New York -- Topeka K. Sam has joined #cut50 as Director of the Dignity for Incarcerated Women campaign.
Topeka will lead a national campaign that educates the public and lawmakers about the experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women - and work to change laws that impact them. With a federal bill introduced by Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, #cut50 is supporting a movement led by formerly incarcerated women to pass similar legislation across the country, with a goal of 20 states by 2020.
Partners in the campaign include the American Conservative Union Foundation, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Survivor’s Guide to Prison, We Are Here (an organization founded by Alicia Keys), lawmakers and organizations from both political parties, and an advisory board comprised of formerly incarcerated women.
Topeka K. Sam is the Founder and Executive Director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries – The LOHM – whose mission is to help disenfranchised and marginalized women and girls transition back into society through spiritual empowerment, education, entrepreneurship and advocacy. She is also the founder of HOPE HOUSE NYC – a safe housing space for women and girls. Topeka serves on the board of directors for Grassroots Leadership and Operation Restoration. She is a Beyond the Bars 2015 Fellow and a 2016 Justice-In-Education Scholar both from Columbia University, a 2017 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow working on Probation and Parole Accountability, a 2018 Unlocked Futures Inaugural Cohort Member , the host of 'Last Mile, Second Chances' on SiriusXM UrbanView Channel 126 which airs at 9am est on Sundays and former national organizer for the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Statement from Van Jones, Host of CNN's The Van Jones Show and Co-founder of #cut50:
This is a gamechanger for #cut50. Topeka is one of the fiercest fighters I have come across in my 20+ years of advocating for justice in communities of color. Our Dignity campaign is probably the most important fight we’re facing in 2018 and Topeka will work with some of the country’s boldest leaders, across party lines, to transform the way we treat women behind bars.
Topeka has lived it - she’s seen firsthand how the prison system traumatizes, brutalizes, and silences women; how it rips newborn children out of their mothers’ arms; and how it exposes women to retraumatization. She also knows how to change it. Her lived experience and incredible rolodex of impacted women fighting for change in their communities will enable #cut50 to build a groundswell to bring Dignity to Incarcerated Women across the country.
Statement from Jessica Jackson Sloan, co-founder and National Director of #cut50:
I got into this work because of my ex-husband's incarceration and how that ripped apart my marriage and negatively impacted our daughter. After years of working on criminal justice, I got to know many of the women who themselves had been directly impacted by incarceration. Their stories shocked me. As a mom and a woman I was sickened by the things I was hearing.
When I think about the courage it takes for a woman who has experienced so much trauma at the hands of the system, and is still experiencing discrimination and limitation every day because of their criminal record, to step out into the light and share her story and fight to change the system -- that’s who I want to fight with. And that’s why I’m thrilled Topeka will be joining the team to lead this campaign.
Statement from Topeka K. Sam, Director of Dignity for Incarcerated Women Campaign:
In bringing the voices and expertise of formerly incarcerated women, I hope to challenge the terrible racism throughout the criminal legal system and turn back the increasing repression of the Session's Justice Department. I recognize that this bill is needed more now than ever. While all my work aims at the decarceration of women and girls, we must alleviate the suffering that all incarcerated women face on a daily basis.
The Dignity Campaign is an opportunity to provide other formerly incarcerated and incarcerated women with a national platform to use their experiences and build leadership. I am grateful to #cut50 and Jessica for understanding the need for formerly incarcerated women to lead the work.
#cut50 is a national, bipartisan initiative to reduce the prison population while making our communities safer. Our campaigns are led by people who have been directly impacted by the justice system and want to create change.