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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sydney McKinney

NBWJI Calls For The Release Of Women And Girls In Prisons

New York, NY (May 30, 2020) – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Black Women’s Justice Institute is calling for the release of women and girls from prisons, jails, and detention centers, starting first with those who are at highest risk of illness and death due to COVID-19.

From Dr. Sydney McKinney, Executive Director:

Day after day, reports of increasing illness and death in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers shine a spotlight on how the techniques of prison management and control threaten the health and safety of people incarcerated in facilities, including women and girls. Women and girls in facilities are entitled to compassionate treatment that honors their health and human dignity. Yet, the exorbitant growth of the women’s prison population has strained women’s facilities to the breaking point, making the women inside those facilities especially vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19. We know from our work with incarcerated women that conditions are dire, and facilities fail to enact policies that protect the health and safety of the women who are there. Women are getting sick and dying at alarming rates, yet reports of this are only beginning to garner media attention during this public health crisis. Our country can no longer turn a blind eye to the institutionalized harm that incarceration inflicts upon women and men every day. This pandemic has exposed the widely known flaws of the punitive paradigm governing our criminal-legal system. It’s time for bold action and new reforms that advance community-based alternatives to incarceration and end the warehousing of individuals in failing, inhumane facilities, which threatens the safety of us all.


The National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) works to end the overcriminalization and disproportionate impact of the criminal-legal system on the lives of Black women, girls, and gender expansive people. We conduct rigorous research and program evaluations develop innovative policy solutions, and provide training and assistance to community-led organizations and government institutions through an intersectional lens that centers and uplifts the voices and experiences of women, girls, and gender-expansive people who are directly impacted by the systems we seek to transform. NBWJI aims to position the needs and wellbeing of Black women, girls, and gender-expansive people at the center of policy and programs to create a justice system that supports and uplifts people rather than deepen their marginalization. NBWJI envisions a society where healing -- not punishment -- is upheld as justice.

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