Women, Girls, and the Criminal Justice System Donor Education Series, Session 1, April 4, 2019

On April 4th, the East Bay Community Foundation and the Race, Gender, and Human Rights Fund were extremely pleased to hold the first session of a three-part education series designed for donors to learn about the criminal justice system’s particular impact on women and families. A local panel of dedicated advocates shared their work to advance systemic solutions and explore how strategic philanthropy can address the destructive consequences of mass incarceration: poverty, homelessness, intergenerational trauma, and separated families.

“Health care will say no to our communities. Education will say no. Affordable housing will say no. Mental health services and drug treatment will say no. Safe communities will say no. Jobs will say no. But prisons, prisons will always say yes.” 

~Tonya, a formerly incarcerated woman in California

EBCF and the Race, Gender and Human Rights Fund (RGHR) kicked off the three-part donor educational series with a thought-provoking evening focused on women, girls and the criminal justice system on April 4th. We had a full house with 50+ attendees, wonderful food and terrific speakers who shared their wisdom and deep experiential knowledge with EBCF’s donor community through engaging presentations and small group discussions.

Seasoned advocate Emily Harris (Ella Baker Center) set the stage by providing an overview of the drivers of mass incarceration and statistics regarding cis and trans women and the criminal justice system.  She also talked about the concept of justice reinvestment, where funds are diverted from the prison system and allocated instead to education, drug treatment, job creation, mental health services and other community benefits.  Dr. Monique Morris (National Black Women’s Justice Institute) described how society disportionately disciplines and criminalizes girls of color, particularly black girls, more harshly, thereby tracking them into the juvenile justice system instead of providing them with the supports they need to thrive.  Learn more by viewing Monique Morris’ TED talk here.  The visionary Kim Carter (Time for Change Foundation) came out of years in prison to become a nonprofit housing developer in order to provide stable, comfortable housing for formerly incarcerated women and their children.  Kim talked about the critical need for housing, job and life skills trainings, treatment and counseling supports for women to heal from trauma and turn their lives around.

We were also joined by three women with lived experience of incarceration: Amika Mota (Young Women’s Freedom Center), Kelly Savage (California Coalition for Women Prisoners) and Sandra Johnson (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children). Each enriched small group discussions with their perspectives on what it means to be locked up in prison, their journeys to re-entering their communities, and how they found their way to criminal justice advocacy.
The speakers all encouraged the group to think beyond prisons and jails, and the punitive criminal legal system, to what women and girls really need to to heal, succeed and thrive in their lives. It was a powerful, connective evening of profound truth-telling, knowledge sharing, and community building. The engaged room expressed a great deal of interest in the content shared and left with new learnings about the many ways that the criminal justice system hurts women and girls. The RGHR Fund hopes that such growing understanding will translate into increased donor investments and engagement in criminal justice reform issues over time.

EBCF and the RGHR Fund thank all of the guests that attended the event, and hope you will join for our upcoming events in the Women and the Criminal Justice System donor education series:

  • A Visit to Women’s Prison for a Powerful Learning Experience. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to visit a women’s detention facility, speak with incarcerated women about their lives, observe conditions inside, and gain a wider understanding of the drivers of incarceration and the solutions needed. (Date TBA)
  • A Dynamic Day of Field Visits for Justice. Together we will meet with some of the East Bay’s most tireless advocates (including Restore Oakland, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Essie Justice Group, and Time for Change Foundation) fighting for justice through an engaging day in the field. We will hear strategies for centering justice and lifting up the voices and leadership of those most impacted. (Date TBA)

The Race, Gender, and Human Rights Fund promotes racial and gender justice by challenging mass incarceration in California. Since its inception in 2002, the Fund has invested over $5M to support criminal justice reform. The Fund focuses on women and families, prioritizes the leadership of formerly incarcerated people, and strategically invests in efforts that build the criminal justice reform movement. We invite you to learn more about the RGHR Fund. Or for more information please contact RGHR@EastBayCF.org.