How does a small group collect the information it needs to serve community members during a pandemic? A text bot to automatically conduct surveys.
Life After Release helps women released from jails in the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area with basic necessities. They first have to determine what each person needs and whether they can pick up the supplies or not. This isn't easy when you have a small staff and few resources. LAR now asks women released from jails to text 'aid' to their helpline. A text bot then automatically conducts a survey to determine their needs.
How do text bots work?
Text bots are programs designed to listen for incoming text messages, ask questions, provide information and save the responses. Life After Release prepared the survey questions used by this text bot. A text bot can handle any volume of requests and it costs about 20 cents per completed survey. This allows Life After Release to help more women with less time and effort.
Life After Release
Most Black and Brown women are being policed and prosecuted for crimes of poverty while trying to provide for their families. Life After Release (LAR) is a formerly incarcerated women-led organization in the DMV area (DC-Maryland-Virginia) building a post-conviction movement where they have the right to challenge convictions and the system responsible for convicting them.
Life After Release is part of an ecosystem of movement organizations including Free Black Mamas DMV, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, Movement for Black Lives, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls and The Mass Liberation Project.
Qiana Johnson founded Life After Release. The group is led by formerly incarcerated women and offers a support system to women released from jail in DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV). Qiana is a former community organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, Participatory Defense, and a member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Qiana worked for ten years for the Federal Government before being incarcerated. After her release in 2017, she started working on prison abolition, prosecutor accountability, and ensuring that formerly incarcerated individuals get what they need to succeed. She uses her story to empower formerly incarcerated women into becoming productive members of their communities and believes in ensuring public safety without the criminalization of a particular race or social class.
Community organizing to help formerly incarcerated women
Post Conviction Movement Building – LAR brings together formerly incarcerated people and movement lawyers to expose unjust laws, unconstitutional practices and prosecutorial misconduct that are driving thousands of us to prison and a life of collateral consequences. They aim to build a legal self defense to mitigate against the daily harm and a broader movement through educating the public.
Court Watch & Judicial Accountability Organizing – LAR runs a community court watch program in Prince George’s County, MD to hold prosecutors, judges and the overall system accountable to its purported purpose and reform goals. Their findings have been the basis for publicly released reports on the implementation of bail reform and a prosecutor accountability campaign against the PG County State’s Attorney’s Office. They have 40 trained volunteers through this program.
Legal Empowerment/Participatory Defense – LAR empowers families through participatory defense and legal skills training to defend each other’s families in court. Their Liberation & Justice Institute expands this work.
Community Outreach (Bail Outs & Transitional Services) – LAR runs a community bail out program that has brought home hundreds of Black mothers. LAR works to ensure our mothers have rapid housing after incarceration and access to transportation. It also organizes mutual aid efforts and provides access to technology for women after they come home.