• Dr. Sydney McKinney

What Justice Looks Like

At the end of a year characterized by social, political, and economic upheaval caused by a global pandemic and nationwide protests against police brutality, I find myself asking: what does justice look like? Specifically, what does justice look like for Black women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people, who are so often at the forefront of mobilizing for change and yet are marginalized and overlooked by public policy advancing racial and gender justice? The women’s prison population, which is disproportionately Black women and other women of color, has exploded and is growing at a pace faster than the men’s prison population. Similarly, Black girls are overrepresented in youth detention. Yet, public outcry against mass incarceration and advocacy for criminal legal reform largely ignores Black women and girls. People assume that talking about race is sufficient. But addressing race without considering the effects of gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, and language produces criminal justice reforms that, at best, exclude individuals and, at worst, cause harm.


Since 2014, NBWJI has worked to transform the U.S. criminal legal system by shifting narratives and the meaning of justice through rigorous research, policy, training, and assistance that centers Black women and girls.


At NBWJI:


Justice is amplifying the voices of people who are directly impacted by the criminal legal system.

Justice is centering Black women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people in research, scholarship, and policy.

Justice is investing in culturally- and gender-affirming programs.

Justice is creating opportunities for growth and advancement.

Justice is access to stable, living wage employment.

Justice is access to safe housing.

Justice is access to health care.

Justice is honoring human dignity.

Justice is recognizing that people who have caused harm often have experienced trauma and harm themselves.

Justice is healing—the healing of individuals, communities, and our society as a whole.


Society is at an inflection point, and our work is more important now than ever before. We’re working to create systems and culture that reflect what justice means at NBWJI. And as we get ready for a new year, we now also have a new logo that reflects our vision of justice. The new logo features a silhouette of a Black woman, adorned with the Adrinka symbol of justice—a departure from the scales of justice that people commonly associate with the U.S criminal legal system—to signify NBWJI’s commitment to dismantling the punitive paradigm on which our current system was founded and replacing it with models of justice that center Black women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people and honor the humanity and dignity of us all.