Essie Justice Group: A Community of Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones Working to Erase Stigmas and to End Mass Incarceration
Date:  09-18-2016

One in four women in America has an incarcerated loved one
(Full disclosure: Beatrice Codianni , Managing Editor of Reentry Central was on a panel with Gina Clayton at the Free Her Symposium at Harvard Law School in 2015.)

From the Huffington Post

You’ve never heard from the women in the video above. Until recently, no one even knew how many there were. They’ve had few support networks, no group identity, no political movement. But it turns out their numbers are staggering. They are the mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and girlfriends of people incarcerated in the United States. About one of every four women in this country has a family member behind bars, according to startling recent research.

The story of America’s criminal justice system typically begins and ends with the incarcerated population, 90 percent of whom are men. But their imprisonment in turn sentences their loved ones ? to far-away prison visits, to costly legal fees, to depression, shame and social isolation. “You have millions and millions of women who are going through the exact same thing ? not just going through it, but it is defining us,” said Gina Clayton, whose loved one was sentenced to a lengthy prison term. “It is so defining of what we can and cannot do every day, yet it’s not something that we can talk about with anybody.”

We spoke with Clayton for Sophia, a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people. (Get updates directly via Facebook here.) A graduate of Harvard Law, Clayton left her work as a public defender to create Essie Justice Group in 2014. She and her team are now finding and organizing fellow women with incarcerated loved ones, connecting them to each other, and challenging the system of mass incarceration that’s gripped their lives. Read more Read more here.