Executive Director and Founder
Essie Justice Group
Gina Clayton-Johnson is the Executive Director of Essie Justice Group, which she founded (named after her great grandmother Essie Bailey) in 2014 to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities.
Gina has spent more than a decade advocating for communities of color and her experiences as an organizer and civil rights activist in South Los Angeles led her to pursue law. In her first year as a student at Harvard Law School, someone Gina loves was sentenced to 20 years in prison. It was this painful personal experience that would put her on a new course. As an attorney in Harlem, NY, Gina searched for organizations that addressed criminal justice with a focus on women with incarcerated loved ones and found none. Thus, she founded the Essie Justice Group for those women.
Among the awards she has received for her work are fellowships from Equal Justice Works, Soros Justice Fellowship, Echoing Green Global, the JMK Innovation Prize, and a Harvard Public Service Venture Fund Seed Grant. In 2017, she was awarded the Grinnell Prize, the largest award given by any U.S. college in recognition of social justice.
Gina has also been honored by several publications and was named “Top 14 Women Who Rocked 2014” by Colorlines, and a San Francisco Magazine Soldier of Social Change in their “Women In Power Issue” in 2015. She is on the Policy Table Leadership team for the Movement for Black Lives and one of the creators of the BREATHE Act.