Marlene Sanchez

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Marlene Sanchez is a formerly incarcerated activist from San Francisco’s Mission District. Marlene began organizing as a teenager during the 1990s, when California was at the height of its “tough on crime” era. She was first criminalized at age 1, and was eventually incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, where she began organizing with other incarcerated teens and young women.

After her release at 15, Marlene began working as a community health outreach worker at what became the Young Women’s Freedom Center, supporting hundreds of young women who lived and worked in the underground street economies of San Francisco. Organizing incarcerated mothers and girls, she led the fight to enact the Incarcerated Mothers Bill of Rights, which prohibits shackling women during labor, and a bill to end the practice of terminating parental rights upon incarceration.

Marlene’s roots as a youth justice organizer are the foundation for her organizational leadership. She joined the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 2021, where she has developed organizational systems and cultures to uphold the leadership of directly impacted people.