Life After Release
Qiana Johnson and Chantel Pinchem, co-founders of Life After Release, met while they both were incarcerated at The Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. This state prison, in Jessup, is currently the only facility for women in Maryland whose sentences exceed 18 months.
While incarcerated, Johnson became an advocate on the inmate liaison council after witnessing the impacts of class stratification in the facility, and being frustrated with her limited recourse. She describes her resulting activities and research about the criminal justice system as a “coping mechanism” that she developed.
Pinchem experienced a miscarriage while in state custody and says this event was instrumental in her decision to become an activist. She also cites her feelings about conditions, labor and economics, budgeting, and a lack of information regarding inmate and state rights and responsibilities. All of these factors, Pinchem emphasizes, impact the children of incarcerated women, and the unborn.
Life After Release, according to Johnson, is focused on building a base of people who are “conscious about mass incarceration and mass liberation.” Legal and political public education, voter registration, and advocacy all fall under the organization’s purview.
Johnson stresses that “directly impacted people” need to be at the forefront of criminal justice reform, and Pinchem says she hopes that her personal experiences will help members of the community become more aware about the political choices they make.