Non-profit

Women’s Prison Association

Website:

www.wpaonline.org

Location:

New York, NY

Tax ID:

13-5596836

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $7,207,830
Expenses: $6,779,685
Assets: $2,828,568

Type:

Nonprofit Prisoner Reentry Organization

Formation:

1845

Executive Director:

Georgia Lerner

Women’s Prison Association (WPA) is the oldest and first organization in the United States dedicated to working with women involved in the criminal justice system and their families. It operates mostly in and around New York City.

In 2019, WPA was among a group of organizations that advocated for a law ending cash bail in New York state for misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies. [1] After substantial opposition from police and prosecutors, the scope of the law was substantially narrowed just months after it took effect. [2]

History and Founder

The forerunner of the Women’s Prison Association, the Prison Association, was founded in New York City in 1845 by Isaac T. Hopper, a Quaker and abolitionist who was involved in social reform movements. The Prison Association lobbied against prison and jail overcrowding and unsanitary and inhumane prison conditions. Isaac’s daughter Abigail Hopper Gibbons headed the association’s Female Division, which focused on women in prison. Gibbons visited prisons in and around New York City and became concerned that women in prison were subjected to abuse by mostly male prison guards. She lobbied for construction of separate prisons for women staffed by female matrons. [3]

In 1854, the Female Division split off from the larger group and became the WPA, under Abigail’s leadership. Later, Gibbons would become matron of a nursing facility for wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War and a nationally known advocate for reform of nursing practices and economic opportunity for newly freed slaves. [4]

Under Gibbons’ leadership, the Prison Association and later the WPA purchased and operated a home on Second Avenue in the East Village in Manhattan, where women who had been released from prison—as well as reformed prostitutes, the pregnant, and the destitute—would be housed and trained in laundry, housekeeping and needlework. Eventually named the Isaac T. Hopper Home after Abigail’s father, the house is still operated by the WPA and (besides serving as the group’s headquarters) provides transitional housing for women who have been released from prison or have been given probation in lieu of imprisonment for drug and other crimes. [5] In December 2020, the home had to be evacuated after a fire destroyed the neighboring Middle Collegiate Church, a historic church that houses New York City’s “Liberty Bell.” [6]

Current Activities

Currently, Women’s Prison Association serves more than 1,500 women (mostly women in prison or recently released from jail or prison) and 500 children each year. It operates from three community sites in New York City and from jail-based offices at the city’s Rikers Island jail and in two state prisons. [7] WPA provides transitional housing to women released from prison; legal services relating to criminal justice, child custody, and family law; and connects women to health care and employment resources. It also advocates for criminal justice diversion programs that provide alternatives to incarceration for some crimes. [8]

In 2019, WPA was among a group of organizations that advocated for a law ending cash bail in New York state for misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies. [9] After substantial opposition from police and prosecutors, the scope of the law was substantially narrowed just months after it took effect. [10]

People

The executive director of the WPA is Georgia Lerner, who first joined the organization in 2000. She holds a JD from Fordham University and an MA in health education from New York University. [11]

Among the board members of the WPA is Piper Kerman, a communications consultant best known as the author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, a memoir of her life in Federal Correctional Institution Danbury, Connecticut, after she pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. The book inspired the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” [12]

References

  1. “NYC Anti-Violence Project Issues Joint Statement on Bail Reform Measures.” December 3, 2019. Accessed on Westlaw on December 31, 2020. ^
  2. Taryn A. Merkl. “New York’s Latest Bail Law Changes Explained.” Brennan Center. April 16, 2020. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/new-yorks-latest-bail-law-changes-explained. ^
  3. “Abigail Hopper Gibbons.” History of American Women. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2006/09/abigail-hopper-gibbons.html. ^
  4. “Abigail Hopper Gibbons.” History of American Women. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2006/09/abigail-hopper-gibbons.html. ^
  5. Christopher Gray. “A House of Warmest Sympathy.” New York Times. March 19, 2009. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/realestate/22scape.html. ^
  6. Valentina Di Liscia. “128-Year-Old East Village Church, Home of New York Liberty Bell, Destroyed in Fire.” Hyperallergic.com. December 8, 2020. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://hyperallergic.com/606232/128-year-old-east-village-church-home-of-new-york-liberty-bell-in-destroyed-in-fire/. ^
  7. “Women’s Prison Association.” New York City Department of Homeless Services. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dhs/shelter/providers/womens-prison-association. ^
  8. “A Continuum of Care.” Women’s Prison Association. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.wpaonline.org/programs/. ^
  9. “NYC Anti-Violence Project Issues Joint Statement on Bail Reform Measures.” December 3, 2019. Accessed on Westlaw on December 31, 2020. ^
  10. Taryn A. Merkl. “New York’s Latest Bail Law Changes Explained.” Brennan Center. April 16, 2020. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/new-yorks-latest-bail-law-changes-explained. ^
  11. “Georgia Lerner.” Harvard University Kennedy School Government Innovators Forum. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.innovations.harvard.edu/georgia-lerner. ^
  12. “Our People.” Women’s Prison Association. Accessed December 31, 2020. https://www.wpaonline.org/our-team/board-of-directors/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: September - August
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 1935

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Sep Form 990 $7,207,830 $6,779,685 $2,828,568 $2,085,927 N $7,094,115 $0 $6,894 $400,993 PDF
    2016 Sep Form 990 $10,079,454 $6,630,818 $2,123,200 $1,684,131 N $9,818,820 $0 $3,502 $281,085
    2015 Sep Form 990 $6,425,463 $6,185,219 $1,680,665 $4,688,055 N $6,401,745 $0 $4,773 $540,533 PDF
    2014 Sep Form 990 $5,303,986 $5,349,491 $1,412,106 $4,656,703 N $5,218,145 $0 $6,153 $268,480 PDF
    2013 Sep Form 990 $4,939,589 $5,639,813 $1,597,495 $4,739,791 N $4,824,350 $4,000 $15,330 $623,303 PDF
    2012 Sep Form 990 $5,203,334 $5,610,963 $1,990,240 $4,398,700 N $5,085,981 $11,935 $10,276 $292,433 PDF
    2011 Sep Form 990 $5,692,908 $5,954,396 $2,270,248 $4,311,848 N $5,603,959 $968 $9,664 $288,153 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Women’s Prison Association

    110 Second Avenue
    New York, NY 10003-8302