A mother of three, Jawharrah is on the frontlines advocating for voting rights, prison reform, reproductive freedom and families staying together.
To her, this work is necessary and deeply personal—Jawharrah was eight weeks pregnant when she became incarcerated.
“I spent the majority of my pregnancy in there.”
During her incarceration, her mother and sister cared for her other two children. After she delivered, they cared for her newborn son. He had just turned three when she was released.
She says even after all this time, nearly seven years later, she’s still making up for lost time and building back those relationships.
After her release, she visited McGruder Family Resource Center, a United Way partner, to learn more about resources available to her. That’s when she heard about The Family Collective, a United Way program that partners to prevent and end family homelessness in Greater Nashville. Soon after, she was in the program.
“Life was very chaotic before then. I had the tools and everything; they just kind of helped me put it together and map that out and be that support, that accountability. They were the support system that I needed when I was going through my trials and tribulations. When I got into that program, it was hard for me to find a job being that I have a record.”
Jawharrah started volunteering with Free Hearts, an organization led by formerly incarcerated women. She started out part time, helping other families who had been impacted by incarceration—and was eventually hired on full time.
With more income and the help of The Family Collective, she was able to secure housing for her family, go back to school to become an esthetician and open her own business, Lashing Artistry.
Two days after giving birth to her third child, Jawharrah tearfully and painfully handed her baby to her mom so that she could return to jail to await sentencing.
“It was very emotional … very, very emotional.”
She’s working hard to ensure that other mothers facing incarceration don’t have to experience that same trauma.
In 2019, she advocated for legislation, the Primary Caregiver Bill, which requires courts to consider other options for keeping parents facing incarceration with their children. Thanks to her hard work, Tennessee now offers alternative, community-based sentences like drug rehab, counseling and education for those convicted of non-violent offenses and have children that depend on them.
“Just to give them other alternative versus just sending people and locking them up … trying to give them other skillsets and things to kind of help them support their family.”