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Reconnect members from 2003 performing Who Will I Be
Members of ReConnect, an advocacy and leadership program for women returning home from incarceration, performing at a fundraiser, 2003. From the Coalition for Women Prisoners collection.

The staff of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections is excited to announce the Coalition for Women Prisoners Collection! Founded in 1994, the Coalition for Women Prisoners brought together organizations and individuals from across New York State to raise the visibility of women impacted by the criminal legal system and to organize against the gendered harms of incarceration.

The CWP decided to sunset in 2021, and several members have generously donated materials to Barnard, all of which collectively make up the CWP collection. Throughout its history, the CWP has been instrumental in advancing policy initiatives that improve material conditions for people in prison. They organized alongside broader coalitions to enact several key pieces of New York State legislation including the Anti-Shackling law to prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant people, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice act to protect criminalized survivors of domestic violence, and the HALT Solitary bill to limit the use of solitary confinement in New York State prisons. The CWP integrated its organizing for structural-level change with everyday work to meet the immediate needs of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. In 2003, the Women in Prison Project launched ReConnect, an advocacy and leadership program for women returning home from incarceration. The program worked simultaneously to support participants in their transition out of prison while also cultivating skills for organizing and activism, providing an on-ramp to the CWP’s advocacy work. As its work progressed, the CWP centered the leadership of formerly incarcerated women, whose narratives, writing, and organizing work are present across the collection’s materials.

To continue the CWP’s legacy of anti-carceral feminist organizing, we hope this collection will serve as a resource for activists and organizers, students, scholars, and community members working to theorize and challenge the gendered violence of the prison industrial complex. Abolitionist feminist thinkers teach us the importance of understanding social movements through a genealogical lens, and we hope that the wealth of materials in the Coalition for Women Prisoners collection will add to a rich, multi-dimensional genealogy of feminist struggles against prisons, policing, and other forms of carceral violence.

The CWP collection is open to everyone. To come spend time with the collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at archives@barnard.edu to set up an appointment. The finding aid is available online, and the collections continues to grow with new additions. We also welcome you a series of events this fall, sharing the CWP collection and the voices in it:

More information about these events and registration is available on the event pages.

This collection was brought to Barnard in partnership with the Barnard Center for Research on Women and processed by Eve Glazier '23. We gratefully acknowledge Alice Schreyer '68, whose funding helped support the processing of this collection. We also welcome anyone who was involved with the Coalition for Women Prisoners to get in touch with us at archives@barnard.edu.