Advocacy In Action Coalition

 Think About It:

Successful advocacy requires ALL parties to the problem come to the table or there will be no resolution.

What would be necessary to make this happen?


AIAC “White Paper” A Resource for Active Advocacy



A simple approach to understanding human rights and how it links to advocacy

AIAC Digital Toolkit: Taking Steps to Help Yourself

The AIAC Task Force is committed to providing resources giving validity and credibility to the criminal justice reform issues the Coalition as a whole supports. The resulting research and documentation is posted publicly to be available to use as talking points when advocating with legislators and criminal justice officials.


Avon Hart-Johnson – AIAC Chair
Carolyn Esparza – Conference Chair
Barbara Allan
Kate Boccia
Kirstin Eidenbach
Truth Graff
Neela Hoeppner
James (Jim) Prager
Monique Tate


On Thursday, May 7, 2015, at the 7th annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference, over seventy individuals and representatives of established prison family related organizations signed in agreement to become members of the Advocacy in Action Coalition (AIAC) of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference, to pursue criminal justice and prison reforms for issues known to fuel mass incarceration in the United States.  Subsequently, Coalition membership has continued to grow. (Listing of current full Coalition membership is below.)

The following five major issues of concern were selected for active research for needed remedial action:

  • Ensuring the availability of jail and prison face-to-face visitation
  • Ensuring family involvement in issues of medical and mental health care for prisoners following HIPPA guidelines
  • Ensuring independent oversight of the entire criminal justice system
  • Ensuring humane treatment of all prisoners and their families
  • Ensuring effective re-entry preparation for all prisoners and their families

Over the ensuing years, since AIAC was established, the Task Force has reviewed and elected to lend the name of the Coalition in support of prisoners and prison family members in matters related to medical and mental health; excessive and/or unjust sentencing; potential innocence of incarcerated individuals; elimination of face-to-face visitation and any inhumane treatment of incarcerated persons and prison family members.  AIAC recognizes and acknowledges there is a toxicity in prison environments that impacts all persons working or residing in that environment.  As such, the coalition seeks opportunities to build cooperative and mutually supportive relations to improve the environment for all persons affected by incarceration personally and/or professionally.


A working Advocacy in Action Committee, Chaired by Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson was formed to begin research and draft a Coalition White Paper.  The completed White Paper was released on October 21, 2015 calling for significant reforms in the entire U.S. criminal justice system.  To view a copy of the White Paper, click here.

The coalition task force continues drafting Fact Sheets for use in advocacy and has raised funds to produce the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary.  The documentary is available to enhance presentations and discussion on criminal justice reform by eliminating frightening myths and stereotypes about the prisoner and their loved ones.

The task force is considering developing a series of webinars to provide advocacy tools and prepare members for active advocacy.


LuQman Abdullah – Human Rights Coalition, Philadelphia – Pennsylvania

Chandra Adams – COPE; Called to Change – Texas

Annette Aguigui – Georgia

Ed Aguigui – Georgia

Jolynn Armstrong – The FOTA Project – Colorado

Cathy Anderson – Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership – Maryland

Maribel Herrera Aitkins – California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Barbara Allan – Prison Families Anonymous – New York

Cindy Anderson – Washington Coalition for Parole

K. Bain – Bain Consulting – New York

Edgar Barens – The Prison Terminal – Illinois

Keri Barker – Gift of Voice – Illinois

Olivia Barclay – Florida

Joyce Betts – Families in Crisis – Connecticut

Jeanette Bocanegra – Justice for Families – New York

Kate Boccia – The National Incarceration Association – Georgia

Natasha Brien – Canada

Judith Brink – Prison Action Network – New York

Ivi Brown – Texas

Jackalyn Brown – Flip Flop Support Groups, Inc. – Florida

Belinda Bruster – Florida

Jenna Bundy – Illinois

Darlene Burke – Ten Toes In – California

Allison Butler – Prison Break Coaching – Delaware

Jenelle Butler – Arizona

Deborah Munson Cardenas – Texas

Dena Castellon – Georgia

Dr. Ruth Clark – Florida

Rosanne Clausen  – Strong Prison Wives – New Jersey

Debbie Collins – Georgia

Rhonda Courtney – Grassroots Guardians of Truth – Georgia

Cindy Cristan – California

Julie Crithfield – California

Ed Davis – Episcopal Diocese of Texas – Texas

Arkueria Davis – Parent Caregiver Advisory Group – California

Cedrick Dean – The Securus Foundation – North Carolina

Kelsey Lynn DeAvila – Jails Action Coalition – New York City

Franklin Deese – North Carolina

Esther DeLeon – California

Armando DePina – Parent Caregiver Advisory Group – California

Ciede Diamondstone – Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership – Maryland

Celeste Didlick-Davis – 3R Development, Inc. – Ohio

Sonda Donovan – Colorado

Alexandria Dorsey – Arizona

Ann Edenfield Sweet – Wings For LIFE International – New Mexico

Kirstin Eidenbach – ATLaS Justice Center – Arizona

Carolyn Esparza – Prisoners’ Family Conference, Chair – Texas

Christina Faurot – Alabama

Sherrin Fitzer – Illinois

Felicia Ford – Leap of Faith Advocacy and Legal Services – California

Katelen Fortunati – Chestnut Health Systems – Missouri

Brenda Fosdick – Illinois

Jacquelyn Frank – Illinois

Braunwynn Franklin – NAMI Multnomah – Washington

Dawn Freeman – The Securus Foundation – National Organization Headquartered in Texas

Quniana Futrell – Healing Generations International – Virginia

Kerry Gant – New York

Lisa Gentley – Strong Prison Wives & Families – Connecticut

Stacey George – Strong Prison Wives & Families – Texas

Elizabeth Gillette – Girls Embracing Mothers – Texas

Rebecca Ginsburg – Education Justice Project – Illinois

Sandra Girard – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan

Diane Goodman – California

Liz Gordon – Pillars, Inc. – New Zealand

Heidi Graham – Idaho

Truth Graff – National Incarceration Association – Georgia

Jordan Gramke – ATLaS Justice Center – Arizona

Dominique Graves – Texas

Shameka Green – Emma’s House, Inc. – Michigan & Nevada

Connie Grier – The Respect Alliance – Pennsylvania

Becky Haigler – DropLopTexas Political Action Committee and TIFA member – Texas

Angela Hall – S.O.L.O.G. – Alaska/Arizona

Patti Hammonds – Prison Fellowship – Texas

Berkley Harbin – Texas

Ivy Harris – Parent Caregiver Advisory Group – California

Lyndsey Harris – United Kingdom

Avon Hart-Johnson, PhD – DC Project Connect – Washington, DC

Radiyyah Hasaan – Families in Crisis, Inc. – Connecticut

Candy Hendrix – Wyoming

Alicia Hernandez – The RIDGE Project – Ohio

Randy Hibbard – Georgia

Ray Hill – Founder, Host/Producer: The Prison Show – Texas (dec. 2018)

Thomas Ann Hines – Crime Victim Impact Program – Texas

Tonya Lee Hines – Georgia

Neela Hoeppner – Texas

Carol Holitz-Martin – Illinois

Julie Matte – Louisiana

Roger Hollar – Mercy Heart – Texas

Fred Hollis – Our Daily Bread – Michigan

Lee Anna Howell – PCAG – ACCIPP – California

Katherin Hervey – The Prison Within – Washington

Morgan Holladay – Compassion Works for All – Arkansas

Tonyita Hopkins – The Securus Foundation – Texas

Tracy L. Wells-Huggins, RN – Justice for Families – New Jersey

Melinda Hull – Strong Prison Wives & Families – Washington

Catherine Janese – Strong Prison Wives and Families – New York

Angel Jenkins – Georgia

Alicia Johnson – Georgia

Monalisa Johnson – Parents with Incarcerated Children – New York

Lauren Johnson – Texas

Charles Jordan – The RIDGE Project – Ohio

Marvin Jordan – PCAG – A Better Way – California

Sandra Joy – Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Delaware

Spring Keosoupha – A Better Way – California

Rita Kerwin – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan

Linda King – Prison Families Anonymous – New York

Mari Kita – Hawaii

Stacey Kobetitsch, MBA, MSOL – Hallinan & Killpack Law Firm – Arizona

Sara Kruzan – Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network – California

Melissa Kumar – Families in Crisis, Inc. – Connecticut

Terry Kupers – California

Karen Lakeman – New Mexico

Julia Lazareck – Prison: The Hidden Sentence & Friends & Families of Incarcerated Persons – Nevada

Pete Letkemann – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan

Barbara Lee Lewis – Because Love Allows – New Jersey

Nancy Loucks – Families Outside – Scotland

Lydia Lozano – A Better Way – California

Michelle Manley – Florida

Joseph Mathew – Corrections India – India

Jennifer McClendon – McClendon Recovery Initiatives – New Jersey

Verna McFelin – Pillars, Inc. – New Zealand

Mindy Minor – Girls Embracing Mothers – TX

Heather Moore – Michigan

Michelle Moore – Arkansas

Zamia Mosman – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona

Gale Muhammad – Women Who Never Give Up – New Jersey

Marilyn Nickerson – Texas

Charlene Niemi – California

Kathy Norgard – Colorado

Jeani Olson – Wyoming

Nikki Olson – Justice For Families – Wisconsin

Ariel Orozco – California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Andy Polk – Felonism: Hurting in Plain Sight – Tennessee

Linda Polk – Felonism: Hurting in Plain Sight – Tennessee

Dr. Robert Powitzky – Justice and Serious Mental Illness – Texas

James Prager – Re-entry Coalition of NW Ohio

Pete Quinonez – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona

Sandy Quinonez – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona

Benjamin Raikes – Hudersfield University – England

Yvette Reaves – Prison Family Nation

Joan Redding – Texas

Journey Reed – Strong Prison Wives and Families – Maryland

Lecroy Rhyanes – Voices Behind Walls – Texas

Carol Rienstra – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan

Rich Rienstra – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan

Suzie Rimstidt – Indiana

Clay Rojas – – California

Rosey Ruiz – ASPIRE to Win, Inc. – TX

Jennifer Rundall – Inmates Matter Too – Texas

Khalil Rushdan – ACLU Arizona Justice Project – Arizona

Victoria Rusk – Heart of Justice – Texas

Terrence Sampson – Texas

Margo Santiago – Florida

Elmo Sapwater – Press – New York

Shari O. Scher – Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership – Maryland

Leslie Schieffer – Texas

Liliana Segura – Campaign to End the Death Penalty – New York

Kohl Shallenberger – Indiana

Ronald Simpson-Bey – Just Leadership USA – Michigan

Reginald (Reggie) Smith – Texas

LaSann Snow – Strong Prison Wives and Friends – South Carolina

Francis Ssuubi – Wells of Hope – Uganda

Terry Steinberg – Journey of Hope – Virginia

Wesley Steuwe – Ohio

Damon Stewart – Light of Law & End New Jim Crow Action Group of Atlanta – Georgia

Kiwania Strahan – Anthem Strong Families – Texas

Maja Gabelica Supljika – Ombudsman for Children – Croatia

Monique Tate – Georgia

Ida Mae Terry – Connecticutt

Leon Theodore – Texas

Tommie Thompson – Justice Journeys – Georgia

Catherine Tijerina – The RIDGE Project – Ohio

Ron Tijerina – The RIDGE Project – Ohio

Richard Torres – Youth Arts Program (YAP) – Texas

Jonathan Trethewey  – Arizona

Michael Trout – The Infant-Parent Institute – Illinois

Sharon Varallo – Illinois

Melissa Victor – Texas

Darryl Watton – Canada

Chaplain Bernell Wesley – Community Chaplaincy Outreach, Inc. – Georgia

Emily Westerholm – Opportunity, Alliance & Re-entry – Virginia

Claudia Whitman – National Death Row Assistance Network of CURE – Colorado

Gloria Jean Williams – Save Kids of Incarcrated Parents – Alabama

Jan Williams – Grassroots Leadership – Texas

Samantha Williams – Oklahoma

Marie Wiegand – Nebraska

Fury Young – Die Jim Crow – New York

Mignon Zezqueaux – Texas Advocates for Justice – Texas

Dawn Zuppelli – New York

* To be included as an Advocacy in Action Coalition Member, send your request to for further information.


Donate Now to Support the Annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference

All donations are needed and greatly appreciated and tax deductible.



The Coalition sends press releases to a number of media resources regarding issues of serious concern of issues indicating substantial strides in criminal justice reform., as exemplified by the following:


Special Note: The full White Paper being released today by the Advocacy in Action Coalition of the Prisoner’s Family Conference is provided here as an attachment.



The Advocacy in Action Coalition of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference released its White Paper today citing The Mass Incarceration Continuum as the human rights issue of the twenty-first century.  Comprised of nearly one-hundred individuals and organizations directly affected by mass incarceration, the Coalition calls upon state and national legislators to substantially reform the United States’ criminal justice system.

The Coalition states, “The Mass Incarceration Continuum is evidence of a system that overtly devalues and devastates human lives, wastes taxpayer dollars and diminishes the quality of life and safety in our communities.”  They point to the widespread consequences of hyper-incarceration and harsh sentencing policies that have made the United States the largest jailer in the entire world.  With only five percent of the world’s population, the country incarcerates twenty-five percent of the entire world’s prisoners.

“This is a shameful fact that is destroying the fabric of our society, especially for minorities and the economically disadvantaged,” says Coalition spokesperson, Carolyn Esparza, a long time social worker who chairs the annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference. She adds, “It is the intention of the Advocacy in Action Coalition White Paper to expose this grave dilemma and propose workable solutions to our legislators.”

“We must eliminate all for-profit criminal justice contracts that demand human lives as inventory,” Esparza says, pointing to the country’s growing dependency on privatization of prisons and prison services to grow economies. “Privatization places a focus on increased revenue rather than prisoner rehabilitation and is a major factor fueling mass incarceration.”

The Coalition identifies a broad spectrum of incarceration that has resulted in a lucrative prison industry throughout the United States.  That spectrum ranges from School Criminalization resulting in the School to Prison Pipeline, whereby zero tolerance policies have resulted in extensive arrests of children, many in elementary school, to the rapidly expanding prison geriatric population that has required opening hospices throughout the nation’s prison system.

The Coalition White Paper states, “Although much has been written about the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, hyper-incarceration, and harsh sentencing policies, little if any has been written about the broad spectrum of this social dilemma.” Revealing an invisible, yet intentional shroud of secrecy that assures continued profitability of the prison industrial complex, the document brings to light the causes and dangers of The Mass Incarceration Continuum and identifies areas of needed reform throughout the entire criminal justice system.

The document states, “The United States’ burgeoning prison populations comprised of men, women, and children, coupled with the impunity of criminal justice officials, resulting from long-term self-governance, has created an autonomous system, allowing officials at all levels to assert autocratic rule in a country that boasts human rights and democracy.”

The group is calling for the establishment of citizen oversight committees comprised of members empowered to effect change in a number of areas, such as holding criminal justice officials accountable for adhering to prescribed laws and maintaining integrity at all levels of the judicial system.  The Coalition calls for transparency through independent audits and random site visits and the monitoring of parole hearings to assure decisions reflect recognition of the human capacity for positive change and rehabilitation.

Pointing to the United States Constitution and the United Nations’ tenets for humane treatment of all prisoners, Dr. Avon Hart Johnson, CEO of DC Project Connect, who chairs the Coalition’s White Paper Task Force emphasizes, “While we acknowledge sanctions are necessary for the safety and security of society, incarceration must not violate basic human rights or discount the constitutional rights of prisoners or their families.” Hart Johnson says, “Ninety-five percent of prisoners will one day return to our communities. It behooves us as a nation to ensure that eligible prisoners return to society as prepared citizens to contribute to the safety, security, and stabilization of our communities.”

The document concludes: “As a leader of the free world, we are obligated to ensure the processes of our criminal justice system are administered to all humans with equality and dignity, instilled with the principles of basic human rights. The enormity of The Mass Incarceration Continuum requires immediate meaningful legislative intervention.  The Advocacy in Action Coalition calls upon our legislators to promptly embrace and promote genuine integrity, equitable and humane treatment throughout the entirety of the criminal justice system.”

To learn more about the Advocacy in Action Coalition of the International Prisoner’s Family Conference and the Coalition White Paper interested parties may visit the Conference website at or e-mail or call the Conference office at 915-861-7733.




As the dust settles from the recent upstate New York prison escape, evidence of a broken criminal justice system is undeniable. The Advocacy in Action Coalition of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference suggests that poor management is evident throughout the entire criminal justice system.

Recent revelations may compel the media to investigate and fully expose systemic problems starting with America’s jails and prisons. A lack of independent oversight is believed to be the primary source of the problem. As reported by Mike Tartaglia of the Boston University Law Review in relation to growing privatization throughout the criminal justice system, “Despite holding hundreds of thousands of prisoners, private prisons are subject to even less scrutiny than their public counterparts.”


Carolyn Esparza, a licensed counselor having worked with the criminal justice system for over three decades, says, “Self-regulation is not effective. The system is shrouded in secrecy that has enabled powerful officials and huge conglomerates to build and maintain a self-serving multi-billion dollar prison industrial empire.”

This lack of accountability is addressed in an April 2015 Washington Post article which reports, “The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.”

According to such sources as the Vera Institute and CBS News, the United States spends over $60 Billion annually to incarcerate over 2.5 million prisoners, with little or no oversight of operations. This figure does not include costs to taxpayers for police, court or probation and parole operations.

Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson adds, “This cost of incarceration also does not address the extraordinary human cost as millions of children and countless family members are left behind, emotionally and financially devastated when loved ones go to prison.” Dr. Hart-Johnson is a university educator and criminal justice reform advocate, heading a committee of the Coalition to research data on criminal justice inadequacies. Findings of the committee will be presented to the media and state and national legislators, urging substantial reforms throughout the system.


The United States is the world’s largest jailer. With only five-percent of the world’s population this country incarcerates twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. Despite reports that crime is down throughout the country the nation’s prison system continues to grow. The Coalition reports the massive prison industrial complex is a lucrative cash cow for high ranking officials and business moguls who have a vested interest in expanding privatization of the criminal justice industry.

The recent escape from the Clinton prison helps to reinforce the negative stigma and stereotypes about who is incarcerated, which therefore encourages the lack of accountability and lack of transparency to tax payers to continue, despite reports from Innocence Projects and others, such as the ACLU, that tens of thousands of prisoners are actually innocent or excessively sentenced. “Without independent oversight the problems will only worsen.” says Esparza.

The Advocacy in Action Coalition formed at the annual International Prisoner’s Family Conference is comprised of almost one hundred individuals and established secular and faith-based organizations directly affected by the criminal justice system. Those interested in learning more can visit the conference website at  or  e-mail the Coalition at

Carolyn Esparza, LPC
Chair: InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference
Phone: 915-861-7733



 An Advocacy in Action Coalition on behalf of prison families was launched by attendees at the 2015 InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference held in Dallas, Texas.  Representatives of prison families and established organizations across the United States and eight countries around the world gathered in May to illuminate injustices and improprieties throughout the nation’s criminal justice system that uniquely affect millions of children and families of prisoners.

Noting several presidential hopefuls have already publicly acknowledged the undeniable fact that mass incarceration is creating irreparable harm in this country, a committee comprised of professionals and prison family members is preparing a candidates’ report card on criminal justice issues in conjunction with the upcoming elections.

Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson a university educator and President of the DC Project Connect in Washington DC is chairing the Advocacy in Action Coalition committee that has identified five areas of greatest concern to address with lawmakers.  Those issues include the lack of independent oversight of the entire criminal justice system and the deliberate exclusion of critical family support for prisoners and returning citizens throughout both the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. The committee’s findings will be shared with the media to alert voters to the role of lawmakers in fueling mass incarceration.

Coalition spokesperson, Carolyn Esparza, a social worker who chairs the annual international conference states, “The average citizen is unaware of the harm done to families and our entire country by mass incarceration.  Our goal is to heighten public awareness and bring an end to mass incarceration.” She adds, “Prison was never intended to be the lucrative business it has become in this country. The rampant growth of the prison industrial complex is extremely costly both economically and in terms of human lives.  It is destroying families and the quality of life in our country. Our citizens deserve to know the facts.”

In addition to Esparza and Dr. Hart-Johnson, committee members actively researching and drafting the candidates’ report card include Heidi Graham, prison family advocate from Idaho; Connie Grier, university educator from Pennsylvania; Michelle Moore, prison family advocate from Arkansas; Zamia Mosman, prison family advocate from Arizona; Lecroy Rhyanes, university educator from Texas; Monique Tate, PhD graduate student from Georgia and Claudia Whitman, criminal justice reform activist from Colorado.

Those wishing to learn more about the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference Advocacy in Action Coalition may e-mail or phone 915-861-7733.


Avon Hart Johnson – AIAC Task Force Co-Chair

Carolyn Esparza, Conference Chair
InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference

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