Joan Steffen is an abolitionist, organizer, and lawyer. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2022, she joined the Institute to End Mass Incarceration as its inaugural postgraduate fellow. For the past two years, Joan has organized with Families for Justice as Healing’s (FJAH) Building Up People Not Prisons coalition to halt the construction of a new women’s prison in Massachusetts. As co-president of Harvard’s NLG chapter, she activated students to work in tandem with abolitionist community organizers, including at FJAH and the Material Aid and Advocacy Project (MAAP). Joan’s law school career has also included serving as Policy Director for the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), interning at the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts (PLS), and working as founding member of the Harvard Alliance Against Campus Cops (HAACC).
In 2017, Joan was one of 230 people arrested at protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. She and other defendants organized collectively to refuse plea negotiations and strategize for trial. Ultimately, the government could not convict any of the protesters who rejected plea agreements. Joan’s experience as a J20 defendant laid the foundation for her future work on prison and police abolition.