Joy Powell is an activist, pastor, survivor, and mother who is serving two sentences at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for crimes she did not commit. She was framed for a burglary-assault by an abusive ex-partner. During her trial, she was sentenced by an all-white jury and was not able to provide witnesses. She was sentenced to 16 years for a wrongful conviction. In 2011, 4 years into her first sentence, she was given a second sentence of 25 to life for another wrongful conviction over a cold murder case from 1992.
After being incarcerated for 3 years in 1992 for drug crimes, she became an activist and pastor. Joy admits to guilt of these charges and says it was a, “gift from god to change her life around.” As a survivor of violence, she got caught up in “criminal” activity. While incarcerated at Albion, the atrocities she witnessed got her involved in activism. She was ordained as a pastor with the goal of inspiring people around her to change because, as Joy said, “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.” During this first incarceration from 1992-1995, Joy was raped and stalked by an officer at Albion. This abuse resulted in serious PTSD and anxiety.
Joy became an integral part of her community following her release in 1995. She started an organization for at-risk youth in her community by turning her hair salon into a safe haven for children. Her activism from 1995-2006 centered around police brutality and violence in her community of Rochester. In 2001, one of Joy’s sons was the victim of gun violence and died.
In 2007, she became a target of the RPD for her outspoken activism. She said, “When I started speaking out against police brutality, I became a target.”Joy’s eldest son was violently murdered by the Rochester Police Department on October 10th, 2018, while she was behind bars.
Even while incarcerated, Joy has maintained her activism and continues to stand up for what is right. This has resulted in backlash while inside Bedford, including medical backlash like withholding food she is approved to have with her because of her diabetes and extended periods in solitary. Joy has a plethora of accomplishments under her belt from before and during her incarceration, having made the best of an unjust situation. Outside, she earned a Travel Industry degree, a Cosmetology license, and is an ordained Pastor. Inside, she has earned a certificate from Blackstone Institute Law School, a Sight Guidance Certificate so she is able to escort the blind and a Mobility Aid Certificate to escort disabled folks, she has earned Parenting certificates and Domestic Violence certificates, and she is currently taking Sociology classes to earn her Associates degree.
Joy is a proud mother to five sons, the first of which she had at 16 years old. She also has raised three girls; two of her nieces and a community member she took in. Today, she has twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren who deserve to spend time with Joy outside. Joy is an artist, a poet, and a rap musician with a passion for people. When she was outside, she released a gospel hip-hop CD with young people from her church by taking them to a recording studio and recording songs they wrote. She loves to work with at-risk youth and help them find their best selves.
Joy is currently 60 years old and suffers from diabetes, is hearing impaired, and suffers from depression and anxiety related to her abuse, false accusation, and being behind bars. In the beginning of 2020, she contracted COVID-19 behind bars and is grateful to be alive. Her goals for whenever she is released from her wrongful conviction are all about continuing her ceaseless activism: “Because I’ve been here and see the atrocities that take place here, I want to collaborate with existing orgs or start my own org to help women who are incarcerated.” She also wants to open another safe haven to prevent kids from going into foster care and start a podcast! Joy said, ““I have a lot of hopes and dreams and I’m very optimistic about it.”
In June of 2023, Joy will have served her entire first sentence, even though she is wrongly convicted.
More information about Joy and her life and wrongful convictions can be found at freejoypowell.org. If you want to support Joy, you can purchase clothing here www.bonfire.com/freejoypowell and proceeds go to her legal defense fund.