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National Women’s Law Center, sponsored by The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; The Center on Communities, Crime and Culture of the Open Society; The D.C. Bar Foundation; The Educational Foundation of America; The Ford Foundation; Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation; The Public Welfare Foundation & Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program


The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s legal rights. The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including education, employment, reproductive rights, health, family support and income security, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.

As a legal arm of the women’s movement, the Center has litigated ground-breaking cases and filed briefs in landmark Supreme Court decisions; advocated before state and federal policymakers to shape legislation and policies affecting women’s lives; and educated the public about issues important to women. The Center’s legal expertise make it an important contributor to girls’ and women’s progress at school, at work and in almost every aspect of their lives.

In 1990, the Center launched the Women in Prison Project to address the serious problems confronting women prisoners. The Project provides legal, counseling and advocacy services to over 1,500 women incarcerated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In addition to its local direct services work, the Center works on the national level conducting public education and training, providing technical assistance to policymakers and advocates, developing resources and disseminating information on issues affecting women in conflict with the law.

In 1993, the Center’s work with women prisoners prompted it to file class action litigation on behalf of all women incarcerated by the District of Columbia. In 1994, Judge June Green, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, found that women prisoners were subjected to sexual harassment and provided with programs and opportunities inferior to those provided to male prisoners. The Court found violations of the U.S. Constitution, federal statutory law and District of Columbia law and ordered broad remedial relief in the areas of sexual misconduct, obstetrical and gynecological care, education and vocational programs, and environmental safety. While portions of the Court’s order were overturned by an appellate court, the Court’s findings with regard to sexual misconduct remain.

In light of the Court’s decision and the emergence of the issue of sexual misconduct nationally, the Center engaged in a three-pronged strategy which included enforcement of the Court’s order, technical assistance and training to women prisoners and corrections officials, and the development of materials for both prisoners and corrections workers. We believe that addressing sexual misconduct is at the core of assuring women’s safety in prison and that only a coordinated strategy that involves law and policy development, training of prisoners and corrections workers, and public education will reduce the occurrence of sexual misconduct.