February is Black History Month. Let’s kick it off by highlighting the work of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute.
Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) is an organization with a mission to “research, elevate, and educate the public about innovative, community-led solutions to address the criminalization of Black women and girls.”
As they share in a report on their website, extreme prison sentences disproportionately impact and harm Black women, who account for one third of women serving life sentences in the United States. NBWJI wants to “transform the US criminal legal system, building, in its place, pathways to opportunity and healing.”
To achieve this goal, they focus their work on research and evaluation of local and national programs, training and assistance for government systems and direct service providers, and recommendations for changes to public policy.
Programs fall into one of three core commitment areas: dismantle pathways to criminalization and confinement for Black women and girls; increase and enhance opportunities with and for formerly incarcerated women and girls; and promote healing-centered justice.
Some specific examples of this work include: an intersectional study of Black women, trans and gender nonconforming people’s encounters with police; training that enables law enforcement and probation officers to more effectively respond to the needs of commercially sexually exploited children; expansion of culturally competent and gender-responsive mental health services for Black girls and other youth of color; an interactive program to educate Black boys and young men, on how to become allies in the work of eliminating sexual violence; and an online peer network for educators seeking support and resources to transform schools into places where girls of color can thrive.
In addition to their programs, NBWJI has many resources for people interested in exploring these topics in more detail. You can find reports, policy briefs and fact sheets at this link or check out the Lift Our Voices blog for analysis and opinion from NBWJI’s experts on the latest issues and news.
If you’re ready to help the National Black Women’s Justice Institute transform the criminal legal justice system, there are several ways to do so. Make a donation and amplify their message on social media. Like the NBWJI Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @NBWJInstitute and Instagram @nbwji.