Justice Impacted Women's Alliance

“Lioness: Justice Impacted Women’s Alliance (JIWA) is a nonprofit program sponsored by Build Up, Inc., a 501(c)3 public charity.”


Lioness: Justice Impacted Women’s Alliance is an organization led by currently and formerly incarcerated girls and women in Texas with the purpose of ending the incarceration and systematic devaluing we experience within the Texas criminal legal system.


We envision a society where we, as well as all gender expansive people, are spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically free from all forms of violence and harm in the criminal legal system. Our vision can be achieved through radical advocacy, leadership development, community building, grassroot organizing and civic engagement.


We believe that lived experience is the guiding force to change.

We believe in honoring each other’s differences while striving to bring one unified voice of currently and formerly incarcerated girls, women and gender expansive people in Texas into all spaces.

We believe that jails and prisons by nature perpetuate harm and violence.

Our History

It all began over 10 years ago at the Mountain View unit in Gatesville, Texas. When hopes for the future seemed the bleakest, several of us found a spark of inspiration one afternoon in the dayroom. We dared to ask each other, “Do you think it's possible that we could get out of here and become a force to be reckoned with? Could we become the voice for the women we leave behind?” Those questions began a fledgling sense of empowerment. What we didn't know was that there were women on other units, who were also having these same longings for collective power.

Fast forward to 2022!
After release many of us found our way into social justice spaces, but we felt disconnected. We struggled to be heard. The sense of community that had helped us survive prison, that we experienced on the rec yards, cellblocks and dorms was missing. But Melissa Lucio changed everything.

When Melissa was scheduled for execution we saw a lack of urgency and even some judgemental attitudes regarding her case from other criminal justice advocates. This infuriated us. We began to organize and protest. Our relentless efforts would play a role in saving Melissa's life. And from there something else extraordinary happened. We had figured out how to bring community from behind the walls and continue it beyond them. We had found our collective power to refuse to be defined, limited or silenced by anyone, ever again. From that moment, Lioness Justice Impacted Women's Alliance was born.

About Us image
Support Our Mission

Support Our Mission

We need your support to accomplish our mission and vision! Click Learn More to make a donation.

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For nearly 30 years, Texas jails have been kept under 85 degrees, and the recently filed lawsuit asks the court to order that Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities be required to do the same, according to organizational plaintiffs including Lioness Justice Impacted Women’s Alliance, Texas Prisons Community Advocates, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and Texas C.U.R.E.

More than 85,000 incarcerated Texans cannot access air conditioning in the summer. As temperatures rise to triple digits, tiny prison cells can reach 140 degrees. Our inside Lioness members have reported heat conditions that have led to severe illness and death. Extreme temperatures are inhumane, a violation of 8th Amendment rights, deadly, and affect the health and mental well-being of all who live and work in Texas prisons. Multiple studies link extreme heat to higher rates of death in prisons. Other studies have shown increases in violence and suicide risks, according to National Public Radio

Lioness Community Outreach Coordinator Marci Marie Simmons spoke at a press conference about the lawsuit on April 22. “Lioness has over 700 directly system-impacted members,” Simmons said. “A large percentage of our membership is still under the direct authority of TDCJ, making us particularly vulnerable to potential retaliation. Despite these risks, we bravely stand in pursuit of humane and non-life-threatening temperatures in Texas prisons.” 

Read more about the dangerous temperatures in Texas prisons and what Lioness Justice Impacted Women’s Alliance is doing to fight for incarcerated women, girls, and gender-expensive individuals. “People are going to die this summer”: Advocacy groups join Texas lawsuit over excessive heat in prisons ( Advocates sue Texas over prisoners being ‘cooked to death’ (Austin Chronicle) Texas inmates are being ‘cooked  to death’ in extreme heat, complaint alleges (Texas Tribune) “There have to be limits”: Lawsuit urges scorching prisons to cool down (Texas Observer) 

 Our incarcerated members along with people across the state are being warehoused in dangerous temperatures. Lioness demands safe temperatures in Texas prisons.

Jennifer Toon

Project Director

Lori Mellinger

Steering Committee Representative

Marci Marie Simmons

Steering Committee/Community Outreach Coordinator

Angel Carroll

Steering Committee

Alexa Garza

Steering Committee

Amanda Cassidy-Trejo

Steering Committee/Strategic Planning

Diane Schwiercz

Steering Committee/Inside Community Coordinator

Chanel Jones

Central Texas Co-Regional Director

Mandi Zapata

Central Texas Co-Regional Director

Arianna Mellinger

East Texas Regional Director

Koretta Brown

Gulf Coast Regional Director

Jennifer Owens

North Texas Regional Director

Extreme Temperatures

Check out our most recent efforts to bring tempature control to Texas prisons,

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Higher Education

Lioness continues to highlight the challenges faced by incarcerated women when pursing higher education opportunities.

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We continue the fight to end the over policing of women and girls while in custody. Read studies about how women are punished more severely and more often for minor infractions.

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Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement also known in Texas as administrative segregation, is cruel and unusual punishment that affects women in very specific ways. We remain committed to ending it.

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Youth Injustice

Read about the history and the most recent corruption, abuse, and mismanagement within the Texas youth justice system.

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LGBTQA+ and Texas Prisons

Gender expansive people in the Texas criminal legal system are constantly attacked and harrassed. We stand together for justice for our trans men and women. Read recent articles about their struggles.

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Parole and Probation

Community Supervision can be a set up for failure for many women. Read the report on how the system doesn't work and what we can do to fix it.

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County Jail and Bail

County jails in Texas are often unsafe, dirty and dangerous, especially for women and gender expansive people. We are working on advocating around conditions and bail reform. Check out some articles about what's going on here in Texas.

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Free Melissa Lucio

Learn more about the compelling evidence supporting her innocence and the ongoing efforts to secure her release.

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Lioness Members Published Articles

Our members take a great risk in writing about their experiences. Check out these incredible authors!

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Civic Engagement

Our members are empowered by participating in local and state government. Learn about bills that were impacted and informed through our lived experience!

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Community Building

We believe that nothing happens without community. Read about our efforts to connect to local communities for collective healing and restorative justice.

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How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? Why are they there? How are their experiences different from men’s? Check out the reports to understand the reasons for their incarceration, and the unique challenges they face compared to men.

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It can be confusing and overwhelming knowing where and how to start advocating for yourself and your community. These are a few resources that we often use that help inform and guide our efforts.

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  •  5/4/2024 11:00 AM - 5/4/2024 04:00 PM
  •   711 W Arapaho Rd, Richardson, TX 75080, USA

Join us for the first-ever Lioness Wellness Resource Fair co-hosted by Simply Grace! Featuring yoga, sound healing, open microphone speakers, and tons of resources. Help us inspire one another and Build Our Force!

  •  3/30/2024 06:00 PM
  •   2200 Tillery Street, Austin, TX 78723, USA

What better way to celebrate women's history month than with the most vilified women in Texas? Join Lioness Justice Impacted Women's Alliance on March 30th, 6pm-9pm, at Austin Cinemaker Space, as we explore what it truly means to be the most dangerous women in Texas.

  •  2/10/2024 01:30 PM
  •   3823 Airport Blvd d, Austin, TX 78722, USA

It's time to Speak Now! Join the Central Texas Lioness Regional Group for an Open Mic event! Come share your story to empower others while bringing unity and healing to the community. Also, experience a sound healing meditation as we process through our journey together.

  •  12/8/2023 06:00 PM
  •   2801 S I-35 Frontage Rd #110, Austin, TX 78741, USA

On December 8th, 2023 at 6PM we are having a holiday card writing party with Girls Empowerment Network, Texas After Violence Project and Finish the Five! Come wearing your ugly holiday sweater and/or pjs!! We hope to have over 500 cards for the youth in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. What to bring: blank non specific holiday cards to fill out (no glitter, ribbons or anything attached) and if you can, some food! Join the community in sending love and solidarity to our incarcerated youth!

  •  12/2/2023 01:00 PM
  •   9219 Garland Rd #2109, Dallas, TX 75218, USA

Lioness Justice Impacted Women's Alliance, Girls Empowerment Network, Texas After Violence Project and Texas Center for Justice & Inequity Finish the 5 are on a mission to send holiday cards to every incarcerated youth inside of the Texas Juvenile Justice System! Join us for community as we send hope and love to the young people locked behind prison walls. If you’re able, please bring non specific holiday cards. No need for postage.

  •  10/7/2023 10:30 AM
  •   620 E Main St 3rd floor, Gatesville, TX 76528, USA

Join us for a restorative Peace Walk that aims to bridge the divide between formerly incarcerated individuals and the community where they were once incarcerated. We invite residents, business owners, Faith leaders and other community leaders, to hear and share stories of inspiration and hope beyond the history of incarceration. We are so much more than our past. Come join us!

  •  8/19/2023 08:00 PM
  •   400 South 8th Street, Gatesville, TX, USA

Join us as we honor the lives lost and the continued suffering of the women and men in our Texas prisons during the heat crisis.

  •  7/18/2023 10:00 AM
  •   Capitol District, Austin, TX, USA

Advocates, family members and friends of the men and women incarcerated within Texas Department of Criminal Justice will convene at the Capitol to voice their concerns about the extreme temperatures in the prisons this summer. We are coming together to implore that our elected officials and community stakeholders unite to bring our loved ones relief.

  •  3/8/2023 11:00 AM - 3/8/2023 01:00 PM
  •   1100 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701, USA

This event is hosted by Lioness Justice Impacted Women's Alliance and the Statewide Leadership Council. Join us and State Representatives as we celebrate the success and voice the struggles of currently and formerly incarcerated girls and women in Texas.

  • PO Box 12051, Austin, Texas 78711

Contact us to receive the Lioness newsletter and links to join our monthly meetings. (Let us know what city you are in so we can direct you to our regional groups as well)

T-shirts and Decals

Support a formerly incarcerated entrepreneur with a percentage going to Lioness!

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Coffee Mugs

Order a coffe mug when you make a $30 donation!

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