Interview with Stacey Borden: on trauma, COVID, and clemency for incarcerated women

In this interview, Stacey Borden, M.Ed., LADC l, discusses her path from incarceration to community leader and how she now works to help incarcerated women change their lives. She is the Founder and President of New Beginnings, Re-entry Services. She has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling with a Concentration in Addictions and Trauma. She is an author, performance artist, motivational speaker, and activist.

Borden is currently a Board member with OWLL (On With Living and Learning) Productions, a non-profit organization. OWLL works with formerly incarcerated women in dynamic workshops that that deploy storytelling methods to work through challenging pasts, creating art that is healing for the individual, while building self-esteem and developing skills that will enable successful reentry to society.

She is a Board Member with Families for Justice as Healing, an organization by and for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls and women with loved ones who are locked up. And she is a member of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and The Association for Addiction Professionals.

Her story and her professional insights echo findings by researchers across the United States about women’s experiences in prisons–and add new impetus to efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 which is raging inside the country’s prisons, both male and female. Learn more about our research on this topic through our occasional paper, “Forgotten Victims?: Women and COVID-19 Behind Bars.”

In Part One of this interview, Borden explains her journey from being incarcerated to becoming a community leader. She argues that gaining self-understanding by processing her own trauma was key to transforming her life–and to her the decision to dedicate herself to helping others. For Borden, the process began while she was incarcerated at MCI-Framingham (Massachusetts’ only prison for women, it also holds some women pre-trial), and through interactions with other incarcerated women. As Borden explains, for many women in prison, there is an experience of trauma and victimization that precedes a criminal act. For someone to become truly accountable for the acts of violence they may have committed, they have to grapple with their own trauma.

In Part Two, Borden addresses what she has heard from her regular communications with women who remain incarcerated in MCI-Framingham. The prison was severely impacted by COVID in April. By October 2020, over 50% of the women tested positive.

In Part Three, Borden describes the advocacy campaigns that she is working on now: to create a new re-entry house — Kimya’s House and a clemency campaign for a group of incarcerated women in Massachusetts who are aging, sick, survivors of sexual violence, and who have served decades of time already.

Bridget Conley is an Associate Research Professor at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, and leads WPF’s research programs on atrocity response and incarceration. She works closely with the Executive Director on project development, fundraising and strategic vision for WPF. Currently, her primary research focus concerns the implications of American mass incarceration for local, national and international policies.

She also leads our program on mass atrocities and was a researcher on the mass starvation program. The author of Memory from the Margins: Ethiopia’s Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum (Palgrave 2019); co-editor of Accountability for Starvation: Testing the Limits of the Law (Oxford University Press, 2021), and editor of How Mass Atrocities End: Studies from Guatemala, Burundi, Indonesia, the Sudans, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq (Cambridge University Press 2016), she has also published on starvation crimes, the 1992 – 1995 war in Bosnia, mass atrocities and genocide, and how museums can engage on human rights issues.

At Fletcher, Prof. Conley teaches ‘Understanding Mass Atrocities’ and ‘Contemporary Critical Theory and International Issues.’ She also teaches undergraduate courses with Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT).

She previously worked as Research Director for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, where she led the Museum’s research and projects on contemporary threats of genocide, where she produced multimedia public outreach materials, formulated positions on contemporary threats of genocide, and curated exhibitions.

She received a PhD in Comparative Literature from Binghamton University in 2001. When she is not in the office, she is happiest with her family or on a mountain summit.

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