Lea Zengage is small and soft-spoken -- the opposite of what you'd expect of an activist. But, then, she's all about fighting assumptions, first and foremost that Blacks get a fair shake in the criminal justice system.
In 2003 Zengage founded Seattle's Justice Works! to counter racism in the courts and prisons. In addition to legislative advocacy (particularly around restoring the vote to ex-felons), the all-volunteer group provides trial observers for the accused, transformative correspondence courses for inmates, and re-entry help for the newly released, including a new, nine-month program that employs re-entrants while teaching them a business.
It all started after Zengage, 59, who used to run a holistic health business, volunteered with the Black Prisoners Caucus at the Monroe prison complex. She later penned a paper on the racial inequities that inmates related to her: experiences, she says, that inform and guide what Justice Works! does every day.
"Our goal is to support them," Zengage says, "so they can stabilize their lives and do what they know needs to be done."