Changing the Perception of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls

Posted on December 18, 2019 | Monica Cooper, Maryland Justice Project

Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Equitable Justice grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.

Maryland Justice Project‘s mission and goal is to break down the boundaries and stigmas associated with women and girls who are disenfranchised and marginalized. They do this by educating and informing both ex-offenders and employers about legislation relative to this cause, their responsibilities, and the positive impact that initiatives advocated for can have on the community.

High unemployment and joblessness for returning citizens are direct indicators of high recidivism rates. The Maryland Justice Project (MJP) has been working to ensure folks returning to the community have opportunities to become gainfully employed. In 2013, we were successful in getting Ban the Box passed in Baltimore City. We followed up that success in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly with the passage of HB 994 SB 839: Labor and Employment – Criminal Record Screening Practices (Ban the Box) in both chambers. However, although our bill passed, our work is not complete. In Maryland’s next legislative session in 2020, we have to work to override Governor Hogan’s veto. We are up for the challenge because we know becoming gainfully employed is a “great equalizer.”

The following pictorial highlights MJP’s Ban the Box efforts this year.

    MJP testifying in Annapolis, MD on the Ban the Box Bill during the 2019 legislative session.

    MJP team during a town hall meeting we did in conjunction with the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Woman and Girls.

    Ms. Etta Myers taking resources to women who are exiting prison within 90 days. We work year-round!

    Jamy Drapeza sharing Ban the Box materials with the community.

    This is some of the MJP team! We work hard to make sure we educate the community about our Ban the Box efforts.

    Our executive director Monica Cooper educating the youth on Ban the Box.


    Monica Cooper, founder of Maryland Justice Project, is an advocate, activist, and freedom fighter. The Sandtown-Winchester, Baltimore native received her General Education Diploma in 1992. After being confined for more than a decade, she returned home where she had the support of her family and friends to restart her college endeavor at the Baltimore City Community College. Monica made the Dean’s List multiple times, received Distinguish Scholar honors, and received a Presidential Wilson Scholarship to attend the University of Baltimore. In 2013, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Administrative Human Service. Monica also leads the Baltimore affiliate of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.