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Coalition for Women Prisoners Collection

Identifier: SC29

Scope and Contents

The Coalition for Women Prisoners Collection contains physical and digital materials documenting the work of the Coalition for Women Prisoners and its members between 1993 and 2021. The collection includes organizational records from the CWP and its adjacent programs—ReConnect and the Women in Prison Project—such as meeting agendas, strategic planning and assessment documents, financial documents, correspondence, reports and publications on various issues relating to incarceration, materials for public programming and outreach, and materials from the CWP’s legislative advocacy campaigns. The collection also contains photographs and video footage from CWP’s actions and events, as well as short films made to highlight the stories of CWP members and advance their advocacy work. In addition, several pieces of artwork and movement ephemera such as protest signs and banners from the CWP’s organizing initiatives reside in the collection. Currently, the contents of the collection largely reflect the CWP’s work from 1994 through 1996 during Rhea Mallett’s tenure as director of WIPP, and from 2004 to 2021 during Andrea Williams’s tenure with ReConnect and the CWP.

Series 1, Coalition for Women Prisoners Organizational Records, 1993-2021, includes the internal organizational records of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. This series spans from 1993 before the CWP’s inception—with documents from the hiring process of its first director, the first CWP meetings, and the establishment of the CWP’s founding vision and purpose—through to 2021 when the CWP sunsetted as an organization. These materials include meeting minutes; records from financial and strategic organizational planning processes; correspondence between CWP leaders, members, and collaborators; the notes, research, drafts, and feedback from various CWP projects and initiatives; personnel documents such as job descriptions, resignation letters, and hiring materials; materials from events hosted and sponsored by the CWP; and materials from the processes that culminated in the CWP’s decision to sunset the organization in June 2021, including the sunset announcements and final CWP gatherings. Series 1 contains both physical and born-digital materials. Documents from the CWP’s earlier history are largely physical, and documents from more recent years are mostly in digital format.

Series 2, ReConnect Program Materials, 1994-2021, bulk: 2003-2016, contains the records, documents, and materials of the ReConnect Program. The ReConnect Program, directed by Andrea Wiliams, operated adjacently to the Coalition for Women Prisoners as a leadership empowerment and political organizing program providing support to women transitioning out of jails, prisons, or “alternative to incarceration” programs such as mandated drug treatment. All ReConnect participants became automatic members of the Coalition for Women Prisoners, and many continued their organizing work with the CWP after they graduated from the program. This series contains organizational records from ReConnect such as meeting minutes, application and recruitment materials, financial documents, feedback and evaluation materials, hiring materials and staff resignation letters, and correspondence. A significant portion of this series is made up of technical assistance forms, which document the communication between ReConnect staff members and former program participants and collaborators requesting assistance, support, or resources regarding a variety of matters relating to ReConnect and CWP work (with names redacted for confidentiality). Series 2 also contains ReConnect curriculum and educational materials, materials from ReConnect public events and programming, as well as ReConnect newsletters and public communications. Also included are various works of poetry, art, and writing from ReConnect participants. Additionally, this series contains feedback surveys and other materials from the NoVo Foundation’s project to turn the former Bayview Women's Prison into a community women’s center.

Series 3, Coalition for Women Prisoners Advocacy Campaign Materials, 1994-2021, contains physical and digital materials relating to the Coalition for Women Prisoners’ public-facing advocacy and organizing campaigns, spanning from the establishment of the CWP until its sunset in 2021. These materials include political education resources; reports and policy proposals; meeting notes and agendas relating to various campaigns; correspondence with elected officials, allied organizations, and other relevant stakeholders; notes and materials from research relating to CWP campaign initiatives; and movement ephemera such as protest signs, banners, buttons, posters, and artwork.

Sub-series 3.1, Early Legislative Advocacy, 1994-1996, contains materials documenting the CWP's legislative advocacy work during Rhea Mallett's tenure as director from 1994-1996. Major areas of focus include preventing sexual assault in prisons and jails; improving access to reprodctive and gynecological healthcare for incarcerated people; challenging Governor George Pataki's sentencing reforms, which increased prison sentences and abolished parole for "violent offenders"; repealing the Rockefeller drug laws and supporting "drug mule" protection bills; maintaining ties between incarcerated mothers and their children; protecting criminalized survivors of domestic violence; and funding alternatives to incarceration.

Sub-series 3.2, Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, 2009-2019, bulk: 2018-2019, contains materials from the CWP’s 10 year campaign to pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act in the New York State legislature, increasing protections for criminalized survivors of domestic violence. Most materials in this sub-series document the final two years of the campaign in 2018 and 2019. A significant portion of documents in sub-series 3.2 are born-digital, though the sub-series also contains a campaign banner and a folder of physical materials.

Sub-series 3.3, Anti-Solitary Confinement Campaign, 2017-2020, contains materials from the CWP’s campaign against solitary confinement and their work in support of the passage of the HALT Solitary (Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement) bill in the New York State legislature. A significant majority of the digital materials in this sub-series come from the CWP’s process of drafting a report, Prison Within Prison: Voices of Women Held in Isolated Confinement in New York. These documents include background research materials; interviews, survey responses, and feedback from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women who have experienced solitary confinement (with last names and sensitive identifying information redacted); several draft iterations of the report with feedback from various stakeholders; meeting minutes; budget documents; and information about distribution of the report. This sub-series also contains documents relating to the CWP’s general-anti-solitary confinement advocacy, including several banners, protest signs, and pieces of artwork.

Series 4, CWP and ReConnect Photographs, Videos, and Films, 1994-2014, contains physical and digital photographs, videos, and films from both CWP and ReConnect, largely capturing their activities from 2003 to 2021.

Sub-series 4.1, CWP and ReConnect Photographs, 2003-2020, includes physical and born-digital photographs from ReConnect and CWP meetings, ReConnect graduation ceremonies, annual lobbying days in Albany, and other CWP events, gatherings, and political rallies and actions.

Sub-series 4.2, CWP Video and Radio Recordings, 2005-2013, contains video and audio footage from CWP activities and events. This footage includes video from the 2005 and 2006 CWP lobby days, and recordings of educational events and interviews including an interview segment on Teen Talk Radio and a 2014 Brooklyn Museum Panel on incarcerated mothers.

Sub-series 4.3, CWP and ReConnect Short Films, 1994-2009, includes films made by the CWP, its members, and its allies about the coalition’s work and about issues facing incarcerated women to be used in service of CWP advocacy campaigns.

Series 5, Coalition for Women Prisoners Oral History Interviews, 1959-2023, contains a collection of oral history interviews with members and affiliates of the Coalition for Women Prisoners conducted by staff of the Barnard Archives.


  • Creation: 1993-2021
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1994-1996
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 2003-2021



Rhea Mallett's and Tina Reynolds' oral history interviews in series 5 have varying restrictions; see individual oral history interviews for more information. Otherwise, this collection has no restrictions.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproduction Restrictions

Reproductions can be made for research purposes.

Historical Background

The Coalition for Women Prisoners (CWP) was founded in 1994 to raise the visibility of women impacted by the criminal legal system. At its inception, the CWP operated programmatically under the Women in Prison Project (WIPP) of the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), an organization founded in 1844 to monitor prison conditions and advocate for the rights of incarcerated people in New York State. CWP founders identified a need to address the particular gendered violence faced by women entangled in the prison industrial complex, which, in their experience, mainstream prison advocacy groups largely ignored. Structurally, the CWP was a formation comprised of hundreds of individuals and advocacy groups across New York State organized into committees. The CWP committees changed in focus over the course of the organization’s history, centering around issues such as incarcerated mothers, conditions of confinement, violence against women, and re-entry.

The Coalition for Women Prisoners integrated its organizing for structural-level change with everyday work to meet the immediate needs of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. In 2003, the Women in Prison Project launched ReConnect, an advocacy and leadership program for women returning home from incarceration. The program worked simultaneously to support participants in their transition out of prison, jail, and “alternative to incarceration” programs, while also cultivating skills for organizing and activism, providing an on-ramp to the CWP’s advocacy work. Each year, ReConnect and CWP members traveled to the New York State legislature in Albany for CWP’s annual Advocacy Day to push for policies that improved material conditions for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and advanced their anti-carceral vision.

Throughout their history, the CWP organized alongside broader coalitions and won several pieces of New York State legislation. In April 2008, New York State agreed to suspend Medicaid access to incarcerated people instead of terminating it (Administrative Directive 08 OHIP/ADM-3). In May of 2009, CWP won the passage of the Anti-Shackling law (S.01290) prohibiting the shackling of incarcerated pregnant people. In September of 2009, CWP organized for New York State health department oversight of HIV care in prisons. In July of 2010, CWP successfully advocated for increased protections under the Adoption and Safe Families Act for incarcerated parents with children in the foster care system (S.3438/A.5462). After a ten-year campaign, CWP won the passage of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (criminal procedure law 440.47(1)) in March of 2019, allowing some criminalized survivors of domestic violence to apply for reduced sentences and giving New York judges greater discretion to consider the effects of abuse in their sentencing decisions. The CWP worked for two significant legislative victories in 2021: the HALT (Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement) Solitary Act (S.2836/A.2277) in March, and the Proximity for All Act (S724A/A6710A) in December, which requires parents to be incarcerated in facilities closer to their children.

After a series of 5 convenings held between 2016 and 2020 for reflection and strategic planning, CWP members agreed to sunset the organization on June 30th, 2021. This decision came as CWP faced a variety of logistical and financial challenges after CANY transferred the women’s advocacy program, namely CWP and ReConnect, to the STEPS to End Family Violence Program at Rising Ground in 2019. In assessing their role in a now full and vibrant landscape of anti-carceral feminist activism, CWP members believed that they had substantially achieved their inaugural mission of centering and elevating the experiences of women impacted by incarceration. With the Coalition’s dissolution, many of the people mobilized into anti-carceral organizing by the CWP continue to advance their activist work through other organizations and initiatives.


100.2 Gigabytes (2 flash drives, 10 disks)

14.5 Linear Feet (8 document boxes, 6 oversized banners and pieces of art in flat files)




The Coalition for Women Prisoners was a coalition founded in 1994 to address the issues and needs of women incarcerated in the New York prisons. The CWP was coordinated by the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York. Formerly incarcerated women held various leadership roles in the Coalition as committee co-chairs, lobby team leaders, campaign organizers, peer-leader outreach workers, and public speakers. Their narratives, writing, and organizing work are present across the collection's materials. The CWP Collection contains physical and digital materials documenting the work of the Coalition for Women Prisoners and its members. The collection's contents include organizational records, photographs, video footage, films, artwork, reports, publications, and movement ephemera from the CWP's advocacy campaigns, programming, and organizational operations.

Collection Arrangement

In their physical arrangement of the CWP collection, archivists roughly maintained the original order in which they received the documents and materials. To improve access to the collection, archivists did minor re-arranging on few occasions to facilitate the grouping of similar documents. The Barnard Archives received materials from this collection in three separate accessions from three separate donors, Andrea Williams, Anisah Sabur-Mumin, and Rhea Mallett, over the course of several months. In an effort to present the materials in a way that emphasizes the collective nature of the CWP as a coalition, the intellectual arrangement of the collection integrates all of the accessions together by grouping materials into series based on thematic areas indicating what function the documents served to the CWP. The finding aid organizes materials into four series, two of which are further arranged into sub-series. The arrangement is as follows:

Series 1: Coalition for Women Prisoners Organizational Records

Series 2: ReConnect Program Materials

Series 3: Coalition for Women Prisoners Advocacy Campaign Materials

Sub-series 3.1: Early CWP Advocacy Work, 1994-1996
Sub-series 3.2: Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act
Sub-series 3.3: Anti-Solitary Confinement Campaign

Series 4: CWP and ReConnect Photographs, Videos, and Films

Sub-series 4.1: CWP and ReConnect Photographs
Sub-series 4.2: CWP Video and Radio Recordings
Sub-series 4.3: CWP and ReConnect Short Films

Series 5: Coalition for Women Prisoners Oral History Interviews

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Paper and digital mateials donated by Andrea Williams in 2021, Anisah Sabur-Mumin in 2021, and Rhea Mallett in 2022. Oral histories conducted in 2022 and 2023.


Archivists identified and removed a number of out-of-scope and sensitive materials from this collection. Several mass-market films were returned to the donor due to their wide availability outside of the archives, including Pray the Devil Back to Hell,Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed,Trouble the Water, andHealing Neem. A StoryCorp Interview with Maggie Williams and Nicole Cook, A Legal Action Center video titledYour Rights, Your Future, Preparing for Reentry, and a video from the College Initiative titled,Re-Imagine the Future: The Journey from Prison to College, were also removed due to their availability outside of the archive. Financial documents and receipts containing sensitive personal information of CWP members were discarded by the archivists. Additionally, archivists discarded materials such as completed job/program applications, letters to parole officers, sign-in sheets, and mailing lists for ReConnect and CWP because they contain the personal information of program participants. In instances where multiple copies of the same documents appeared in the collection, archivists left two copies and discarded the rest of the duplicates. In total, roughly 1 linear foot of materials were discarded or returned to the donors. Along with deaccessioning documents, archivists redacted materials which document the stories of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who did not provide express permission for their full names to be used. These materials include the Bayview Women’s Building project surveys (box 5, folder 5), interviews for theMy Sister’s Keeper book project (digital object SC29_001.08), housing booklet interviews (digital object SC29_001.05), and interviews from thePrison Within Prison solitary confinement report (digital object SC29_001.11). At the request of the donor, archivists also redacted names, contact information, and other pieces of identifying information from the ReConnect Technical Assistance forms (box 4, folders 1-7; box 5, folders 1-4) to protect confidentiality, as these forms document correspondence exchanged in the context of private email threads.


Accruals are expected

Related Materials

The records of the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), CWP's original parent organization, are housed at the State University of New York at Albany.

The Barnard Center for Research on Women Feminist Ephemera Collection, housed in the Barnard Archives, contains various materials related anti-carceral feminism and to women's prison activism and organizing.

The records of the Women's Prison Association, another signigicant organization advocating for women in prison, are housed at the New York Public Library.

Processing History

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Eve Glazier between October 2021 and July 2022. Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard. Finding aid written in English. This collection was brought to Barnard in partnership with the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and we gratefully acknowledge Alice Schreyer '68, whose donations helped support the processing of this collection.

Guide to the Coalition for Women Prisoners Collection
In Progress
Eve Glazier
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States