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

The Project

Facilitate access to safety and stability for low-income immigrant survivors of domestic violence in Greater Boston through direct representation, community collaboration and outreach.

Immigrant survivors of domestic violence encounter staggering barriers to safety and independence, including language barriers, ineligibility for basic social support, irregular employment eligibility, and fear of deportation. This project was born out of the urgent need witnessed by community partners for comprehensive, direct representation of immigrant survivors in Greater Boston. Overtaxed legal services have led to a critical gap in assistance to survivors, unnecessarily keeping them in dangerous and unhealthy situations. To meet this need, the project forged a new partnership between the Irish International Immigrant Center and the Domestic Violence Institute of Northeastern University School of Law. This partnership combines full representation before U.S. immigration agencies with advocacy in abuse prevention and family law.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Jacqueline has:

  • Represented dozens of survivors before federal immigration agencies, obtaining work authorization and permanent immigration status for all clients who have received decisions to date;
  • Provided advice and counsel to hundreds of immigrant survivors, ensuring these individuals knew their rights, immigration options and best avenues towards legal status;
  • Trained 160 allies and partners in options for domestic violence-based immigration relief; and
  • Taught and consulted with 90 law students representing immigrant survivors in civil matters.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jacqueline plans to:

  • Work as a full-time immigration attorney at Irish International Immigrant Center, focusing on representing immigrant survivors of trauma and violence;
  • Continue to develop key community partnerships to ensure that immigrant survivors have swift access to trustworthy legal consultations and full representation; and
  • Advocate for the rights of all immigrants in the face of overwhelming xenophobic policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric and for comprehensive, human immigration reform.

The Project

Emma provided accessible legal services to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have experienced intimate partner violence.

In the Greater Boston Area, 86% of LGBTQIA+ survivors of intimate partner violence believe that legal services are necessary to escaping and rebuilding after intimate partner violence. However, only 34% of this community has access to legal resources. Emma’s project provided inclusive and accessible legal services for LGBTQIA+ survivors in the areas of family law and immigration.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Emma:

  • Provided advice and counsel to 40 clients on restraining orders, name changes, and immigration matters and provided full representation to another 35 clients on family law and immigration matters
  • Gave five restraining order trainings to community members, reaching a total of 35 individuals
  • Gave 15 presentations on family law for LGBTQIA+ clients, reaching a total of 75 individuals
  • Engaged in an outreach campaign, speaking at over 15 LGBTQIA+ community organizations
  • Served as a member of the LGBTQIA+ Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition
  • Collaborated with Greater Boston Legal Services to make their Family Law Unit website gender neutral and inclusive
  • Organized Greater Boston Legal Services’ first-ever LGBTQIA+ accessibility training for more than 150 attorneys and staff members