Family brings the light into a home

Dean Mitchell

As the nation’s eyes are more focused than ever on American policing and rates of incarceration, organizations have been forming across the nation to help the people affected by the policies and systems. Even a brief stint of incarceration has long-lasting and widespread effects for the incarcerated person — especially for their children. Here in Nashville, Free Hearts is an organization “led by formerly incarcerated women that provides support, education and advocacy in organizing families impacted by incarceration, with the ultimate goals of reuniting families and keeping families together.”

Free Hearts founder Dawn Harrington saw firsthand how devastating incarceration can be for families during her incarceration, so she started developing a vision for an organization to provide support where it’s needed. When she was released, she found others who were also passionate about these families. Together, they have built an indispensable nonprofit that works to make big changes in the jail and prison industry and in the lives of those affected by it.

To serve the community, Free Hearts works with schools to support children whose parents are incarcerated, and they work directly with girls and women in juvenile facilities, jails and prisons, offering classes such as parenting, anger management and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

The nonprofit also works closely with other organizations, such as the National Participatory Defense Movement, No Exceptions Prison Collective, and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. Some of their initiatives and campaigns include Decriminalize Poverty, Love & Justice Project, Free the Vote, and Storytelling for Public Policy.

How You Can Help

The best way to help Free Hearts in their goals to end the destructive cycles and effects of incarceration for women and their families is to donate funds to support their various campaigns. You can also get more personally involved in whatever way you can by joining the organization and becoming a member.

For more information on Free Hearts or to donate or volunteer, visit