Former criminal defense attorney turned activist. Dedicated to criminal justice and policy reform, especially for women and girls. Committed to serving the incarcerated, the disenfranchised, and the condemned.
Featured lessonCriminal Justice and the New Jim Crow
Attorney Andrea James has been engaged with criminal justice issues since her days as a youth worker. She is the founder and executive director of Families for Justice as Healing—a criminal justice reform organization that advocates for community wellness alternatives to incarceration, with a focus on women. She is a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow and the author of “Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts on the Politics of Mass Incarceration.”
In 2009, James was sentenced to serve a 24-month federal prison sentence. After a lifetime of work seeking justice for others, she was stunned at what she encountered when she herself entered the federal prison system as an incarcerated person. She has subsequently used her experience to change the narrative and raise awareness. What is the effect of the incarceration of women on children and communities? Can we shift from a criminal legal system to one focused on human justice?
Today, James also serves as executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. In January 2021, the organization launched the #FreeHer campaign, which is pushing President Biden’s administration to grant clemency for 100 women who, James believes, have served enough time for their convictions. Currently, the United States has 230,000 women incarcerated, and these women behind the wall are disproportionately Black and POC mothers, sisters, and neighbors. James remains focused on ending this inhumane and racist legacy.
“My experience taught me that incarceration is not the solution for what leads a woman to a prison bunk. For real, meaningful reform to be accomplished, formerly incarcerated women must be in the lead to create the dramatic change that needs to happen.”
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