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The next woman in our series of instrumental criminal justice reform leaders is an activist who combines her sense of entrepreneurship with her personal experiences as a federal inmate to improve our criminal justice system.

While serving time for a nonviolent drug offense, Topeka K. Sam witnessed the pain and trauma inflicted on incarcerated women. Through her fellow inmates, Topeka realized the disruptive nature of her criminal lifestyle.

After her release, the injustices she witnessed in prison inspired Topeka to found The Ladies of Hope Ministries, which helps disenfranchised and marginalized women transition back into society. She also opened a safe home for women and girls in the Bronx called Hope House NYC.

In the last year alone, Topeka Sam advocated for criminal justice reform laws in eight states and helped pass the federal First Step Act, which offers inmates a second chance at life and prepares them to re-enter society after they’ve served their time.

Topeka Sam has devoted her life to helping formerly incarcerated women and girls and is an inspiring reminder that people can make significant contributions to our country, regardless of their past transgressions. Women like Topeka Sam, who have witnessed the horrors of our broken system, are the backbone of the criminal justice reform movement.