A black woman who became a Harvard-educated attorney is working wholeheartedly to make a difference in the lives of women that are struggling due to losing the men in their lives to mass incarceration.
Gina Clayton (pictured) is the founder of an Oakland, California-based organization called the Essie Justice Group. When Clayton graduated from law school, she relocated to New York City where she worked representing clients who were facing eviction in politically and economically abandoned neighborhoods.
Clayton saw that the majority of the women clients she represented (most of whom were black) had at least one male loved one who was locked away in prison. These men were usually a brother, father, or significant other who was there to help the women prior to being incarcerated.
“The impact [it had on women]I saw was in housing. But there was also the expense of prison visits and the long distance they have to travel, not to mention the cost of raising children when you don’t have a partner,” Clayton told Essence Magazine in an exclusive interview. This interview was re-published by Essence last Friday (September 16).
Clayton founded the Essie Justice Group in 2014. She named the organization after her great-grandmother from Louisiana. The Essie Justice Group has created a supportive sisterhood for the women who benefit from the community outreach services that this organization has to offer.
Clayton has had her own life experience, which lead her to starting The Essie Justice Group. “When I was in my first year at Harvard, someone I loved was sentenced to 20 years in prison,” Clayton said in her interview with Essence.
“Roughly one in four women has a family member in prison. If you’re a Black woman, the rate is almost one in two. The prevalence is astronomical,” she continued.
Clayton hopes that one day her organization will have different branches and chapters in all 50 U.S. states. She already has plans for expansion that her group is working on now.
“Today we’re on the precipice of doing a deep dive in four counties in the Bay Area, then Los Angeles, New York City, D.C. and Jacksonville [Florida]. Eventually, you’ll see our network across all 50 states to leverage our collective strength and power,” Clayton added.