Essie Justice Group is an organization led by and for cisgender women, trans women, and gender non-conforming folks with incarcerated loved ones, working to transform the criminal justice system and combat mass incarceration. They bring together their members, including Black and Latinx women, formerly and currently incarcerated women, trans women and gender non-conforming folks, to heal, build power, and create structural change rooted in race and gender justice.
Essie Justice Group’s Healing to Advocacy Program unites women with incarcerated loved ones to do this work together. Each cohort is led by previous program graduates, and cohort members are nominated by their own incarcerated loved ones, one another, or themselves. This past fall they graduated their 17th cohort. Essie members facilitated cohorts in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Vacaville, San Francisco, San Jose, West Oakland, and Fruitvale.
Essie Justice Group also participates in the Mama’s Day National Bailouts, which bails out hundreds of Black mamas from jail before Mother’s Day, and they have just published the groundbreaking report “Because She’s Powerful: The Political Isolation and Resistance of Women With Incarcerated Loved Ones.”
Essie Justice Group’s #EndMoneyBail campaign, which SURJ has been supporting for the past two years, has multiple components. Essie Justice Group engages in the campaign from a 3-pronged approach:
1. Divestment — In 2018 Essie got Google and Facebook to divest from the bail industry, banning bail bond ads from their platforms.
2. Legislative advocacy through Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) — More details below.
3. Advocacy and direct action to bring our loved ones home immediately — Essie Justice Group has bailed out 5 women in the last two years through the Mama’s Day National Bail Out.
Through the work on SB 10, Essie Justice Group are leaders in building and advocating for statewide legislation to #EndMoneyBail, which SURJ Bay Area’s Policy Working Group has supported through lobby visits and other forms of advocacy.
In its original form, SB 10 eliminated pre-trial bail and was originally supported by a broad coalition of racial and social justice organizations. However in a backdoor and undemocratic bait and switch, the original bill was co-opted by the Judicial Council of California, when it was gutted and amended in such a way that nominally eliminated bail, but that in practice leads to more pre-trial incarceration and less accountability. It also further entrenches racial disparities and other socioeconomic and gender-based inequities in the criminal justice system. Following the leadership of Essie Justice Group and the other bill sponsors, SURJ Bay Area worked to try and stop this new version from passing. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the new version, SB 10 was passed and signed into law earlier this year.
Essie Justice Group’s legislative focus this year will be SB 42, the Getting Home Safe Act, authored by Nancy Skinner. This bill will end dangerous, dead-of-night releases from county jails and establish basic protocols for release from County Jails to prevent harm. SURJ Bay Area is committed to continuing to support Essie Justice Group’s groundbreaking, urgent work.
Make a tax-deductible donation today to support this important work!
During the #12DaysToShowUp campaign, 75% of funds raised will go to local racial justice organizations led by people of color, such as the Essie Justice Group. The remaining 25% will go to under-resourced rural SURJ chapters mobilizing white people throughout the U.S to support the growing movement for racial justice.