Barbara Allan was a schoolteacher, wife and mother who had no contact with the criminal justice system until 1966 when her husband was imprisoned. As she tried to cope with her feelings of isolation and confusion, she became aware of a new organization whose goal was to disseminate information about a prison system that succeeded by its failures.
Barbara wrote a letter to this organization, the Fortune Society. In it said that she was a woman who was doing her time on the outside and that she would like to help in some way. They answered. Her life was changed forever.
Through her involvement with the Fortune Society, by relating to visitors who shared her trauma as they waited together in prison visiting rooms, and the word that was spreading through the prisons, a network of families grew. As a result Barbara and two other women decided to form a support group, which they called Prison Families Anonymous.
A source of pride for Barbara was the work she did to institute contact visits in her own county jail and in the prisons of New York State. She spoke on this topic before legislators, Senate committees and commissioners. She wrote articles on the subject and saw one printed in the Congressional Record.
Barbara continued working as a teacher as she raised her two daughters, facilitated support groups for her prison families, and tried to improve conditions for those who had a loved one involved in the criminal or juvenile justice system.
She networked with and sat on boards of many criminal justice agencies. She spoke before civic, religious, educational, and social organizations, helping to inform the public about the effects of incarceration on families. Numerous organizations around the country have emulated Prison Families Anonymous and Barbara hopes that her vision will continue to touch many more lives.
Upon retiring from teaching, Barbara moved to Broward County, Florida, where she immediately started a PFA group, volunteered with Women in Distress, a domestic violence agency, and won their volunteer of the Year Award. She volunteered as a victim's advocate for the Lauderhill Police Department and served on the advisory board of the Broward County Correctional Institution, a maximum security facility for women.
Barbara is now back in New York, She continues to facilitate prison families support groups, represents PFA on 2 reentry task forces and the Suffolk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. and is on the board of Directors of NYADP.
She is presently working with Prisoner's Family and Friends United, a national organization working to end mass incarceration.
Some of the honors presented to Barbara are:
The Fortune Society's Karl