“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, women, and gender expansive people in Texas with the purpose of ending the incarceration and systematic devaluing of the girls, women and gender expansive people within our criminal legal system.
We envision a society where we 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.
It all began years ago at the Mountain View unit in Gatesville, Texas. When hopes for the future seemed the bleakest, we found a spark of inspiration one afternoon while spending time together at the table in the dayroom. We asked each other, “What if we could get out of this prison and become a force to be reckoned with? What if we could be the voice for the women we leave behind?” It began a fledgling sense of empowerment. What we didn't know was that there were women on other units, who also were having these same longings for collective power.
Fast forward to 2022!
Several of us were finding our voices in the free world, but we felt disconnected in criminal justice advocacy spaces. The sense of community that had helped us survive prison, that we experienced on the rec yards, cellblocks and dorms felt missing. Our unique perspective gave us insights that were often missing from the larger conversations, but we were struggling to be heard. But Melissa Lucio changed everything.
When Melissa was on a countdown to execution we saw what we perceived as a lack of urgency around her case. This was the catalyst. We began to organize and from there something extraordinary happened. We found our collective power. From that moment, Lioness Justice Impacted Women's Alliance was born.
Our history is a testament to our enduring strength and refusal to be defined and limited by others who think they know what's best for us. We figured out how to bring community from behind the walls and continue it beyond them. We have come together from diverse backgrounds, with varied experiences, but united by the common purpose of ending the incarceration and systematic devaluing of the girls, women and gender expansive people within our criminal legal system.
Together, we will continue to write our story, one chapter of empowerment at a time.