s March on Washington. January 21, 2017 https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4651120/donna-hylton
• Sarah Zarba and Tiheba Bain spoke at the 2017 Columbia University NAACP Her Legacy Conference at Columbia University Lerner Hall Morningside Campus on January 20, 2017
• Lois Ahrens, MLK Day Talk. Northampton, MA. January 16, 2017
• The Council participates in Transformation from the Inside Out. At the former Bayview Prison, future home of The Women’s Building. New York. January 14, 2017
• Seminar at Jewish Theological Seminary with Susan Rosenberg, Evie Litwok, Tiheba Bain, Donna Hylton. January 11, 2017. New York
• Stand-Out for Clemency. January 10, 2017. Chicago, IL. McCormick Center at President Barak Obama’s Farewell Address.
• Topeka Sam conducts the first ever Council meetings inside a prison. Washington Correctional Center for Women- Women’s Village. And, a Council meeting at the Federal Halfway House in Seattle. December 7th and 8th, 2016.
• Andrea James speaks at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Dinner, NYC. December 6, 2016. Speakers include Vice President Joe Biden.
• Topeka Sam presenting for the Council with Nkechi Taifa with Deborah Peterson Small at the State of the Black World Conference / Institute of the Black World 2016 in Newark, NJ. November 19, 2016
• Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award presented to Andrea James, November 17, 2016. Kennedy Caucus Room, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C
• Stand Out at the White House. National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and Can-Do Clemency as we raise up the women incarcerated in Federal prisons who are eligible for executive clemency based on the criteria of President Obama’s Clemency Project. Wednesday, November 16th from 12:30 – 1:30 pm in front of the White House.
• Organizing on behalf of clemency for women in the Federal system with CAN-DO Clemency.
• Syrita Steib-Martin and Fox Rich spoke at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting to the Division of Women and Crime at Hilton New Orleans on November 16, 2016
• Topeka K. Sam spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party on Mass Incarceration and Reentry. New York, November 12, 2016.
• Michelle Miles and Ramona Brant, clemency recipients and National Council Members presented at The Federal Bar Council Committee on Sentencing and Alternatives to Incarceration panel on President Obama’s Clemency Initiative: Perspectives from the Released and their Advocates. November 2, 2016 Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, New York, NY Moderator: The Honorable John Gleeson (Ret.) Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Former District Judge –EDNY
• Nov 13, 2016. Screening of Documentary Film RIKERS/ by The Riverside Church in the City of New York, co-sponsored by the Jewish Theological Seminary. Topeka Sam presented on the panel on behalf of the Council with Bertram is the minister in charge of social justice at Riverside. Frederick Davie, Executive Vice President Union Theological Seminary, the Rev. Bertram Johnson, Minister of Social Justice at Riverside Church and Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky of Ansche Chesed Synagogue.
• Susan Rosenberg and Topeka Sam presenting about mass incarceration as the most important social justice issue of our time at a class of Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay at the The Jewish Theological Seminary. NYC. October 26, 2016.
• Andrea James, Topeka Sam, Syrita Steib-Martin, and Fox Rich. Symposium for Systematic Change and Criminal Justice Reform. October 21, 2016. Sponsored by Catholic Charities. New Orleans, LA.
• International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health. Andrea James. Amsterdam. October 2016
• Andrea James, Susan Burton, Teresa Younger, Michelle Alexander, Gina Clayton. October 18th Invisible Woman: The Experience of Women and Girls in the Era of Mass Incarceration. Union Theological Seminary, NYC. Andrea speaking on behalf of the National Council.
• Center for Community Change / Human Impact partners. Council members. Los Angeles, CA. September 2016
• Andrea James. Women, Incarceration and Carceral Feminism, Keynote Event, Feinberg Lecture Series, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. September 20, 2016.
• Andrea James presented at a dinner organized by Michael Skolnick Dinner with Valerie Jarrett. Brooklyn, NY August 2016
• Democratic National Convention – Rabin Group. Presentation by Andrea James. July 2016
• Andrea James- Google panel. Washington, DC. May 2016
• United State of Women. The White House May 2016. Andrea James and other Council Members.
• National Press Club Washington, D.C. April 22nd, 2016 the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls launched the path-breaking organization at a press conference at the National Press Club. Members of the Council spoke at the press conference.
• Just Leadership awards presentation. Award presented to Andrea James and a talk by Andrea. NYC. April 2016
• Washington Office on Latin America convening. Washington, DC. Andrea James. April 2016
• Andrea James in a one-to-one conversation with Valerie Jarrett moderated by Michele Norris. White House Summit Focuses on Women in Prison. March 30, 2016. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/white-house-summit-focuses-women-prison-n548281
• National Advocates for Pregnant Women Conference. Andrea James. NYC March 2016
• Beyond the Bars Conference, Columbia University, NYC. March 2016
• Andrea James presented at a United Nations Conference, Vienna, Austria. March 2016
• The American Justice Summit. Andrea James. January 2016
• A Life of the Law podcast. Andrea James
Selected Awards and On-Going Consultations:
• The Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights. This award is being given to Andrea James for her work as Founder of Families for Justice As Healing and for her inspirational leadership of The Council. The award ceremony will take place in Washington, DC on November 17, 2016. http://rfkhumanrights.org/news/news/criminal-justice-reform-advocates-andrea-james-and-glenn-e-martin-selected-33rd-annual-robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-award/.
• The National Council has been instrumental as a consultant to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in their choice of focusing on the conditions of confinement women incarcerated by the Bureau of Prisons. “From Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg: August 25, 2016. Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project and Andrea James of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls recently advised the offices of Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg in the development of a concept paper for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission voted in July 2016 to adopt this project, entitled “Women in Prison: Disparate Treatment, Disparate Impact, and the Duty of Care.”
• Political Prisoners and Clemency. Susan Rosenberg is the Council’s driving force in centering the experiences and challenging the punishment paradigm of political prisoners.
• Andrea James is working with the DOJ to develop a webinar for state and county prison administrators and staff including parole and probation staff. This is the first time ever training was created for them by formerly incarcerated members. Webinar focus: Obstacles to re-entry and how to prepare for the release of women.
• Andrea James was a consultant for the paper: Women, Drug Policies, and Incarceration in the Americas. A Guide for Policy Reform. Washington Office on Latin America. https://www.wola.org/women-drug-policies-and-incarceration-in-the-americas/
• Transforming the System. This interactive report identifies pragmatic solutions for transforming the criminal justice system, consolidating recommendations on a cross-section of issues. The Opportunity Agenda. October 2016. Topeka K. Sam was a consultant on this report incorporating the voices and policy suggestions of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system. http://transformingthesystem.org/about/
• Trinidad: Topeka Sam spoke to 100 prison officers and officials at Prisons Training College in Arima. She spoke about the work of the National Council and implementing training to the officers. Topeka also met with incarcerated women at the country’s only prison for women. This is an on-going consultation.
• The National Council Listserve- There are now more than 1,000 National Council members on our listserve. Our numbers are growing every day. The listserve is an exchange of ideas, experiences, important events and resources for Council members. Recent topics include 1) compiling an extensive list of the health and health care supplies the Bureau of Prisons other jails and prisons should provide free for incarcerated women, 2) barriers to voting, 3) raising funds for a Council member’s son who could not make bail, 4) call to action on specific pieces of legislation, 5) call to action on clemency petitions for women serving life without the possibility of parole.
• Website: http://thecouncil.us
• Facebook: https://facebook.com/TheCouncil.us
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecouncilus
• Instagram: https://instagram.com/thecouncil.us
Selected Articles and Media
• Lawyers Shaping Justice. By Emily Mordecai. Virginia Law Weekly. February 8, 2017 https://www.lawweekly.org/front-page/2017/2/7/lawyers-shaping-justice. Article mentions Council member Anisah Sabur.
• Beyond the Bars of Hopelessness: How We Can Revive Parole. By Jean Trounstine. Article includes Council members Laura Whitehorn and Donna Hylton. Truthout. February 4, 2017. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39336-beyond-the-bars-of-hopelessness-how-we-can-revive-parole
• Forum Is A Clarion Call For Clemency. By Patrick Donachie. February 3, 2017. Times-Ledger (Queens). http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2017/5/prisonforum_2017_02_03_q.html
• Electronic Press Kit for Real Women Real Voices, NYU Law School. January 25, 2017. http://epresskitz.com/index.php?u=35272019
• Donna Hylton interview. Channel CGTN. The World Today. January 21, 2017 https://youtu.be/T0wztibnmiU.
More Incarcerated Women Deserve Clemency. By Sarah Zarba. Vera Institute. January 19, 2017
• Obama’s Clemency Program Has Failed Incarcerated Women. By Britni. The Establishment. January 18, 2017. https://theestablishment.co/obamas-clemency-program-has-failed-incarcerated-women-f4391a4a944#.o50oje432
• Notorious New York Prison Is Reclaimed By The Women It Once Caged. By Melissa Jeltson. The Huffington Post. January 17, 2017 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bayview-correctional-facility-women_us_587d090de4b0b3c7a7b24c2f?f66jgvfjr0lpojemi
• Gift of freedom: how Obama’s clemency drive tackled aftermath of ‘war on drugs’ (Ramona Brant) MSN. January 15, 2017. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/gift-of-freedom-how-obamas-clemency-drive-tackled-aftermath-of-war-on-drugs/ar-AAlNcK9?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartanntpvkix
• Gift of freedom: how Obama’s clemency drive tackled aftermath of ‘war on drugs’ Video. January 12, 2017. (Ramona Brant) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/12/obama-clemency-pardons-commutations-war-on-drugs
• Newsletter of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. http://us14.campaign-archive2.com/?u=0c652fb612286cb0603cf9c6b&id=7434643bb1. December 2016.
• These Women Are Demanding a Voice in the Criminal Justice Conversation by Victoria Law. September 26, 2016. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/these-women-spent-years-behind-bars-now-theyre-demanding-a-voice-in-the-criminal-justice-conversation/
• Second Chances at Columbia by Sarah Zarba, October 11, 2016, Council Member. http://columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2016/10/11/second-chances-columbia
• Incarcerated women speak at Law School symposium by Sara Tabin. Yale News. September 27, 2016. http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2016/09/27/incarcerated-women-speak-at-law-school-symposium/
• What’s Driving Women’s Skyrocketing Incarceration Rates? Re-Wire. August 22, 2016. https://rewire.news/article/2016/08/22/whats-driving-womens-skyrocketing-incarceration-rates/
• Advocates Rally to Seek Presidential Clemency for Lashonda Hall by S. Heather Duncan, The Daily Dumpster Blog. Knoxville, TN. October 19, 2016 http://www.knoxmercury.com/2016/10/19/advocates-rally-seek-presidential-clemency-lashonda-hall/
• Drug War’s Collateral Lifers Seek Freedom by Markeshia Ricks, New Haven Independent. Sep 26, 2016. http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/incarcerated_women/
• Meet the former lawyer and inmate fighting for America’s incarcerated women by Alli Maloney. NY Times January 27, 2016 http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/01/27/meet-the-former-lawyer-and-inmate-fighting-for-americas-incarcerated-women/
• Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights Newsletter. October, 2016. Article about the Council. The Newsletter is read by more than 1000 incarcerated women and men monthly.
• Council member LaShanna Tyson in a Move On video talking about her struggle to vote in Florida and what she is doing about it. Vote- For Those That Can’t. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxRo-q8P5qC9NkJyR3dXR2liOVU/view (Aired in the last two weeks of the election).
• Andrea James and Glenn Martin Receive RFK Human Rights Award. AMEX Leads. October 10, 2016 http://leaderstories.org/content/andrea-james-and-glenn-martin-receive-rfk-human-rights-award
• Prison Health News, Fall 2016. Two page article about the Council’s Declaration.
• Roxbury native receives RFK Human Rights Award, Boston Globe by Akilah Johnson, November 18, 2016. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/17/roxbury-native-receives-rfk-human-rights-award/7Gl3AipKYHyJAyFJwIcaqK/amp.html
• Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women call for clemency by Michael Kim, The Daily, December 5, 2016. http://www.dailyuw.com/news/article_7887a474-ba9e-11e6-ad39-93f95eaef569.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-share
• “This Is About Mercy. Time Is Running Out.”—Drug-War Prisoners’ Allies Implore President Obama On behalf of The Council. http://theinfluence.org/this-is-about-mercy-time-is-running-out-drug-war-prisoners-allies-implore-president-obama/
• Syrita Steib-Martin Rebuilding Lives on Fox 8 Live http://www.fox8live.com/story/32067316/rebuilding-lives