California-based justice group bailed out Black mother receives life changing community support through local community based organizations services and programming
LOS ANGELES and OAKLAND — To transform the criminal legal system, Essie Justice Group (Essie) organizes women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities. Amber Sam, a Black mother in Los Angeles County who Essie recently bailed out from Lynwood Women’s Jail before their Black Mama’s Bailouts: The Community Care Blueprint in Action rally on May 9th, received “life changing” community support through Essie that resulted in early termination of her probation.
“Since I’ve been out, having access to care has changed my life. I have supportive housing, I’m in counseling, I’m enrolled in Essie Justice Group’s Healing to Advocacy program, I’m working, and I’m enjoying time with my baby,” Amber Sam stated. “[In June], just two months after my release [in May 2022], a judge terminated my probation a year early because it was clear what impact care was having. We don’t need probation, we don’t need jails. We need care and we need it now.”
Essie’s award-winning Healing to Advocacy program brings together women who are enduring a loved one’s incarceration into a loving and powerful membership body of other women with incarcerated loved ones to heal, build collective power, and drive social change through local, statewide, and national policy and advocacy work. As identified in Essie’s latest report with Prison Policy Institute, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in California, incarceration significantly impacts women where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 Black women have an incarcerated loved one.
Essie’s Healing to Advocacy program has developed the leadership of about 300 women with incarcerated loved ones across California, including formerly incarcerated women, and it starts with the simple power of witness from someone who nominates a woman with an incarcerated loved one to our program. Essie receives nominations letters and submissions from incarcerated individuals, family members, and friends of a woman with an incarcerated loved one and facilitates this nine week program to help them process and work through their experiences as women with incarcerated loved ones from a place of strength, dignity, and mutual support.
In addition to the regional cohorts across California [Los Angeles County, Bay Area, and Sacramento/Solano] in 2021, Essie also virtually launched a national program extension to combat the increased isolation women with incarcerated loved ones would experience from their currently incarcerated loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Essie’s Healing to Advocacy is now accepting nominations for several cohorts including:
- Regional: women and gender nonconforming people in Los Angeles County, Bay Area, and Sacramento/Solano;
- NEW! Reentry Cohort for women and gender nonconforming people whose loved one(s) are coming home soon or have already come home within the past year;
- National: women and gender nonconforming people with an incarcerated loved one outside of California.
“The point of incarceration is to separate us. The bars, concrete, distance, shame, stereotyping— they disconnect us from one another, from our family, from our community. The work that our Healing to Advocacy Program participants do every week for nine weeks to be there for one another is resistance work,” said Gina Clayton-Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Essie Justice Group.
“Essie’s work to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities is made possible by our Healing to Advocacy program and we are excited to have the leadership, power, and wisdom of women with incarcerated loved ones in this fight,” Clayton-Johnson continued.
Nomination forms for Essie’s Healing to Advocacy Program are available online at www.essiejusticegroup.org/nominate.