Qiana Johnson

The Visionary    

     Qiana Johnson is the founder of Life After Release, Inc., a formerly incarcerated women-led organization supporting system involved people in the  DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia). She is organizing to build a post-conviction movement challenging the integrity of convictions and the system responsible for convicting us in the first place. She is a former local community organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, a national trainer with Silicon Valley Debug, Participatory Defense, and a proud member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.

     Before her incarceration in 2015, she completed 10 years of Federal Government service. She is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Studies and a concentration in Public Safety.

     After her release from prison on August 21, 2017. Qiana immediately started doing work around prison abolition, prosecutor accountability, and ensuring that formerly incarcerated individuals get what they need to succeed.

     Today Qiana’s purpose and passion lie in holding local government officials accountable and demanding progressive changes towards ending mass incarceration.  She believes in ensuring public safety without the criminalization of a particular race or social class. She uses her story to empower formerly incarcerated women into becoming productive members of their communities.


Life After Release (LAR) is a formerly incarcerated women-led organization in the DMV area (DC-Maryland-Virginia). We are organizing to build a post-conviction movement where we have the right to challenge our convictions and the system responsible for convicting us in the first place. Our work is grounded in a vision of self-determination for directly-impacted communities and has four main pillars:

  • Post Conviction Movement Building – We bring together formerly incarcerated people and movement lawyers to expose unjust laws, unconstitutional practices and prosecutorial misconduct that are driving thousands of us to prison and a life of collateral consequences. Our goal is both to build a formidable legal self defense to mitigate against the daily harm and a broader movement through educating the public.

  • Most Black and Brown women are being policed and prosecuted for crimes of poverty while trying to provide for their families. Our goal is to end this criminalization and ultimately abolish the criminal legal system as we know it.

  • Legal Empowerment/Participatory Defense – We are also empowering our families through participatory defense and legal skills training to defend each other’s families in court. In 2020, we are launching a Liberation & Justice Institute to expand this work and use it as an expanded basebuilding model.

  • Court Watch & Judicial Accountability Organizing – We run a community court watch program in Prince George’s County, MD to hold prosecutors, judges and the overall system accountable to its purported purpose and reform goals. Our findings have been the basis for publicly released reports on the implementation of bail reform and a prosecutor accountability campaign against the PG County State’s Attorney’s Office. We have 40 trained volunteers driving this program.

  • Community Outreach (Bail Outs & Transitional Services) – We run an ongoing community bail out program that has brought home hundreds of Black mothers. We also work to ensure our mothers have rapid housing after incarceration and access to transportation. We also organize mutual aid efforts and provide access to technology for women after they come home.

Life After Release is part of an ecosystem of movement organizations including Free Black Mamas DMV, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, Movement for Black Lives, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls and The Mass Liberation Project.