Drawing on decades of experience advocating for the rights of people who are incarcerated and in criminal legal system change, Michela Bowman helps guide IJ’s efforts to end mass incarceration while simultaneously improving living conditions and life outcomes for people in confinement—initiatives that range from the reform of existing correctional systems to visionary, cross disciplinary, and international collaborations.
Michela joined Impact Justice in 2016 as the co-director of the National PREA Resource Center (PRC), a position she held from the PRC’s inception in 2011. Michela oversaw the process for developing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards on behalf of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, and was the liaison between the Commission and the Department of Justice during its standards review process. Michela stepped down from her role at the PRC in June 2022, but continues to advise IJ’s PREA-related work.
Michela’s portfolio of work includes Building Justice, a project that encourages architecture students, architects, and government leaders to consider their roles in the design and construction of mass incarceration, and to imagine instead the dismantling of that built system. Sparked by Building Justice, she has made connections with prison reformers and abolitionists internationally and is developing projects that strengthen the dialogue between movements of resistance here and abroad. She is also pursuing a reframing of “prisoners’ rights,” following the lead of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, that looks beyond simple harm reduction and prioritizes empowerment through freedom from forced labor, access to meaningful pay for work, voting rights, and rights of speech and organization.
Earlier in her career, Michela served as counsel to the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and before that advocated for incarcerated people with HIV/AIDS and those with hepatitis C (HCV), the start of a longstanding commitment to medical and mental healthcare in confinement and to public health more broadly. Michela has a master’s degree in Law and Society from New York University, and a law degree from NYU School of Law.