We build women’s collective power in the U.S.

March 21, 2024

Grantee Partner Spotlight: RestoreHER

by Pamela Winn

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Pamela Winn, RestoreHER founder.

RestoreHER US.America is a policy, advocacy, reentry organization led by and for justice-involved women of color based in Georgia. RestoreHER addresses the social determinants of criminalization and intersectionality of social inequities through education, leadership, and policy change to protect the dignity, reproductive justice and restore the rights of all women directly impacted by incarceration, convictions, and/or trauma. RestoreHER is a Ms. South grantee partner.

What brought you to this work? 

In the crucible of a 78-month federal sentence for a white-collar crime, my journey was marked by unspeakable injustice. Shackled and in solitary confinement while pregnant, I endured a fall that led to the heart-wrenching loss of my baby who was discarded callously in the trash. Deprived of medical care, I returned home only to be told my trauma was irreparable. Fueled by this adversity, I founded RestoreHER US.America in Georgia, a beacon for policy advocacy, leadHERship, and reentry. I crafted state-specific language that was instrumental in the passage of the historic First Step Act, which ended the shackling and solitary confinement of pregnant women.

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Who are your key partners?

I’m on a profound mission to transform the lives of women who have been directly affected by incarceration, convictions, and trauma. My goal is not only to break the cycle that perpetuates mass incarceration and prison births among women of color but to empower these resilient women as active partners in their own liberation. Through a participatory approach, we place lived experiences of these women at the forefront of our advocacy efforts, in collaboration with influential partners such as Southern Black Girls and Women Consortium, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, Alabama Justice Initiative, Community Change Foundation, Dream.ORG, and REFORM Alliance among others.

What are you learning or what are you teaching? 

I empower women and girls affected by incarceration, convictions, and trauma to discover their true selves beyond the adversity they’ve faced. Amidst past mistakes, I guide them to recognize their intrinsic worth and the profound contributions they bring to relationships, their potential to shift society through the expertise gained from their lived experiences. I’m learning my mission transcends self-discovery to serve and cultivate productive leaders. I equip them with skills to advocate effectively, enabling them to spearhead transformative change within their communities. Together, we’re forging a path where resilience triumphs and the power of their narratives reshapes the landscape of social change.

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

I stand with pride, having dismantled the barbaric practices of shackling and solitary confinement that marred my own pregnant incarceration. No woman should endure such torment, and my legislative victories across states and federally ensure they won’t. I pioneered the Women’s CARE Act, a cornerstone legislation providing deferment, alternative sentencing, and vital resources for justice-impacted pregnant women. The pinnacle of my mission materialized in the recent triumph of HB23-1187 in Colorado, achieving the ultimate goal of ending prison births. With each stride, I am reshaping the landscape of justice, dismantling cruelty, and championing a future free from such inhumane practices.

What can philanthropy do better and/or how can individuals be helpful allies?

The transformative power of philanthropy and individual allies is in their profound acknowledgment and unwavering support. True impact is achieved when these allies not only recognize, but also center the leadership of those directly affected. By providing comprehensive resources and unreserved backing, they empower individuals to authentically lead on the issues closest to them. The key is not just recognition, but a commitment to amplifying voices, fostering genuine agency, and ensuring those at the forefront of the struggle are equipped to shape and drive the change they seek.

What gives you hope?

Every time I humanize a formerly incarcerated individual, stirring empathy to propel the passage of transformative laws, my vision gains momentum. I harbor hope in transforming a criminal justice system entrenched in perpetual punishment and dehumanization. My mission includes shifting the narrative toward a paradigm of healing, accountability, and restoration. It hinges on recognizing every woman’s inherent dignity, affirming their right to reach full potential. Through advocacy that transcends empathy, I strive to reshape a system that fosters compassion and facilitates the holistic growth of those who have endured the weight of injustice.