By Morgan Taylor, Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Muscogee (Creek) citizen Isabel Coronado grew up within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation in Okmulgee and attended Glenpool High School. Coronado is of the Hoktvlke (Wind) Clan and the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town.
When Coronado was just seven years old, her mother was sentenced to a multiple year prison sentence. When her mother was released from prison, she went back to school and became a civil rights attorney.
According to Coronado, though the experience was traumatic she drew inspiration from it.
“I think people who have been in the issues they are trying to solve have the greatest at stake and the most insight,” Coronado explains. “Having had seen my own mothers incarceration gives a whole different perspective than another professional would have.”
As a child of an incarcerated parent, Coronado rose above the statistics set against her and graduated high school at 16.
In 2017, Coronado received her BS from Northeastern State University; and in 2020 her masters of public health with in an emphasis on rural and undeserved populations form Oklahoma State University.
Coronado is known for her advocacy for children of incarcerated parents and for policy aimed to reduce the generational cycle of incarceration in Native communities.
The American Indian Criminal Justice Navigation Council (AICJNC), a non-profit organization that was created with Coronado’s help where she served as deputy director, aimed to reduce recidivism among tribal members and reduce family trauma.
Coronado has received recognition from the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute as a 2018 Champions for Change recipient, Mvskoke Women’s Leadership as the 2019 College Student of the Year, and by the Mvskoke Youth Council as the 2020 Youth Visionary in promoting civic engagement.
In 2019, Coronado moved away from OK to work as a policy entrepreneur for criminal justice reform at Next100, a think tank based out of New York. Since she started with Next100, Coronado has advocated for children of incarcerated families.
Working alongside the Family Integrity Campaign, she helped develop the FAMILIES Act in late 2020. This policy aims to keep parents with their children after sentencing through a comprehensive community supervision program.
“This policy keeps parents at home with their dependent children and provides them with community resources like housing, mental health services, and other services that help children impacted by parental incarceration because it is a lifelong traumatic incident,” Coronado said.
Coronado is already hard at work for 2021 with her newest policy the Flourishing Children of Incarcerated Parents (FCIP) which will use federal grant funds to provide public programs to support children who experience consequences of incarcerated parents if accepted by Congress.
“When the parent is removed, the child suffers too,” Coronado explains. “I don’t think we ever thought about that within the criminal justice system.”
In her research, Coronado has determined that there are 2.7 million children in the United States with a current incarcerated parent and over ten million who have had an incarcerated parent at some point during childhood.
As a young native woman in leadership, Coronado is highly motivated seeing Rep. Deb Haaland take her place as Secretary of the Interior.
“It motivates me beyond words could express to not only have the first Native American in the cabinet but woman who is authentically herself,” Coronado exclaimed. “She wears her ribbon dresses and her moccasins, it just makes me feel like we are progressing. This is the kind of stuff we are supposed to be seeing.”
Coronado’s time with Next100 ends this May after her two-year term with the progressive think tank. She claims she’s not sure what her next step is yet but she will continue to advocate for children of incarcerated parents and continue to make policy that reforms the criminal justice system.
Eventually, Coronado wants to come back to Oklahoma and continue her work at her tribe.
“I want to see a change where Indigenous people are heard and have a seat at the table,” Coronado tells Next100. “I want to disrupt the way our country systematically oppresses people of color by creating solutions to our justice system.”