In 2018, The WIRE was honored to participate in the DC Oral History Collaborative to share the stories of some of the women of The WIRE.
The DC Oral History Collaborative was initiated in 2016 as a partnership project of the Historical Society of Washington, DC, HumanitiesDC, with the DC Public Library as the sponsoring agency. The initiative responds to a growing need to preserve unrecorded Washington history that may be lost as communities experience demographic shifts, as older residents pass away, and as stories that once were written now may only live in digital media.
You can watch the video on our Facebook Page here.
The WIRE grew in 2017, and added more ways to educate policymakers and the community about the needs and risks women face returning from incarceration. Furthermore, The WIRE was very excited to see that our very own Women of The WIRE Program Director, Tanisha Murden, was appointed as Co-Chairman on DC’s Commission on Reentry and Returning Citizen Affairs in May 2017. She has served as a critical voice on the Commission on behalf of all women returning from incarceration.
The WIRE participated or coordinated four discussions between January to December 2017. Specific details about each event are as follows:
- January 2017: The WIRE collaborated with The National Reentry Network to facilitate a panel discussion after a film screening of “Returning Citizens,” which focuses on a group of returning citizens from Southeast DC that show change is possible when the right opportunities are presented. The panelists consisted of young adults who had been impacted by mass incarceration. More information about the film can be found here.
- November 2017: The WIRE participated in a Reentry Roundtable Discussion hosted by DC Councilmember Robert White to discuss reentry challenges and proposed solutions that include directly-impacted women.
- November 2017: The WIRE’s Exeuctive Director, Lashonia Thompson-El, served as a panelist at a forum entitled, “Moving toward Local Control of DC’s Criminal Justice System.” Lashonia discussed the devastating impacts of DC’s criminal justice system, particularly on those individuals with parole-eligible sentences. The event was hosted by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law. A video of the forum can be found here.
- December 2017: The WIRE met with high school girls at Paul Public Charter School to discuss self-esteem and self-love in an effort to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and address the substance abuse concerns and mental health issues often lead women to incarceration.
In addition to increasing outreach through panel discussions, Cheleta Tucson, one of the Women of The WIRE, testified in February 2017 before a hearing entitled, “Sentencing in the District of. Columbia: Agency Roles and Responsibilities,” held by DC Councilmember Charles Allen, Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. Cheleta’s testimony specifically focused on the media’s negative propaganda as it relates to the Youth Rehabilitation Act’s (YRA) sentencing for young adult women and girls. Archived video of the hearing and Cheleta’s testimony can be found online here.
Furthermore, The WIRE facilitated the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) with DC youth ages 13-18 in collaboration with Citi-Wide, Inc.
December 2017 was a joyous month, as The WIRE was able to strengthen its’ family reunification initiative by hosting a holiday party for children with incarcerated mothers and facilitating a fieldtrip to the Nationals’ Winterfest with children of incarcerated mothers. The holiday party was a major success and really drove home our mission to provide peer support for each other and our families. The holiday party brought together several families and children of incarcerated mothers for a day of face painting, meeting superheroes, free ice cream, and – the best part – gifts from Santa Claus!! A heartfelt and sincere thank you to all the organizations who donated their time and products for this momentous occasion.
The fieldtrip to the Nationals’ Winterfest brought together seven children for a day full of fun. Women of The WIRE chaperoned the children to get free face painting, meet Santa Claus, play baseball, ride down slides, and meet some of the Nationals players and coaches.
Finally, between October to December, The WIRE was very excited to host its first two fundraising events in an effort to increase community support for all the work we do. We look forward to hosting even more fundraising events in the future to be able to make a bigger impact and help our women returning back to society!
The WIRE continued our work increasing awareness about the need for gender-responsive programs, services and policy changes to empower formerly incarcerated women to successfully reintegrate. In total, The WIRE participated or coordinated eight discussions between January to December 2016. Specific details about each event are as follows:
- January 2016: The WIRE participated in a panel discussion for DC’s Safer Stronger Advisory Committee on Strategies to engage youth.
- March 2016: The WIRE moderated a panel discussion about parenting behind bars sponsored by DC’s Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA).
- April 2016: The WIRE spoke at The National Press Club Press Release for the National Council of Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls at the National Press Club (Presented on DC – A model for the nation)
- April 2016: The WIRE facilitated a break-out session about parenting after incarceration at Maryland Correctional Institute for Women’s (MCIW) Women Moving Forward Conference.
- April 2016: The WIRE participated in a panel discussion for the U.S. Department of Education on the impact of incarceration on children with incarcerated parents.
- August 2016: The WIRE led a public-speaking workshop at the Third Annual Female Reentry Leadership Conference, hosted by DC’s Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA).
- November 2016: The WIRE participated in a roundtable discussion entitled, “Rethinking Violence,” hosted by DC’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA).
- December 2016: The WIRE participated in a panel discussion after a film screening of “Returning Citizens,” which focuses on a group of returning citizens from Southeast DC that show change is possible when the right opportunities are presented. The event was hosted by CSOSA. More information about the film can be found here.
The WIRE was also invited to be interviewed in March 2016 with The Daily Drum – WHUR and Carolyn Corwin, of Covington & Burling, to discuss a report released by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee about incarcerated DC women. The report can be found online here.
And, for our reunification initiative, The WIRE was proud to see that two of the children with currently and formerly incarcerated mothers who are members of The WIRE were presented with the Right Direction Award in August 2016 by DC’s Office of Attorney General (OAG). The award is presented to DC youth who show significant self-improvement, serve as role models to other youth, or otherwise effect positive change in the DC community.
The WIRE had a great year increasing awareness about the challenges women face returning from incarceration, and expanded our outreach beyond the DMV area!
Following a year after the ‘Ban the Box’ legislation, Women of The WIRE facilitated a workshop and panel discussion and spoke at a national rally on behalf of formerly incarcerated women. Women of The WIRE Member, Theresa Johnson-Thompson, collaborated with Georgetown University students to create a video about the legislation and raise awareness.
In June 2015, The WIRE collaborated with DC’s Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) and the Howard University School of Law to host the 2nd Annual Female Reentry Leadership Conference.
The WIRE continued to expand our outreach and participated in the “Free Her” Conference in Boston, Massachusetts with national advocates to discuss gender-responsive criminal justice reform.
Women of The Wire Member, Joice Russell, spoke with NBC about the benefits of President Obama’s pilot program to reinstate the Federal Pell Grant.
In October 2015, The WIRE participated in a panel discussion at the Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders (AJFO) Conference on women and girls in the criminal justice system, DC’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) Public Meeting on women and girls in the criminal justice system, and DC’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) panel for Community Supervision Officers.
For our family reunification efforts, we were very excited to raise enough funds from our community to fly a child in DC to Texas to visit his mother two days before his high school graduation. It was a moment the family will never forget – and one The WIRE will forever cherish.
2014 was a very exciting year for The WIRE – In April 2014, The WIRE became a non-profit organization within the District of Columbia!
The WIRE started the year off strong. In January 2014, The WIRE held a focus group with Susan Folk, Chief of Learning and Career Development, and Jerri Kirby, of West Virginia University, to assist with improving programming in facilities housing incarcerated females.
The WIRE continued its’ outreach events to women preparing for reentry. In May 2014, The WIRE went back to the Fairview Halfway House in Washington, DC to visit the women to discuss strategies for a successful reintegration back into society.
In February 2014, The WIRE facilitated discussions with the community to educate individuals about the challenges of incarceration and the reentry process. The WIRE spoke to students at American University and Howard University who were majoring in areas of Law and Criminal Justice. The WIRE also facilitated a panel discussion led by community leaders with children of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated mothers to inform the public about the effects of incarceration on youth.
To meet our mission to raise awareness about the need for gender-responsive programs, services and policies to enable formerly incarcerated women to successfully reintegrate into society, The WIRE co-sponsored two reentry conferences and was invited to speak at a reentry conference between February to June 2014. In February 2014, The WIRE co-sponsored a reentry conference for practitioners serving formerly-incarcerated women and gathered several national speakers and leaders in criminal justice to speak about gender-specific reentry. Then again in June 2014, The WIRE co-sponsored the first annual reentry leadership conference for female returning citizens. This event was a collaboration between DC’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC),the DC Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA), DC’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), and the Howard University School of Law. The WIRE also was invited to speak at a reentry conference sponsored by Professor Whitehead of Maryland University in May 2014.
In January 2013, a group of female returning citizens participated in the Community Justice Advisory Network (CJAN) meeting at the Sixth District Police Department to share their experiences with the criminal justice system and the reentry process. That meeting of the minds translated into the development of The WIRE – Women Involved in Reentry Efforts. As momentum continued to grow, The WIRE held its’ first focus group in June 2013 with the DC Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA).
Quickly following the focus group, The WIRE began forming its’ support network. Between August to October 2013, The WIRE coordinated three separate outreach events to incarcerated women who were preparing for reentry. In August 2013, The WIRE visited women preparing for release from the Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) Secure Female Facility (SFF) Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, WV and shared reentry resources and personal experiences. The WIRE continued these efforts in September 2013 by speaking to women in the Fairview Halfway House in Washington, DC to discuss strategies for a successful reintegration back into society. The Women of the WIRE were also able to visit women in the Jessup Maryland Correctional institution (MCI) to provide information and peer support as they prepare for the reentry process.
In October 2013, The WIRE also facilitated a panel discussion with practitioners in community organizations who work with female returning citizens to raise awareness about the gender-specific concerns women face when they are released from incarceration.
Finally, The WIRE was able to end its’ incredible first year by eliminating barriers to family reunification. In November 2013, The WIRE successfully organized a family reunification trip to SFF Hazelton in support of National Children’s Day, taking over 20 children to visit their mothers around the holidays.