The Women's Justice Institute

​​Transforming Justice Together

Our Model

 ​​​​​The​ Women’s Justice Institute (WJI) collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to promote de-carceration of women and girls through implementation of gender responsive, trauma-informed and family-centered policies and programs designed to address their unique risks, strengths and needs throughout the justice continuum.

Through media, research and outreach, we promote public awareness among corrections officials, law enforcement and policymakers regarding the unique risks, strengths and challenges of justice-involved women and girls, as well as the profound impact of sexual assult, domestic violence and various forms of trauma on their justice pathways.
Through technical assistance, training on cutting-edge practices and policy development, we work with systems to design and implement results-driven gender responsive interventions designed to improve the safety, well-being and outcomes among women and girls along the entire justice continuum. 
Through collaboration, we grow sustainable systems change strategies centered on a public health approach, and advance them through cultivating a meaningful dialogue among women and girls with lived experiences, corrections officials and frontline staff, the law enforcement community, elected officials and policymakers, social service providers, academics and other thought leaders from across the nation.  
5 CORE Practice Areas of Gender Responsive Systems
1 Relational
Relationship-based programs/services are rooted in relational-cultural theory and relational psychology. They acknowledge the centrality of relationships in females’ lives.
2 Strengths-based
Strengths-based programs and services adopt an intentional movement away from a deficit approach with justice-involved women and girls, and, instead: focus on strengths, talents and assets; recast “negative” behaviors as survival behaviors; and restore healthy power and control. 

Women are the fastest growing population of a justice system that was never properly researched or designed to address their unique risks, needs and pathways.  We want to change that.
3 Trauma Informed
What does it mean to be 
Gender Responsive?  
"Gender Responsive or Gender-specific programs intentionally allow research and knowledge on female socialization, female psychological development, female strengths, female risk factors for system involvement, females’ pathways through systems, female responses to traditional interventions and females’ unique program/service needs to affect and guide all aspects of design, processes, and services (adapted from Maniglia).

At minimum, this means that each component integrates, where possible, an understanding of the following Five Core Practice Areas at both a conceptual and practice level:

          A relational approach;
          A strengths-based approach;
          A trauma-informed approac;
          A culturally competent approach; and
          A holistic approach.

Females’ past experiences, including any trauma they may have survived, as well as their ethnic and cultural identity, are very real parts of who they are."

Alyssa Benedict, MPH
​Executive Director, CORE Associates
Lead Partner, The Women's Justice Initative (WJI) 
Author, "The Five CORE Practice Areas of Gender Responsiveness"

Trauma-informed practices incorporate knowledge about the disproportionate impact of gender-based violence and the unique impact of trauma on women and girls, thereby increasing effectiveness. They help prevent trauma triggering reactions, and grow coping capacity and empowerment of survivors to manage symptoms successfully. 
4 Culturally Competent
Culturally competent programs and services have a defined set of values and principles, and demonstrate behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally. They ensure practitioners value diversity, conduct self evaluation, can manage the dynamics of difference and can adapt to the cultural contexts of the communities they serve.  
5 Holistic
Learn More
Holistic programs/services acknowledge the larger context of females’ lives, and, in turn, the larger context of their thoughts, feelings, behaviors and decision-making. This means that practitioners understand pathways theory as well as the unique causes and correlates of female behavior. Holistic programs are also oriented toward empowerment and advocacy.
Our Network

CORE Associates, LLC

National Resource Center for Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW)

National Institute of Corrections (NIC)

Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC)

TASC & the UIC Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (GLATTC)

NAMI Chicago

A Safe Haven (ASH)

UIC Center on Public Safety & Justice

​Orbis Partners

UCAN Chicago

Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Chicago Urban League


Health & Medicine Research Group

The Pierce Family Foundation

National Girl's Initiative (NGI) Illinois "Girls at Risk" Working Group (IDHHS) 

The American Probation & Parole Association (APPA), Committee on Justice Involved Women & Girls

Prison Reform International (PRI)
Smart Policy Works (SPW)

Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW)

Test400K Foundation

Conant Family Foundation

Polk Bros Foundation 

The John Howard Association (JHA)

The Illinois Justice Project

Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA):  Chicago Legal Aid for Incarcerated Mothers
(CLAIM) & Visible Voices

Wexford Health Sources

WestCare Foundation

New Moms, Inc.

Strengthening Chicago's Youth

The Ounce of Prevention Fund

5.1 million children have experienced the incarceration of a parent in the United States

Correctional practices that “facilitate and strengthen family connections during incarceration” can “reduce the strain of parental separation, reduce recidivism rates, and increase the likelihood of successful re-entry,” according to a 2005 report by the Re-Entry Policy Council.

Image by the talented Otto Steininger & Licensing Generously Donated with Permission from Netflix and the New York Times paid advertisement entitled​​:   "Women Inmates Separate but Not Equal."