Women's Justice Initiative (WJI) 

Building Gender Responsive Justice Systems for Women & Girls

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."

 About Us
The Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI) was founded as the result of a national institute hosted by the American Probation & Parole Association (APPA) that was dedicated to providing a platform for corrections professionals and stakeholders to share ideas, challenges, best practices and – most importantly – to collaborate on building solutions to the address the impact of trauma and the lack of gender responsive practices for women/girls throughout the criminal justice system.   The APPA Justice-Involved Women & Girls Committee has generously offered to serve in an ongoing advisory role for the project, and is represented by APPA Past President Carmen Rodriguez. 
Based in Chicago, the WJI is housed at Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) , a social innovator leading systems change solutions for healthcare, economic security and personal dignitity.  WJI also operates advocacy and technical assistance projects with our key founding partners, the Test400K Foundation  and  Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) , the justice system lead of the UIC Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (GLATTC), which serves as a hub for staff training and development on U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services SAMHSA priority areas, including best practices for addressing trauma, substance abuse and mental health among high-risk populations  throughout a nine-state Midwest Region. 
The project is supported by a growing Advisory Network of leading advocates, experts and providers that share the goal of addressing the needs of women/girls throughout the justice system in a matter that is gender responsive, safe, effective, humane and evidence-based. The members of this network offer their voices, ideas and expertise on ways to address these challenges and develop innovative ways to address them. ​
Our Projects

WJI strives to partner on projects that promote systems change throughout the justice system, and build community capacity to deliver gender responsive services.  

Illinois' First Gender Informed Practice Assessment (GIPA) 
The Women’s Justice Initiative is currently partnering with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Women & Family Division on a three-year project to build gender responsive policy, practice and services throughout the state’s women’s prison and parole system.  The project includes four deliverables: 

  1. Building public awareness regarding the challenges of women/girls in the criminal justice system, and evidence-based, gender responsive policies and practices;
  2. ​Implementing the Gender Informed Practice Assessment (GIPA) at all state women’s prisons, and developing a systems gap analysis of gender responsive policies, practices and services for the department that includes ways to safely and effectively reduce the women’s prison population; 
  3. Creating a strategic plan for addressing gaps identified during the assessment, and implementing best practices that will promote de-carceration and improve outcomes among women/girls; and
  4. Working with the department and its community partners to build the capacity to implement gender responsive policies/practices by helping to identify innovative funding strategies, including leveraging resources and key partnerships to implement a sustainable set of solutions – within both prisons and community-based settings that are trauma-informed and evidence-based, including substance abuse, mental health, housing, family reunification, education/employment.    

The project was made possible because of a generous grant provided by the  Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP)/ National Resource Center for Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW)  in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.   These resources supported implementation of the GIPA Assessment, the NIC's most comprehensive tool designed to assess corrections systems for gender responsive practices and to help them to establish a baseline for reform.  Additional grants secured by the WJI made it possible to conduct a more intensive level of research and robust set of recommendations.

The technical assistance and expertise to help lead the project was provided by report authors: IL GIPA coach, Alyssa Bedict, NRCJIW Federal Partner, and Executive Director of CORE Associates, LLC, and WJI Founder and Project Director Deanne Benos.