MacArthur Fellows Program

Ellen Barry

Attorney and Human Rights Leader | Class of 1998

Attorney and Human Rights Leader
San Francisco, California
45 at time of award
Published July 1, 1998

About Ellen's Work

Ellen Barry is an attorney and one of the nation's leading prisoners’ rights advocates.

Until 2001, Barry was director and managing attorney of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), an organization she founded in 1978. The core concerns of LSPC are young people at risk of incarceration, grandparent caregivers, alternatives to incarceration for mothers and children, and improving medical care for women in prisons and jails. Under Barry's direction, LSPC grew from a one-person operation that provided direct legal assistance to women prisoners with children to a nationally recognized organization focusing on policy, advocacy, and systemic change in areas involving children and the prison system.


Barry has been lead counsel or co-counsel on a number of lawsuits brought on behalf of incarcerated women, pregnant women prisoners, prisoners, and parolees. She has written extensively on the unique issues faced by incarcerated women. Articles by Barry have appeared in Criminal Justice, the Harvard Women’s Law Journal, and The Prison Journal. She is a co-founder of Critical Resistance, an organization that seeks to create sustainable alternatives to punishment and imprisonment. Since leaving LSPC in 2001, Barry has worked in private practice.

Barry received a B.A. (1975) from Swarthmore College and a J.D. (1978) from the New York University School of Law.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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