Boston, MA — According to a 2017 report, by the Prison Policy Initiative, there are over 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States. 1:5 incarcerated people are locked up are for a drug offense. Sadly, the majority of women arrested are in for low-level, non-violent charges. “I know the plight too well as a former convict, college graduate, disabled Veteran, and mom. I am advocating for the abolition of prison for women and girls. My organization knows first-hand that these women in prison are nurturing, loving and caring, despite what you see in the media. We are our sister’s keeper,” says Arlinda ‘Tray’ Johns, Co-Founder and Executive Director of FedFam4Life (www.FedFam4Life.org) and a top jailhouse lawyer.
Arlinda ‘Tray’ Johns is a woman with many lives. She spent eight years, seven months and 19 days in federal prison for possession of less than $500 worth of drugs and was arrested five days after her graduation from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts. Johns enlisted in The United States Navy and was discharged for being a homosexual and reporting an assault. At the age of 21, she was raising five children, all under eight years old.
While incarcerated, she became a skilled “Jailhouse Lawyer” and since being released, a prominent and fearless social justice activist and sought-after public speaker at venues such as The Women’s Marches in Hawaii and Boston, Vanderbilt University, Simmons College, City University of New York, New York University and Boston Public Schools. “My life would be a great book and movie. I worked with the Cando Foundation during President Obama Clemency Project in 2014. Life is about second and third chances when you do the work. I am grateful. From being reunited with my son, raising my siblings’ children, to winning a six-figure settlement against a publicly traded company, (where I represented self) for racism and homophobia. My mission is restoration for families upended by mass incarceration,” cries Johns.
FedFam4Life is a non-profit Sisterhood co-founded by Tray Johns, Executive Director and Foxxy Johns, President, both formerly incarcerated Black and Gay women. The couple, who married in 2017, started FedFam4Life to address the urgent need for Black female leadership in the social justice movement. Johns states, “FedFam4Life is not about raising a million dollars, it’s about freeing a million women from the prison industrial complex and the 1.2 million under the de facto imprisonment of parole or probation.”
#MySistersKeeper is FedFam4Life primary advocacy initiative, created to provide support for direct court actions brought by jailhouse lawyers and incarcerated women who are eligible for clemency, sentence reduction, compassionate release and other considerations. The critical case response team include law students, paralegals, and attorneys, as well as communications students and professionals to help raise public awareness. #MySistersKeeper is grounded in the principle that incarceration directly impacts women, families, mental health, jobs/careers and neighborhoods at-large. They rally for justice reform, collectively restoring the lives of our sisters. FedFam4Life also acts as a connector to re-entry resources and opportunities provides a lasting circle of support for women survivors of the system. Initial funding provided by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, volunteers, lawyers and advocacy groups for their belief and working to change and restore mind, body, soul, and lives because of incarceration.
“The mission at FedFam4Life is to free women from the prison industrial complex while restoring and healing families. Everyone needs support. Thankfully, our relationship with the Harlem Business Alliance, has provided enormous marketing support with their pilot program, The Lillian Project,” states Arlinda.
To learn more about FedFam4Life and Arlinda ‘Tray’ Johns, visit their website, www.FedFam4Life.org.