Deborah Jiang-Stein was born in a prison, heroin-exposed at birth, and that alone begins her story of this nomination for a “Lead a Rare Life” winner in America. In spite of facing the risks of developmental delays from these beginnings, she rose out of her roots as an inspiring leader with courage and innovation. Today, she’s founder of The unPrison Project (www.unprisonproject.org) a charity that works with women and girls in prisons and detention centers across the country. She advocates for life skills and literacy as part of this national program to help to reduce incarceration rates.
Deborah carries an abiding dedication and deep passion for incarcerated women, especially mothers in prisons, and for their children left behind. To date, she’s reached over 12,000 people in prisons. She uses her personal compelling story to inspire and lead others to turn pain into purpose. Her ability to go where others cannot, both physically and emotionally, draws attention to issues we desperately need to notice: the rise of incarceration of women has risen over 800% in a 20 year span, and most women in prisons are sentenced for nonviolent behaviors. Most have left under-age children behind.
For many incarcerated mothers, the story of Deborah’s birth mother in prison is their story. Deborah’s story gives her an entrée into prisons in ways others can’t. She shares her gifts of writing and story telling in prisons because she believes in the potential of each person to discover their own strengths and gifts.
Deborah’s rare beginnings puts her in a unique position to advance the conversation about people living in the margins, especially those in prisons and detention centers, and especially women and girls. She shares her story in the memoir, Prison Baby, published by Beacon Press. She has also collected interviews with women in prisons for the book, Women Behind Bars, from Shebooks.
Please vote for Deborah to continue using her rare lifestory of inspiration and courage. In doing so, The unPrison Project will benefit from this award and will reach many thousands of women and girls in prisons with life skills programs and tools for literacy, education, and personal empowerment. Your vote will reach them personally. Thank you.