Sarah Nawab

The Project

Sarah advocates on behalf of incarcerated women in Massachusetts and serves their unique legal needs through trauma-informed representation, rights education, policy reform, and increasing public awareness

Because incarceration has traditionally been framed as a men’s issue, the unique challenges women face while in custody are erased and their needs remain unmet. Acknowledging how incarceration affects women, specifically, is critical to advocating for those needs. An overwhelming majority of incarcerated women have experienced sexual violence, which is then compounded by their experiences in custody. Women are also more likely to be primary caregivers and have distinct medical needs.

As a woman of color, Sarah is motivated to advocate on behalf of her fellow women of color, many of whom are disproportionately impacted by the criminal and carceral systems.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Sarah has:

  • Provided advocacy, advice, and referrals on 43 matters for incarcerated women, both cis and trans
  • Partnered with a data analysis firm to design a survey for incarcerated women regarding their experiences with sexual trauma
  • Testified in front of a Massachusetts state legislature joint committee in favor of a bill that would implement a five-year moratorium on the construction of new jails and prisons

Next Steps

In the next year, Sarah plans to:

  • Distribute the survey widely to collect data on incarcerated women’s experiences with trauma
  • Partner with sponsors to interview incarcerated women throughout Massachusetts to hear their stories of experiences during and prior to incarceration
  • Publish a report based on survey data and stories from interviews detailing incarcerated women’s experiences with trauma and proposed solutions as devised by directly impacted women
  • Implement a media and legislative campaign based on the report to raise public awareness and push for systemic change


Women in Massachusetts Prisons Targets of Sexual, Mental Abuse: Study

A Different Way Forward: Stories from Incarcerated Women in Massachusetts and Recommendations

Massachusetts Organizers Call for No New Women’s Prisons and an End to Their Construction

PLS Considers a Different Way Forward for Women’s Prisons

Fostering a More Just Society

Bor-Zale, Nawab and Warren Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

My life experiences taught me the value of empathy, and it is empathy that is at the heart of trauma-informed representation.

Sarah Nawab /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow