The National Council and Families for Justice as Healing in Boston Join the Participatory Defense Network!


(The women of the National Council and the Participatory Defense Training Team after 2 days of building! Special thanks to Carl Williams for opening up the space for us!)

In a storied movement home in Boston, we had the great honor of building with the sisters of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. A few of us from De-Bug//San Jose Participatory Defense Hub joined Andrea (known as Muffin) Farrior from Spirit House//Durham Participatory Defense Hub to give a two day training to Council representatives from multiple cities, and a strong contingent from Boston, on participatory defense. The Boston community included Council affiliate, and newest Participatory Defense Hub — Families for Justice as Healing.

The gathering was incredibly powerful, and such an inspiration to be around sisters who not only fought for their own freedom, but are determined to bring other sisters home, and protect their communities. And the organizers from the Massachusetts Bail Fund also brainstormed with us on how bail funds can partner with participatory defense hubs. The Massachusetts Bail Fund is an abolitionist bail fund, and is one of the most effective funds in the country in freeing people pretrial.

We are profoundly grateful to the sisters of the Council, and the organization’s founder (and incredible freedom fighter!) Andrea James for bringing us out. The Council has an incredible vision of Women’s Justice Circles, and will use participatory defense as part of this larger liberation framework. Below, Andrea James describes the work ahead — which we could not be more excited bout!


In response to National Council members seeking approaches to enhance their work within their local organizations and in ways that increase engagement directly with their communities, The National Council and its Boston-based affiliate, Families for Justice as Healing, has partnered with De-Bug and the National Participatory Defense Network.

This exciting collaboration with the National Participatory Defense Network will help expand our Women’s Justice Circle project. Members of the National Council convene local women’s circles to support a woman or girl and create a community-based alternative to incarceration or minimal sentence recommendation to submit to the Court.

Each justice circle is convened on a case by case basis and is comprised of National Council members from the local community who have walked in this person’s shoes, come through the other side, can attest to the power of support from other directly affected women, and can recommend more effective ways to address the needs of the women or girl so as to cause no further harm for all involved. 

Women’s Justice Circles will also be convened at the request of incarcerated women and girls who need the support of the sisterhood for requests for clemency and parole.

We believe that our partnership with Raj and the Participatory Defense team will help us significantly in our national movement to end incarceration of women and girls. It is the right tool at the right time to further support and empower our families and communities. 

— Andrea James, Founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls


Dawn Harrington, of Free Hearts//Nashville Participatory Defense Hub, and is in leadership with the National Council, shares her experience with the group. Behind her sits Elaine Bartlett of New York, who’s incredible story of spending 16 years in prison is chronicled in the book Life on the Outside. And sitting on the other side of Dawn is Stacey Borden, an remarkable organizer fighting for her community in Boston.


Gale Muhammad of New Jersey speaks on the urgency of our collective movement. She sits between Jody Folk of Florida (on her right), and Kayla Gerdes of New York.


Muffin of SpiritHouse//Durham Participatory Defense Hub describes action steps that can be taken during a felony court case to ensure a better outcome. Sarait Escorza, who runs the San Mateo Participatory Defense Hub watches on next to Stacey from Boston.

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