An attorney and policy practitioner with a passion for ending mass incarceration, Elizabeth Swavola is a program manager at the Vera Institute of Justice, working toward data-driven policy reform around jail decarceration.
Swavola fights for criminal justice reform in the US. She believes the current system hurts individuals and families, and prevents them from living in a just and equitable society.
“In a business community, if something wasn't working you would fix it. But we seem to be stuck in this paradigm of ‘This is the way we've always done it,’ and it's not working,” she says. “It's breaking up families. It's hurting individuals. It's preventing communities from being healthy and safe. I think it's time to shift, get back on track, and do a better job.”
Swavola sees prison reform for women in the US jail system as an important part of gender justice, vital for promoting social change.
“Even though we're in this moment of reform and we're starting to see the number of men in jails tick downward, the population of women continues to grow and is now the fastest-growing correctional population. And so that suggests that reform efforts are not reaching women to the same extent that they’re reaching men.”
Swavola is part of the #FutureIsHers multimedia series of interviews, essays, and more, celebrating the innovators, risk-takers, and change-makers the Ford Foundation has proudly supported and the impact they’ve had on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Despite the many challenges women and girls face, around the world they’re rising up. Determined and persistent, they’re leading the way in showing us what gender justice looks like, disrupting inequality and creating a world where social change is possible: The future is hers.