‘When I was incarcerated, I was shocked to see that I was surrounded by Black and brown women who had survived tremendous trauma similar to what I had survived.’
“I was incarcerated at 19 due to a family member’s mental health crisis, a serious family violence tragedy. Before that, I was this college student with a very sheltered upbringing in a Christian home.
“When I was incarcerated, I was shocked to see that I was surrounded by Black and brown women who had survived tremendous trauma similar to what I had survived.
“I came home from prison and worked in the city as a policy director for the nonprofit Correctional Association of NY. During that time, I realized there was a whole population of women who had been voiceless for many years. After having my son, it was really clear that Long Island was a desert for folks to take social justice seriously.
“So, six years ago, we founded New Hour for Women and Children. We empower women, children and families impacted by the criminal justice system. We provide workshops, a leadership and advocacy training program, and parenting programming in the Nassau and Suffolk jails for women.
If you can stabilize a woman with housing and help her see herself as more than just her crime, it becomes this huge ability to create change.
“We actively engage women in advocating for laws that create equity and fairness for women who have been incarcerated. Thinking about my time in jail, I thought, ‘It was 15 years later, and if I could do something for those women in that jail now, maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do.’
“A major issue when women get out is housing. Pretty much every week I speak to a woman who’s in tears and doesn’t have enough money for rent. We’re fundraising for a house where 4-6 women can live together at the beginning of their re-entry, repair relationships, get enough money for housing and come up with a plan. These women are set up for failure because there’s no clear re-entry path. A lot of these women can’t drive. There are all these barriers.
“Three-quarters of our women are moms, and the goal is to get these kids back to their mothers. The other major piece of that is a woman’s self-esteem and self-worth. If you can stabilize a woman with housing and help her see herself as more than just her crime, it becomes this huge ability to create change.”
Interviewed by Liza Burby