Tulane Law School’s innovative Women’s Prison Project, which has freed 10 women who were imprisoned for reasons tracing back to their experience of intimate partner violence, has received the Ignite Award from the National Conference on Crimes Against Women (CCAW).
The award was presented to the WPP team in Dallas on May 22.
The CCAW noted that the WPP, a one-of-its-kind collaboration between Tulane’s Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice clinics, was selected because it uniquely addressed the connection between intimate partner violence and women who are incarcerated.
“A majority of women in U.S. prisons attribute their incarceration to a history or context of abuse,” said Jan Langbein, Chief Executive Officer of the Conference on Crimes Against Women and Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support. “The Women’s Prison Project is not only providing legal representation to these women who are survivors, but they are bringing to light the connections between incarceration and domestic violence as they advocate for change in the legal system. We are thrilled to honor their contributions.”
The Women’s Prison Project provides legal representation to criminalized survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and trafficking, with a particular focus on survivors charged or imprisoned after killing an abuser in self-defense or for having committed crimes under an abuser’s coercion or duress.
Launched in 2020 under the leadership of Professors Becki Kondkar and Katherine Mattes, the project has trained 84 third-year law students and 57 of those have worked on cases, gaining valuable hands-on legal training during their time at Tulane Law. The project provides representation and legal services and has secured the freedom of 10 women, one before her case went to trial. The nine women who were freed from prison had each been sentenced to life without parole and together had served a combined 199 years in prison.
“The Women’s Prison Project represents the best kind of academic initiative,” said Tulane Law Dean David Meyer. “It brings the expertise of our faculty and the talents of our students to bear in promoting access to justice and changing the lives of its clients and their families and communities. I’m enormously proud of our faculty, staff and students and this recognition of their work is richly deserved.”
The National Conference on Crimes Against Women created the IGNITE Award in 2019 to “honor courageous efforts that are sparking awareness and action across the country, bringing injustice out of the darkness and lighting the fire of change not only in the recipients’ local communities, but across the nation,” the organizers noted.
Launched with a $2 million gift from donors, the WPP has been recognized across the country for addressing the injustice faced by women who often were charged and convicted at a time when victims of domestic violence received little legal protection and the dynamics of partner violence were poorly understood or ignored by the courts.
In late 2020, the WPP won the Gumpert Award , the highest honor conferred by the American College of Trial Lawyers on a single organization annually, which recognizes programs whose principal purpose is to maintain and improve the administration of justice.