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Ellen Barry is the founding Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), a non-profit organization which has advocated on behalf of incarcerated women, their children and family members for over 28 years. She is Co-Chair of the National Network for Women in Prison, a US-based coalition of organizations and individuals which sponsors national Roundtables for activists and advocates working with women in prison and women who are formerly incarcerated along with Leadership Training Institutes for formerly incarcerated women by and for women who have done time. Ms. Barry currently works as a consultant on Women and Justice issues. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a US-based movement which challenges the growth of the prison industrial complex and its detrimental effect on education, health and human services. She is a former member of the California State Bar Section on the Delivery of Legal Services, past co-chair of the State Bar Committee on Legal Services for Prisoners, and a member of the Statewide Commission on Female Inmates and Parolees (SCR 33 Commission which issued a statewide report on women in California prisons, 1992).
She has served as lead counsel or co-counsel on over a dozen class action lawsuits challenging conditions of confinement for women prisoners, pregnant and parenting women in prison, pregnant women and pregnant substance dependent women, and women prisoners denied adequate medical care and programming. She has written and spoken extensively on issues affecting women prisoners, their children and family members. In 1997, she received a Soros Senior Justice Fellowship to work on behalf of women prisoners, their children and family members. In 1998, she was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. Finally, along with 999 other women activists around the world, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.