GradImpact: Understanding Mass Incarceration’s Adverse Effects on Families and Communities

    Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson began her career as a project manager for an IT company, but she wanted to do something more meaningful with her life. The years she spent volunteering and mentoring abused women and high-risk children led her to pursue her M.S. in forensic psychology and later a PhD in human services at Walden University. Her work focused on how women manage the effects of having an incarcerated partner. Through her research, Dr. Hart-Johnson constructed a theory of symbolic imprisonment, grief, and coping (SIG-C) to consider all the ways in which those women with incarcerated partners feel loss – on psychological, social, symbolic, and physical levels.


    Hart-Johnson’s research provided a foundation that she used to support families impacted by incarceration. She is president and co-founder of DC Project Connect, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., with a mission to provide crisis intervention and information resources to families affected by incarceration. “It’s rare to find an African American whose life has not been touched by mass incarceration” says Dr. Hart-Johnson. “It’s also sad that it’s become so commonplace within our communities that we just don’t talk about it.” In addition, Hart-Johnson serves as the vice president of the International Coalition of Children with Incarcerated Parents organization and as chairperson for the Advocacy in Action Coalition for the International Prisoner Family Conference. In 2018, she received the Walden University Outstanding Alumni Award for her work.


    “I believe the strongest leadership role we can play as advocates and executives of nonprofits is to understand the needs of our community by listening to the voices of individuals who are most impacted,” said Dr. Hart Johnson. To learn more about Dr. Hart-Johnson’s work, visit the Walden University website.


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    Photo Credit: Walden University

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