By True Moringa

Meet Essie Justice Group - Ending Mass Incarceration's Harm to Women

Throughout this month, we're highlighting organizations focused on dismantling systems built on racial injustice. We'll be donating 20% of this week's sales to Essie Justice Group, an organization harnessing the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities.

the issue: mass incarceration hurts women

Essie works to make clear mass incarceration's distinct harms to women with incarcerated loved ones, and the legacy of intersectional harm to Black women. Our participatory research project and report Because She’s Powerful: The Political Isolation and Resistance of Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones confirmed what our communities know from lived experience: mass incarceration disproportionately impacts Black women (1 in 2 Black women has a family member in prison) and the consequences are devastating. Our survey of 2,281 participants found that nearly 70% of women with incarcerated loved ones are their family’s only wage earner; More than half the women (56%) have children or childcare responsibilities; and 94% of women whose partners are incarcerated reported that the strain on their emotional and mental health is significant or extreme. The isolation; compromised mental and physical health; unsupported, solo caregiving responsibilities; and financial hardship causes mass isolation of Black women from political power. Essie seeks to address this root challenge.

about Essie Justice Group

We are a member-led organization: our membership is comprised of women (cis- and transgender) and gender nonconforming (GNC) people with incarcerated loved ones who are the driving force behind every facet of Essie’s programmatic work and the community to which our organization is accountable. In order to reduce barriers to women’s leadership, Essie invests in crucial transportation support; hot meals; and no-cost, high-quality child care through our EssieKids! program at every cohort session.  Essie’s mission is to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities. Our Healing to Advocacy Model brings women who are enduring a loved one’s incarceration alone into a loving and powerful membership body. From there, women lead: taking on campaigns, providing peer-to-peer support, participating in actions, and partnering with a national community of activists and advocates in Black feminist future building. From individual engagement, to group participation, to a network of women leaders–our model will ultimately bring together hundreds of thousands of women to break isolation, increase resources to families, and confront mass incarceration’s harm as a unified, loving, and powerful group.  

healing to advocacy

Our Healing to Advocacy program is fueled by the experiences, expertise, and leadership of women with incarcerated loved ones. The Healing to Advocacy program starts with the simple power of witness from a loved one: a nomination letter. We receive nomination letters from incarcerated individuals to a woman in their life, highlighting and mirroring back her strength, her resilience, her expertise in navigating the system on behalf of her family, and nominating her to join Essie. From there, nominated women and GNC people are personally invited to join Healing to Advocacy cohorts and embark on a nine-week journey that is designed to break isolation, increase wellness, and inspire a commitment to lead in decarceration campaigns that center women with incarcerated loved ones. The cohorts are run by trained facilitators—program graduates who undergo a comprehensive training program to equip them with the skills, confidence, and tools needed to lead cohorts from start to finish with limited staff involvement. After the nine-weeks, women attend a regional graduation ceremony, and are invited to take our membership pledge, committing to leadership in decarceration campaigns and recruiting more women to lead healing and advocacy in their communities. 

How can I get involved with Essie?

Donate directly here and learn more about their work here