National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls Created
Date:  12-08-2015

Formerly incarcerated women convene to use collective voices to improve the outcome of women and girls behind bars
Edited 12-12-15

The following article was written by Lois Ahrens, Founder of The Real Costs of Prison Project

December 8, 2015 On December 5, seventeen smart, clear-thinking, funny and beautiful women from across the country joined together at the Open Society Foundations in New York City, either in person or via teleconferencing at the inaugural meeting of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women (NCIFIW). "What was inspiring was the conversation and energy!" said Carol Soto summing up the excitement in the room.

The meeting was organized by Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice as Healing and a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow. Families for Justice as Healing and a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow. James a visionary leader was instrumental in forming NCIFIW as a way to expand the momentum created from the Free Her Rally she organized in Washington, D,C, in June 2014, and the ground-breaking Free Her Justice Advocacy Conference she directed at Harvard Law School in August 21015. Many participants at the December 5th convening were also involved in both events.

The purpose of the meeting was to determine how to include the powerful voices of the women most affected by current criminal legal policies, women who know firsthand the realities of incarceration, the thousands of hurdles women face after returning home, and the harm done to families and communities by the carceral state and to organize to create a new, more effective, and just system.

The decision was made to produce a first draft of the Declaration of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women. During the four-hour meeting hundreds of ideas were shared and the following were included in the draft. The meeting ended with an even stronger sense of solidarity with women and girls who are locked up and a renewed desire to support them. Said Andrea James, “This is the beginning. We need to reach out to our sisters to build a powerful movement that will be heard.” The NCIFIW is planning another meeting to be held in New Jersey in January.