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dateFebruary 26, 2016 timeFriday, 5:00pm–7:00pm EST location William and June Warren Hall (Law School), L107, Columbia University
  • Ladies of Hope Ministries
  • Center for Justice
  • Beyond the Bars Fellowship
  • Center for the Study of Law and Culture
  • Families for Justice as Healing
  • Women Who Never Give Up
  • Topeka K. Sam
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated
Neon graphic of a woman with closed eyes and hair made up of multi-colored butterflies

The Real Women Real Voices symposium will highlight the issues and concerns that impact incarcerated women. The three-part event will feature a video simulcast of currently incarcerated women, joined by formerly incarcerated women and children of incarcerated parents discussing the impact of imprisonment and need for carceral policy reform. The Ladies of Hope Ministries presents the Real Women Real Voices symposium as a precursor to the 2016 Beyond the Bars Conference.

Panel 1: Effects of Incerceration on Women and Children

This panel will feature a speaker calling in who is currently serving 30 years in Danbury Federal Prison for conspiring to sell drugs. She is 44 years old and has served almost 19 years to date. She is a Brooklyn native, where her family currently lives. The panel will also feature Miquelle West, who is the daughter of Michelle West, who has served 22 years of 2 life sentences in prison in New York. Ebony Underwood is a writer and filmmaker at the forefront of Criminal Justice Reform as founder of In 1988, her father, William Underwood, having never been convicted of a felony, was incarcerated and convicted with a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. Ebony advocates for reform initiatives against mass incarceration and to support children of incarcerated parents.

Panel 2: Aging and Healthcare in Prison

This panel will feature a teleconference with a speaker, who is currently serving a 15 year sentence in Danbury Federal Prison for non-violent federal bank fraud and tax fraud violations. Phyllis "Grandma" Hardy will also be sitting on the panel. She is the matriarch of Families for Justice as Healing and continues to be a mother and sister to many of the women who were and are still incarcerated in the federal prison system. After 23 years, Grandma was released to her family and freedom on March 19th, 2015. Evie Litwok will speak about her experiences in solitary confinement and other denials of human rights that so many incarcerated persons suffer from. Since her release from prison, Evie has launced the Equality Justice Project, a grassroots organization supporting incarcerated and formerly incarcerated LGBTQ people and Witness to Mass Incarceration, a project dedicated to recording interviews of formerly incarcerated persons to preserve the horrific history of mass incarceration in America.

Panel 3: Reentry and Transitional Housing

This panel features a video teleconference with a speaker who is currently at a halfway house in North Carolina after receiving clemency from President Obama and was just released on February 2, 2016 after 21 years in prison. She will be joined by Starlene Patterson who obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College and Master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She is also a N.Y.S Licensed Social Worker, a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee (CASAC-T). Starlene is currently working on Riker’s Island through the Osborne Association as a Senior Re-Entry Specialist for the I-CAN Program teaching and equipping adult males with the necessary tools geared towards successful re-entry into society and reducing recidivism. Teresa Y. Hodge, a passionate advocate for people with criminal connections, is committed to reducing the lasting harm caused by prison. It was an 87-month federal prison sentence that introduced her to the justice system and mass incarceration. After spending nearly 2 years in prison she won part of an appeal and her prison sentence was reduced to 70-months, for a white-collar, non-violent, first-time offense. Upon coming home, she and her daughter Laurin Hodge co-founded Mission: Launch, Inc., a non-profit focused on introducing technology and entrepreneurship to previously incarcerated individuals as a way of ensuring self-sufficiency.