Prison Abolition, Human Rights, and Penal Reform: From the Local to the Global

September 2628, 2019 Austin, Texas


Felicity Adams

PhD Candidate; Graduate Teaching Assistant Keele University School of Law, England

Felicity Adams is a PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Keele University School of Law, Staffordshire, England. Her doctoral project challenges the rationale of “Gender-Responsive” penal strategies from a Queer perspective and the renews the case to adopt a Queer-abolitionist politic as an alternative to the carceral nation. Her research interests include, Queer and feminist analyses of imprisonment and law, Marxist and Foucauldian analyses of power, law and society, abolitionist feminism and carceral feminism, and anti-capitalism and prison abolition. Adams’s review of Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto was published in Feminist Legal Studies in 2019. Adams works with the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele (CLOCK) initiative as a Community Legal Companion specializing in domestic and sexual violence related work. Adams holds an LLB in Law and an LLM in Law and Society from Keele University.

Aziza Ahmed

Professor of Law Northeastern University School of Law

Aziza Ahmed is Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law. She is an expert in health law, criminal law, science and the law, and human rights. Her scholarship examines the legal, regulatory, and political environments regarding health in US domestic law, US foreign policy, and international law. She has also written extensively about abortion and reproductive health. Ahmed has also consulted with various United Nations agencies and international and domestic non-governmental organizations. She served as an expert member of the Technical Advisory Group on HIV and the Law convened by the United Nations Development Programme and as an expert for the American Bar Association. Some of her recent publications include “Race and Assisted Reproduction: Implications for Public Health” (Fordham Law Review, 2018), Feminisim's Medicine: Law, Science, Race, and Gender in an Epidemic (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), and Handbook on Race, Racism, and the Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming) (with Guy-Uriel Charles). Ahmed holds a BA from Emory University, a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MS in Population and International Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Zohra Ahmed

Clinical Teaching Fellow Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, Cornell Law School

Zohra Ahmed is a Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. She co-teaches seminars and co-supervises law students in the International Human Rights Clinic working on such projects as representing capital defendants before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and training capital defenders practicing in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Spring 2019, Ahmed co-taught a seminar called Struggles for Liberation and Equality: Human Rights in the 21st Century. Her article, “Youth at the Nexus: Ideology in HIV Prevention, Nairobi, Kenya” was published in Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning (2011) and her review of Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court, titled “Pressing Charges,” appeared in New Labor Forum (2017). Prior to Cornell, Ahmed served as a staff attorney in criminal defense for the Legal Aid Society in New York City, representing indigent clients in misdemeanor and felony cases (2014-2018). Ahmed holds a JD from Fordham University School of Law, and MPhil from Cambridge University, and a BA University of Pennsylvania.

Susannah Bannon

PhD Candidate in Communication Studies The University of Texas at Austin; Founder and Board Member, Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network

Susannah P. Bannon is a PhD candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on how public discourse creates and maintains social inequities, and how rhetorical criticism can promote social justice in the context of criminality, incarceration, and reentry. Bannon’s article, “Why do they do it? Motivations of Educators in Correctional Facilities,” was published in the St. Louis University Public Law Review (2014). As a public scholar, Bannon actively seeks to improve communication about and within communities directly impacted by the criminalization system. She is a founder and board member of the Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network (FICGN) and most recently served as Director of Communications at the Texas Inmate Families Association. Bannon holds an MA in Communication Studies from Texas State University and a BA from the University of Houston-Downtown. 

Reginald Dwayne Betts

PhD Candidate Yale Law School

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and a doctoral candidate in Law at Yale University. His research interests include criminal law, empirical legal studies, and law and literature. Betts has published three collections of poems, most recently Felon (2019). His work has won numerous awards, including the PEN New England Poetry Prize for Bastards of the Reagan Era (2015) and the NAACP Image Award for A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (2009). Betts was a Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies and a Soros Justice Fellow. In 2010, he was appointed by President Obama as a practitioner member of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Betts is a doctoral candidate at Yale Law School and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and a BA from the University of Maryland.

Simone Browne

Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies The University of Texas at Austin

Simone Browne is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She  is the author of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (2015), which was awarded the 2016 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize by the American Studies Association; the 2016 Surveillance Studies Book Prize by the Surveillance Studies Network; and the 2015 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research. Browne is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists. Browne was a Visiting Presidential Fellow at Yale University (2018-19). She holds an MA and PhD in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the University of Toronto as well as a BA from the University of Toronto, and a BEd from York University.

Beatrice Codianni

Founder and Executive Director Sex Workers and Allies Network of New Haven

Beatrice Codianni is founder and executive director of Sex Workers and Allies Network, a grassroots harm reduction organization committed to the voices and needs of people involved in survival sex work. She has spoken nationally on issues related to the over-incarceration of women in the U.S. and its consequences. Codianni served as a Leading with Conviction Fellow with JustLeadershipUSA. She has been a political/community activist for over 50 years. As a leader of the Latin Kings, she created and implemented programs for marginalized youth in education, employment, mental health, and violence reduction. During fifteen years of incarceration, Codianni advocated for other women in prison. She successfully sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons to exempt people who are survivors of sexual abuse from cross gender pat searches. Codianni taught AIDS prevention and reading skills to incarcerated women. She is co-founder of The Real Women of Orange Is the New Black, an organization that seeks to educate high school and college students, among others, about the harsh truth behind the over-incarceration of women and girls in America. Codianni also co-founded and is a board member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and serves on the advisory boards of the Connecticut Bail Fund and the Transitions Clinic, a clinic for people recently released from prison or jail.

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas

Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies University of California, Davis

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on the intersection of critical race studies, visual and cultural studies, and geography and law. Cuevas is currently completing her book manuscript, “Mortifications of the Flesh: Racial Violence in a Time of Crisis,” which maps the historical continuities and discontinuities of policing and state violence on the material and discursive terrains of law, visual cultural productions, and raced populations. She is also at work on a second book project, “Policing L.A.’s Human Terrain: The Criminal Non-Human at Point Zero,” which examines Los Angeles County jail as a critical point on the city’s cartography of productive human terrain. Cuevas holds a PhD and MA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego, and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jamil Dakwar

Director Human Rights Program, American Civil Liberties Union

Jamil Dakwar is the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program (HRP), where he leads a team of lawyers and researchers that advise ACLU programs on international human rights law. He oversees the ACLU’s human rights documentation as well as advocacy and litigation before international bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Dakwar is Adjunct Professor in the Human Rights Program at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. Prior to joining the ACLU, he worked at Human Rights Watch, where he conducted research, engaged in advocacy, and published reports on issues of torture and detention in Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territory. Before moving to the United States, he was a senior attorney with Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Dakwar holds a JD from the New York University School of Law and graduated from Tel Aviv University.

Poonam Daryani

Clinical Fellow Global Health Justice Partnership, Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health

Poonam Daryani is Clinical Fellow in the Global Health Justice Partnership (GHJP) at the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health. As a Clinical Fellow, she supports the research, advocacy, external partnerships, and programming of the GHJP, with a focus on gender and sexuality justice. Daryani is also program manager for the Yale College Multidisciplinary Academic Program in Global Health. Her areas of research include gender and sexuality justice. Daryani’s background includes building anti-oppression public health workshops, managing an India-based maternal health initiative, and reporting on the impacts of the Zika epidemic on caregivers in northeast Brazil as a Johns Hopkins-Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow. Daryani holds an MPH from Johns Hopkins University and a BA from Scripps College.

Livia de Souza Vidal

Professor of Pedagogy Fluminense Federal University, Brazil

Livia de Souza Vidal is Pedagogue in Education at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF). Her research interests include restorative justice, race, education, and juvenile detention. De Souza Vidal recently published "Justiça Restaurativa em Instituição de Privação de Liberdade para Jovens" in Ações Socioeducativas: Sistema de Garantia de Direitos e Justiça Restaurativa (with J. Abdalla, L. Vidal, B. Veloso, 2018), and presented on "Humanity and Security," at the Seminar Socio Educatinal Sistems Operators, Public Ministry of Campos dos Goytacazes (2019). De Souza Vidal is Education Coordinator, Women of Pedra collective, a filmmaker who is affiliated with Black Women Filmmakers, and a dancer. She is a PhD candidate in the Post-Graduation Program in Education at UFF. She also holds a Masters in Education from UFF, and a Masters in Development, Environment & Society from the Catholic University of Louvain and the University of Liège in Belgium.

Michele Deitch

Senior Lecturer The University of Texas Austin School of Law and Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Michele Y. Deitch is Senior Lecturer in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Deitch’s research interests include oversight of correctional institutions, prison and jail safety issues, juveniles in the adult criminal justice system, and management of youth in custody. She has authored numerous articles about correctional oversight, including “Independent Correctional Oversight Mechanisms Across the United States: A 50-State Inventory” (Pace Law Review, 2010), as well as many reports on juvenile justice. Deitch has been a Soros Senior Justice Fellow and is the recipient of the 2019 NACOLE Flame Award for significant contributions to correctional oversight. She co-chairs the American Bar Association's Subcommittee on Correctional Oversight and helped draft the ABA's Standards for Criminal Justice: Treatment of Prisoners. Prior to entering academia, Deitch served as a federal court-appointed monitor of conditions in the Texas prison system and general counsel to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, among other positions. Deitch holds a JD from Harvard Law School, an MSc in Psychology from Oxford University, and a BA from Amherst College.

Natalie Diaz

Associate Professor of English, Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry Arizona State University

Natalie Diaz is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University where she holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. In 2018, Diaz was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for work that “draw[s] upon her experience as a Mojave American and Latina to challenge the mythological and cultural touchstones underlying American society.” Diaz’s first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012) won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her second collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, is forthcoming in 2020. Diaz co-edited a collection of poems, essays, and stories for Bodies Built for Game: The Prairie Schooner Anthology of Contemporary Sports Writing (forthcoming, 2019). Her poems and essays have appeared in such publications as Narrative Magazine, Poetry Magazine, and The New Republic. Honors include the Hodder Fellowship, Princeton University (2015-2016) and a United States Artists Ford Fellowship (2014). Diaz holds a BA and an MFA in Poetry and Fiction from Old Dominion University.

aems emswiler

Archival Fellow Texas After Violence Project; MS Student in Information Sciences; MA Student in Women’s and Gender Studies, The University of Texas at Austin

aems emswiler serves as Archival Fellow for the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), a community-based documentary project that cultivates deeper understandings of the impacts of interpersonal and state-sanctioned violence on individuals, families, and communities. Their research seeks to understand censorship as violence, archives as spaces of abolition imagination, and critical trans politics as a means of transformative social change. emswiler explores carceral logics’ attempt to regulate communities marked as deviant by the state. At TAVP, they conduct oral history interviews with queer and trans people impacted by state violence. They are currently pursuing a dual Masters in Information Sciences (MSIS) and Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) at The University of Texas at Austin, and hold a BA in English Literature and Feminist Studies from Southwestern University. 

Karen Engle

Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law; Founder & Co-director, The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Karen Engle is Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law and the founder and co-director of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law. She researches and writes on the interaction between social movements and law, particularly in the fields of international human rights law, international criminal law, and Latin American law. She is author of The Grip of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Feminist Interventions in International Law (forthcoming, 2020) and The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development: Rights, Culture, Strategy (2010), which received the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association Section on Human Rights. She co-edited Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda (2016) and After Identity: A Reader in Law and Culture (1995). She has held fellowships at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Engle holds a JD magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and a BA with honors from Baylor University.

Ashley Farmer

Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies The University of Texas at Austin

Ashley D. Farmer is Assistant Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is an historian who researches black women's history, intellectual history, and radical politics. Farmer authored Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (2017), the first comprehensive study of black women's intellectual production and activism in the Black Power era. She also co-edited New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (2018), an anthology that examines four central themes within the black intellectual tradition: black internationalism, religion and spirituality, racial politics and struggles for social justice, and black radicalism. Farmer's research has been featured in several popular outlets including Vibe, NPR, and CSPAN. Farmer holds an MA and PhD from Harvard University and a BA from Spelman College.

Christopher Garcia-Wilde

MD/MPH Candidate University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Christopher Garcia-Wilde is an MD and an MPH candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He recently completed field experience at the Houston Recovery Center for his Master of Public Health. Garcia-Wilde’s research centers on addiction medicine and critical epidemiology. He recently presented a paper titled “Re-Framing Racism in Medical School Lectures” at the 2019 Social Medicine Consortium Conference in Chiapas, Mexico. Garcia-Wilde is a community organizer who works with White Coats for Black Lives, a medical-student run organization seeking to safeguard the lives and well-being of patients through the elimination of racism. He also works with the Miami Squad of the Dream Defenders, a local collective focused on building a movement for freedom and liberation in Florida. Garcia-Wilde holds a BS in Microbiology and Cell Science with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Florida.

Kevin Garrett

Hogg Peer Policy Fellow Texas Jail Project

As a Hogg Peer Policy Fellow, Kevin Garrett works with the Texas Jail Project on issues related to mental health and contributes to their mission to improve conditions and treatment of people in Texas county jails. Garrett was formerly incarcerated in two county jails and in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system. While in TDCJ, he saw that individuals in need of mental health and substance abuse services were given generic diagnoses and housed in the general population with other offenders. Garrett went from being homeless in 2006 to earning a BA in Paralegal Studies and graduating magna cum laude from Texas Wesleyan University in 2011. He holds a JD from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, where he received the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Texas criminal procedure, given to the highest scoring student. Garrett hopes someday to be eligible to take the Texas Bar Examination. 

Holly Genovese

PhD Candidate in American Studies The University of Texas at Austin

Holly Genovese is a PhD candidate in American Studies with doctoral portfolios in both African and African Diaspora Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her work focuses on African American aesthetic resistance to incarceration in the American South. Genovese is also interested in radical social movement history, prison literature, and poetics. Her article, “Not a Myth: Quakers and Racial Justice," was published in Quaker Studies (2015). Genovese’s essays and criticism have appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has also curated exhibits and written tour scripts for Eastern State Penitentiary, McKissick Museum, and the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks. Genovese holds an MA in History from the University of South Carolina and a BA in History and Political Science from Temple University. 

Kelly Gillespie

Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology University of the Western Cape, Cape Town

Kelly Gillespie is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town. Her research focuses on criminal justice in South Africa, particularly the ways in which criminal justice has become a vector for the continuation of Apartheid relations. Gillespie teaches and writes about law and justice, urbanism, sexualities, race, and the praxis of social justice. Recent publications include “Between the Cold War and the Fire: The Student Movement, Antiassimilation, and the Question of the Future in South Africa” in South Atlantic Quarterly (2019) and “Before The Commission: Ethnography as Public Testimony,” included in If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography (2017). In 2008, Gillespie co-founded the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, an experimental project tasked with recrafting the work of critical theory beyond the Global North. Gillespie holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and an MA and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Cape Town.

Denise Gilman

Clinical Professor of Law; Co-director, Immigration Clinic The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Denise Gilman is Clinical Professor at the University of Texas School of Law and Co-director of the Immigration Clinic. Her research and writing focus on immigration and citizenship as well as international human rights law. Gilman’s recent scholarship includes “Immigration Detention, Inc.,” with Luis Romero (J. Migration & Hum. Sec., 2018) and “The Unending Floods: Disaster Recovery and Immigration Policy,” with Elissa C. Steglich (Tex. L. Rev. - Online Ed., 2018). In 2019, Gilman received a University of Texas Tower Award as the Outstanding Community Based Learning Professor. In 2005, she received the Community Outreach Recognition and Opportunity ("CORO") Award from the D.C. Court of Appeals. Gilman holds a JD from Columbia University and a BA from Northwestern University.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences and American Studies; Director, Center for Place, Culture, and Politics Graduate Center, City University of New York

RUTH WILSON GILMORE is a renowned activist and public scholar known for her work on prison abolition. She is Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences and American Studies, as well as director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to her work on abolition, Gilmore writes and lectures extensively on a range of subjects, including racial capitalism, organized violence, changing state structure, the aesthetics and politics of seeing, and labor and social movements. She authored the award-winning book Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007) and spearheaded the development of the field of carceral geography. Her multiple honors include the American Studies Association Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship (2012); the Association of American Geographers Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research and Practice (2014); the SUNY-Purchase College Eugene V. Grant Distinguished Scholar Prize for Social and Environmental Justice (2015-16); and the American Studies Association Richard A. Yarborough Mentorship Award (2017). In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Gilmore co-founded several grassroots organizations, including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. She holds a PhD in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University.

Aya Gruber

Professor of Law University of Colorado Law School

Aya Gruber is Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School and Fellow in the Center for Values and Social Policy at the University of Colorado. She teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law and procedure, critical theory, feminism, and comparative/international law. Gruber’s scholarship focuses primarily on feminist efforts to strengthen criminal law responses to crimes against women. She has a book, The Feminist War On Crime, forthcoming from UC Press and co-authored Comparative Criminal Procedure: United States, Argentina, and the Netherlands (2012). Gruber’s recent publications include “Equal Protection under the Carceral State” (NW.U.L.Rev., 2018), “Consent Confusion” (Cardozo L.Rev., 2017), and “Governance Feminism in New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts,” with A. Cohen, in Governance Feminism: A Handbook (2019). Gruber received Colorado Law School’s Jules Milstein Scholarship Award in 2017. She holds a JD magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and a BA summa cum laude in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jason Hernandez

President Obama Clemency Recipient; Advisor, Buried Alive Project

Jason Hernandez is an advocate for clemency process reform and serves on the board of the Buried Alive Project, which works to eliminate life-without-parole sentences handed down under federal drug law. Hernandez is known as one of “Obama’s Eight”—the first wave of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders to be granted clemency by President Barack Obama. While in prison, Hernandez became a respected “jailhouse attorney” and was paid to work on other prisoners’ cases, many of which involved parental rights, child support, and divorce. Hernandez contributed an Op-Ed piece to The New York Times titled “The Power of Clemency” (Jan 2018). Also in 2018, Hernandez received a Latino Justice Media Fellowship and a Soros Justice Fellowship. He is developing a curriculum and toolkit to support clemency campaigns, working with the legal clinic at the Texas A&M University School of Law and New York University.

Neville Hoad

Associate Professor of English; Co-director, The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice The University of Texas at Austin

Neville Hoad is Associate Professor of English and affiliated faculty with the Center for Women's and Gender Studies and the Center for African and African American Studies. He is co-directer of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. Hoad’s research interests include African and Victorian literature; queer theory; international human rights law pertaining to sexual orientations; and sexuality and gender issues in Southern Africa. He has authored African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization (2007) and co-edited Sex and Politics in South Africa (2005). Hoad contributed “The Men of Blanket Boy's Moon: Repugnancy Clauses, Customary Law and Migrant Labour Sex” to New Intimacies, Old Desires: Law, Culture and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times (2017). His current book project focuses on literary and cultural representations of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hoad holds a PhD from Columbia University.

Noelle Janak

PhD Candidate in African and African Diaspora Studies; Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy The University of Texas at Austin

Noelle Janak is a PhD student in African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin where they are also a Research Fellow with the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and a Donald D. Harrington Graduate Fellow. They research prison abolition, the Black Radical Tradition, hip-hop feminism, 20th-century liberation movements, and Black Power. Janak is the author of "Fierce Urgency of Now: Protecting Trans People Within the Criminal [In]Justice System," published by the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. They also contribute to the Tulsa Star, including "Our Children Got Left Behind: Humanizing the Lives Behind Juvenile Arrest Statistics,” "Having the Tough Conversations: Racial Bias and Use of Force," and "Break the Chains Off: An Introduction to Prison Abolition” (all in 2019). They received their BA in African American Studies from Saint Louis University.

Danielle Jefferis

Clinical Teaching Fellow University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Danielle Jefferis is Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Her research interests include alternatives to immigration detention, prison abolition, the militarization of law enforcement, and prison privatization. Before joining the Denver Law faculty, Jefferis was Nadine Strossen Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project in New York. There, she worked on issues related to post-9/11 racial and religious discrimination, and the intersection of national security and criminal justice. Her articles include “Constitutionally Unaccountable: Privatized Immigration Detention” in the Indiana L. J. (forthcoming); “It’s Just Like Prison: Is a Civil (Nonpunitive) System of Immigration Detention Theoretically Possible?” with René Lima Marín in the Denver L. Rev. (forthcoming); and “Battlefield Borders, Threat Rhetoric, and the Militarization of State and Local Law Enforcement,” in the American University National Security Law Brief (2012). Jefferis received her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and her BA from New York University, where she majored in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

David Johnson

Criminal Justice Organizer Grassroots Leadership

David Johnson is Criminal Justice Organizer at Grassroots Leadership. Through a two-year Peer Policy Fellowship from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Johnson supports Grassroot Leadership's efforts to promote the effective treatment of mental illness and substance use as an alternative to their criminalization. His lived experience as a formerly incarcerated person thriving in active recovery from addiction with a mental health diagnosis frames and contributes to this work. He is an active volunteer and recovery ambassador for Solstice Recovery Foundation, an Austin-based non-profit that supports addiction recovery. He also actively supports Oxford House, Austin Recovery, RecoveryATX, and NAMI.

Lauren Johnson

Criminal Justice Outreach Coordinator, Policy Department ACLU of Texas

Lauren Johnson is the Criminal Justice Outreach Coordinator in the Policy Department of the ACLU of Texas, which she joined in 2017. The seed of passion for social justice that led her to the ACLU grew out of her experiences within the criminal legal system. Prior to being hired, Lauren worked alongside other ACLU staff on criminal justice reform policies at the local and state level that led to the first Fair Chance Hiring ordinance in the southern United States to apply to private employers, removing the lifetime ban placed on people with felony drug convictions who would otherwise qualify for food assistance and codifying a law to prevent video from being the primary visitation available in county jails across the state. Lauren has been recognized for her work by Grassroots Leadership, The Texas Observer, and the Texas Council on Family Relations.

Nolan Krueger

PhD Candidate in Counseling Psychology and Ford Fellow The University of Texas at Austin

Nolan Krueger is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and an advanced extern in the Southwestern University Counseling Center. As a Ford Fellow for 2019-22, Kreuger will create a study aimed at better understanding the relationship between well-being and suicidality among multiracial college students. His research investigates multiracial identity, and the health effects of multiracial-specific phenomena on both psychological well-being and behavioral health for mixed-race individuals; minority status stressors; and the psychosocial experiences impacting students of color in higher education. Kreuger’s co-authored articles include “Black people's racial identity and their acceptance of Black-White Multiracial people” in Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (2019) and “Learning While Black: A Culturally Informed Model of the Impostor Phenomenon for Black Graduate Students” in the Journal of Black Psychology (2018), Krueger holds a BS in Clinical Psychology from the University of California at San Diego.

Savannah Kumar

JD Student The University of Texas at Austin School of Law; Board Member, Truth Be Told and Amala Foundation

Savannah Kumar is a third year law student at the University of Texas School of Law, where she is also a Human Rights Scholar at the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. She is an activist artist, creating and displaying artistic pieces that challenge conditions of confinement that are often hidden from view. Kumar serves on the board of directors of the Amala Foundation, a non-profit organization offering peace-building and healing-focused programs to young people who have experienced trauma. She also serves on the board of directors of Truth Be Told, a non-profit that runs storytelling-based programs at jails and women's prisons in central Texas. Kumar holds a BA in Plan II Honors and Philosophy with honors from the University of Texas at Austin.

Sarah Lamble

Reader in Criminology and Queer Theory; Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience; Director of Studies in Criminology Birkbeck University of London, England

Sarah Lamble is Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience; Reader in Criminology and Queer Theory; and Director of Studies in Criminology, at the Birkbeck University of London. Lamble’s research interests lie at the intersections of gender, sexuality and criminal justice; law, social movements, and knowledge production; and cultures of violence, control and punishment. Publications include “The Marketisation of Prison Alternatives” in Criminal Justice Matters (2014) and “Queer necropolitics and the expanding carceral state: interrogating sexual investments in punishment” in Law and Critique (2013). Lamble is co-editor of the Social Justice Book Series with Routledge, a steering group member for the Reclaim Justice Network. Lamble is also co-founder of the Bent Bars Project, a collective that coordinates a letter-writing program for LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming prisoners in Britain. Lamble holds a PhD from Kent Law School, an MA in Criminology from the University of Toronto, and a BA in Cultural Studies at the University of Trent in Peterborough, Canada.

Jennifer Laurin

The Wright C. Morrow Professor of Law The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Jennifer Laurin is the Wright C. Morrow Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Laurin studies and writes about how law and institutional design shape the functioning of criminal justice institutions.  Her scholarship has considered, the role of constitutional litigation in regulating police, the shared roles of courts, police, and lawyers in regulating forensic science, and oversight of indigent defense.  Laurin is a co-author (with Michael Avery, David Rudovsky, and Karen Blum) of Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation, the leading treatise in that area of civil rights litigation.  Laurin is active in criminal justice law reform efforts. She currently serves as Reporter to the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Standards Task Force charged with updating the 1996 3rd Edition Discovery Standards, and she is the former Chair of the Texas Capital Punishment Assessment team, organized under the auspices of the American Bar Association. Laurin holds an undergraduate degree in Politics from Earlham College and a JD from Columbia Law School.

Marisol LeBrón

Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies The University of Texas at Austin

Marisol LeBrón is Assistant Professor in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on social inequality, policing, violence, and protest movements in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. LeBrón’s book, Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico (2019), examines the growth of punitive governance in contemporary Puerto Rico. She co-edited Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm (2019) and has published articles and reviews for academic and public audiences. LeBrón is one of the co-creators and project leaders for the Puerto Rico Syllabus (#PRsyllabus), a digital resource for understanding the Puerto Rican debt crisis. LeBron holds a PhD in American Studies from New York University and a BA from Oberlin College in Comparative American Studies (Honors) and Latin American Studies.

David Leslie

Executive Director Rothko Chapel

David Leslie is Executive Director of the Rothko Chapel. He joined the Rothko Chapel in 2015, after serving for 18 years as Executive Director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Throughout his career, Leslie has been devoted to human rights, interfaith relations, immigration reform, ending homelessness, and addressing the societal impacts of climate change. He was recognized for this work with the Eugene Carson Blake Award for Ecumenism given by the National Council of Churches and Church World Service. He has published articles and spoken at international conferences on topics related to public policy, organizational development, and cross-sector relations. Leslie received his BA in History from the University of Texas at Austin, and his MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Benjamin Levin

Associate Professor of Law University of Colorado Law School

Benjamin Levin is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. His research examines criminal law and its collateral consequences, focusing on the criminal justice reform movement and its relationship to other movements for social and economic change. Levin's recent publications include “Mens Rea Reform and Its Discontents” (J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 2019) and “The Consensus Myth in Criminal Justice Reform” (Mich. L. Rev., 2018). His writing for general audiences has appeared in Salon, Slate, and Time. Levin was a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School (2014-2017). Before entering academia, he worked at the civil rights firm of Neufeld Scheck and Brustin, LLP, where he focused on cases involving police and prosecutorial misconduct. Levin received the University of Colorado Law School’s Excellence in Teaching Award and Outstanding New Faculty Member Award (2018). He holds a JD cum laude from Harvard Law School and a BA from Yale University.

Kate Levine

Associate Professor of Law Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Kate Levine is Associate Professor in the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Her research and teaching interests focus on criminal law, criminal procedure, policing, evidence and the legal ethics of criminal lawyering. Levine’s publications include “Discipline and Policing” (Duke L. J., 2018), “We Need to Talk About Police Disciplinary Records” (Fordham Urb. L.J., 2017) and “Who Shouldn’t Prosecute the Police” (Iowa L. Rev., 2016). Prior to her current position, Levine was Assistant Professor of Law at St. John’s University. She holds a JD from Harvard Law School and an AB in American History and Literature from Harvard College.

Robyn Maynard

Author & Activist; PhD Student, University of Toronto, Canada

Robyn Maynard is a Toronto-based black feminist writer, abolitionist, and community activist. She has been a part of grassroots movements against racial profiling, police violence, and punitive detention and deportation practices for over a decade. Maynard's book, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present (2017), won the 2019 Prix de Libraires in the category of “essais” and the 2017 Annual Errol Morris Book Prize. Her recent articles include “Do Black Sex Workers' Lives Matter? White Washed Anti-Slavery, Racial Justice and Abolition” in Red Light Labour: Regulation, Agency and Resistance (2018) and “Reading Black Resistance through Afrofuturism: Notes on Post-Apocalyptic Blackness and Black Rebel Cyborgs in Canada” in TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (2018). Maynard has presented before Senate committees and the United Nations. She is currently a doctoral student and Vanier scholar at the University of Toronto.

Thenjiwe McHarris

Co-founder Blackbird; Movement for Black Lives

Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris is co-founder of Blackbird, which provides communications, organizing, and policy/advocacy support to a growing field committed to ending racism in the United States and globally. She began her political career calling for an end to policies and practices that contribute to acts of torture committed by law enforcement. McHarris campaigns on human rights issues in the United States and around the world, including those that address the illicit and illegal trafficking of small arms, solitary confinement, capital punishment, maternal deaths, excessive use of force by law enforcement, and poverty. McHarris has worked for human rights organizations including Amnesty International and, most recently, the U.S. Human Rights Network where she helped coordinate efforts to hold the U.S.G accountable for its human rights violations when the United States was up for review by specific UN Mechanisms. McHarris is currently working with social justice organizations and movements in the US to help establish a collective for organizers engaged in movement-building work around the world.

Will McKeithen

PhD Candidate and Instructor in Geography University of Washington

Will McKeithen is a doctoral candidate and instructor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington. Their research focuses on the structural violence and lived experience of toxicity in the US. Other research interests include the biopolitics of health, US mass incarceration, geographies of gender and sexuality, feminist political economy, and environmental justice. McKeithen’s article, “Queer Ecologies of Home: Heteronormativity, Speciesism, and the Strange Intimacies of Crazy Cat Ladies,” was published in Gender, Place, and Culture (2017) and they co-authored “Worms and Workers: Placing the Nonhuman and the Biological in Social Reproduction” (Society and Space, 2017). McKeithen was an Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (PIP) Fellow at the University of Washington, Bothell (2017-18). They hold an MA in Geography from the University of Washington and a BS in Culture and Politics from Georgetown University.

Frédéric Mégret

Professor of Law and William Dawson Scholar Faculty of Law, McGill University, Canada

Frédéric Mégret is Professor and Dawson Scholar at the Faculty of Law, McGill University. His research interests are in general international law, the laws of war, human rights, and domestic and international criminal justice. Mégret is the editor, with Philip Alston, of The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal (2nd edition, forthcoming) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of International Law (2014). From 2006 to 2016, he held the Canada Research Chair in the Law of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Before coming to McGill, Mégret was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, a research associate at the European University Institute, and an attaché at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Zinaida Miller

Assistant Professor of International Law and Human Rights School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University

Zinaida Miller is Assistant Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Seton Hall University. Her scholarship focuses on the conceptualization, management, and regulation of post-conflict/transitional territories and populations, particularly in the areas of human rights, humanitarian aid, and transitional justice. She is co-editor, with Karen Engle and D.M. Davis, of Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda (2017) and recently published "Time, Law and Judgment" (Temple Int’l & Comp. L. J., 2018), as well as a new book chapter, “Distributing Justice: Transitional Justice and Stabilisation in North Africa” in Stabilising the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming). Miller and two colleagues were awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to fund their project, “The Margins of Accountability” (2019). Miller holds a PhD from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, a JD from Harvard Law School, an MALD in International Relations at Tufts University, and an AB from Brown University. 

Claudia Muñoz

Director, Immigration Programs Grassroots Leadership

Claudia Muñoz is the Immigration Programs Director at Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, she has lived in Texas since 2001. After her nephew was detained by ICE, Muñoz began to organize with other undocumented youth nationwide to secure his release and demand dignity for all immigrants. She has worked for various labor and immigrant rights organizations throughout the country, including the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, since 2009. Muñoz is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University.

Marlene Nava Ramos

PhD Candidate in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Graduate Center City University of New York

Marlene Nava Ramos is a doctoral candidate in Geography at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center where she studies the United States political economy of immigration enforcement. Her dissertation project explores the growth of New Jersey's multi-level jurisdictional system of confinement and immigration detention in county jails from 1985 to the present. Her research studies immigration detention as a system embedded in the rise of imprisonment and the most recent carceral reforms, which are transforming and reinforcing systems of surveillance and control. Nava Ramos is an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geospatial Sciences at Lehman College. She holds an MPH from Columbia University and a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.

Vasuki Nesiah

Associate Professor of Practice Gallatin School of Individual Study, New York University

Vasuki Nesiah is Associate Professor of Practice at the Gallatin School of Individual Study at New York University. Nesiah’s research interests include international human rights, law and social theory, and the politics of war and memory. A founding member of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), Nesiah has published widely on the history and politics of human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal law, international feminisms, and colonial legal history, with a particular focus on transitional justice and reparations. Nesiah co-edited A Global History of Bandung and Critical Traditions in International Law (Cambridge UP, 2017). She recently contributed “Indebted: The Cruel Optimism of Leaning-In to Empowerment” to Governance Feminisms: Notes from the Field (U of MN Press, 2019). Nesiah was a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School and practiced at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). She holds both a JD and SJD from Harvard Law School and a BA in Philosophy and Government from Cornell University.

Lauren Oertel

Director of Organizing and Policy Texas Inmate Families Association

Lauren Oertel is the Director of Organizing and Policy at Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA), where she provides support, education, and advocacy for families with loved ones who are incarcerated. Oertel holds a BA in Economics from the University of California, Davis, and an MA in Global Policy Studies from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Samantha Pinto

Associate Professor of English The University of Texas at Austin

Samantha Pinto is Associate Professor of English and affiliated faculty of Women’s and Gender Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, The Warfield Center for African American Studies, and LGBTQ Studies.  She teaches courses on African American, African Diaspora, African, postcolonial, and feminist studies. Her book, Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic (NYU Press, 2013), was the winner of the 2013 William Sanders Scarborough Prize for African American Literature and Culture from the MLA. Her work has been published in journals including MeridiansSignsPalimpsestSafundiSmall Axe, and Atlantic Studies, and she has received fellowships from the NEH and the Harry Ransom Center. Her second book, Infamous Bodies, forthcoming from Duke, explores the relationship between 18th and 19th-century black women celebrities and discourses of race, gender, & human rights. She is currently at work on a third book, Under the Skin, on race, embodiment, and science in African Diaspora culture. Pinto holds a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Aparna Polavarapu

Associate Professor of Law University of South Carolina School of Law

Arparna Polavarapu is Associate Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Her research focuses on the rule of law and human rights, with particular emphasis on land rights and customary/statutory law interaction. Much of her scholarship draws from her direct experience working with women and women’s rights groups in various nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Polavarapu’s scholarship includes “Global Carceral Feminism and Domestic Violence: What the West can Learn from Reconciliation in Uganda” (forthcoming, Harv. J. L. & Gender) and “Expanding Standing to Protect Democracy” (Yale J. Int’l L., 2016). Polavarapu holds an LLM in Advocacy and a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center, an MALD in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a BS in Brain and Cognitive Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jhody Polk

Lead Organizer & Founder Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub; Director, Alachua County Reentry Coalition

Jhody Polk is Lead Organizer and Founder of the Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (LEAH), the first Participatory Defense Hub in Florida. LEAH is a community organizing model designed to combat mass incarceration, humanize defendants, impact the outcomes of cases, and transform the landscape of power in the court system. A formerly incarcerated law clerk, Polk received a Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship in 2018, when she founded the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Initiative, a network dedicated to the legal empowerment of jailhouse lawyers and enhancing the law clerk training program and law libraries in prisons throughout the United States. Polk is also the current director of the Alachua County Reentry Coalition, the executive director and founder of the Florida Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and the director of community justice at the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. She served as the central Florida organizer on the successful campaign to restore voting rights to over 1.5 million Florida residents with felony convictions. She is a dedicated member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the League of Women Voters, the National Lawyers Guild, and Fight Toxic Prisons.

Annette Price

Statewide Director, Texas Advocates for Justice Grassroots Leadership

Annette Price is Statewide Director with Grassroots Leadership’s Texas Advocates for Justice, a membership-based organization of formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. Members are trained in organizing and advocacy to advance their mission to end mass incarceration in Texas. Price has been involved with reentry programs to assist those with criminal justice involvement since 2016, as the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable (A/TCRRT) Fellow. A/TCRRT addresses the challenges to reentry and reintegration faced by formerly incarcerated individuals. As part of her fellowship, Price participated in writing a Housing Guide for Apartment Managers. She previously served on the board of directors for Truth Be Told, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide transformational programs for women who are or who have been incarcerated. Price holds a double Masters degree in Substance Abuse and Professional Counseling from Grand Canyon University. 

Roger Reeves

Poet; Associate Professor of English The University of Texas at Austin

Roger Reeves is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to UT, he was Assistant Professor of Poetry at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His first book of poetry, King Me, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013 and was placed on the "Best Poetry Books of the Year" list from Library Journal. He is a faculty affiliate of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a 2015 Whiting Award, a 2013 NEA Fellowship, a 2013 Pushcart Prize, a 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, two Bread Loaf Scholarships, and two Cave Canem Fellowships. During the 2014 school year, he was a Hodder Fellow of Princeton University. He holds a BA from Morehouse College, an MA in English from Texas A&M University, as well as an MFA and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jorge Renaud

Regional Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Southwest LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Jorge Antonio Renaud is Regional Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Southwest for LatinoJustice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund). He has written extensively about how to alleviate the United States’s obsession with incarceration and disproportionate sentences. As a former Policy Analyst at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Renaud authored dozens of bills in 2013 and 2015 that addressed Texas prison conditions and parole supervision. As a Senior Policy Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative, he explored ways to scale back the unimaginably long sentences given to hundreds of thousands of incarcerated individuals. Renaud has an MS in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a BS in Psychology from Sam Houston State University, earned while he was serving time in prison for robbery.

Michael Reyes Salas

PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature The University of Texas at Austin

Michael Reyes Salas is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies social constructions of criminality in carceral narratives and French penal colony heritage. His dissertation examines the liberation struggles of imprisoned writers through a literary analysis of their memoirs and auto-fictional texts. Reyes Salas has been the recipient of the Rapoport Center Graduate Summer Fellowship, an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. His publications include “Institutionally Complicit: Challenging Leadership Orthodoxies in Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs” (Thinking Gender Papers, 2019) and “Marassa and Mestiza Consciousness: Comparing Danticat and Anzaldúa” (El Mundo Zurdo, 2016). Reyes Salas holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in English, Highest Honors, with a minor in French from the University of California Los Angeles.

Luis Romero

Assistant Professor of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies Texas Christian University

Luis Romero is Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University. His research and teaching focus on Latinas/os/xs, racial inequality, crimmigration, immigration enforcement, and detention. He published “Islamophobia and the Making of Latinos/as into Terrorist Threats” (Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2018) and co-authored “Immigration Detention, Inc.” (Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2018). Romero’s current work explores how immigrant families with a detained relative are surveilled and impacted both economically and emotionally. Romero was a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Southwestern University (2018-19). He holds a PhD and an MA in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, a BA in Sociology, Certificate in Race and Ethnicity, from Texas A&M University. 

Andreia Beatriz dos Santos

Co-founder Quilombo Xis - Açao Cultural Comunitária

Andreia Beatriz Silva dos Santos is a Brazilian medical doctor and activist whose work addresses the impact of state violence on Brazil’s Black community. A Black liberation leader, dos Santos is the co-founder of Quilombo Xis - Açao Cultural Comunitária, a human rights organization that promotes the Reaja ou Será Morta/React or Die anti-Black racism and anti-police brutality movement in Brazil. She also developed the project Saude e Cultura Intramuros (Health and Culture Behind the Walls). She brings together prison abolition and public health by providing health services and resources to persons who are incarcerated. For the past decade, dos Santos has served as one of only a handful of medical doctors for the state penitentiary in Bahia, Brazil (LEMOS). Dos Santos also works closely with the relatives and friends of prisoners to support resistance to the genocide of Black people.

Christen Smith

Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology; Director, Center for Women's and Gender Studies The University of Texas at Austin

Christen Smith is an Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is affiliated with the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Smith’s research focuses on engendered anti-Black state violence and Black community responses to it in Brazil and the Americas. Her book is titled Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence and Performance in Brazil (2016). Smith published “Facing the Dragon: Black Mothers, Gendered Necropolitics, Anti-black violence and Radical Refusal in the Americas” in Transforming Anthropology (2016). In November 2017, she created Cite Black Women as a radical praxis in citation that honors Black women’s transnational intellectual production. Smith holds a PhD and an MA in Cultural and Social Anthropology from Stanford University and an AB in Anthropology, with a Certificate in African-American Studies and Near Eastern Studies, from Princeton University.

Jordan Steiker

Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law; Director, Capital Punishment Center The University of Texas School of Law

Jordan Steiker is Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, where he also directs the Law School’s Capital Punishment Center. Steiker has written extensively on constitutional law, federal habeas corpus, and the death penalty. His book, Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment (with Carol Steiker, JD, 2016) won the 2017 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award. Recent articles include “Extraordinary Injustice in Texas Death Penalty Case Needs” (National Law J., 2016) and “The American Death Penalty and the (In)Visibility of Race” (with Carol Steiker, U. Chi. L. Rev., 2015). In 2010, Jordan Steiker and Carol Steiker authored a report that led the American Law Institute to vote to withdraw the capital punishment section of its Model Penal Code. Steiker served as the Touroff-Glueck Visiting Professor of Law and Psychiatry at Harvard Law School in 2018. Before joining the University of Texas School of Law, Steiker served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall. Steiker holds a JD from Harvard University and a BA from Wesleyan University. 

Gina Tarullo

Programs, Policy, and Impact Support Chicago Torture Justice Center

Gina Tarullo works on Programs, Policy, and Impact Support with the Chicago Torture Justice Center. She focuses on the destructive impact of police violence and incarceration on individuals and communities. Tarullo contributed to a pamphlet titled An (Abridged) History of Resisting Police Violence in Harlem (2012, Project NIA & Chicago Prison Industrial Complex). She is a graduate of the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois--Chicago, where her research explored the criminalization of youth, the connections between mental health and policing, and the need for social work to resist practices that perpetuate racist state violence. Tarullo is an organizer and policy advocate who supports homeless Chicagoans impacted by oppressive conviction registry requirements and housing banishment laws.

Vanessa Thompson

Postdoctoral Researcher & Lecturer, Institute of Sociology Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany

Vanessa Thompson is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt. She is an intersectional, decolonial scholar-activist that leans heavily into Fanonian—and mixed methods—styles of critique. Thompson's research interests include: theories on racism and critical race theory, black studies with a particular focus on black social movements in Europe, feminist postcolonial studies, decolonial studies, and methodologies, theories and practices of transformative justice. Her current research project focuses on racial gendered policing in Europe and transnational articulations of abolitionist alternatives from a black feminist perspective. Vanessa has published articles on the work of Fanon, black social movements in Germany and France, and racial gendered policing in Europe. She understands policing as an ongoing colonial project but also an ongoing racial-colonial relationship. Her work focuses on abolition and the colonial brutality and banality of policing and carcerality, particularly at it applies to the black body—and black being—in Europe (see her talk “The Police of The Earth. On the Conditions of Un-Breathing and The Possibilities of Abolitionist Horizons” from the Museum of Modern Art 2019 Symposium on Violence).

Elissa Underwood

Attorney & Scholar; Board Member Civil Rights and Immigration Section, Austin Bar Association

Elissa Underwood is an attorney and a scholar in Austin, Texas. Underwood’s research focuses primarily on food and foodways among currently and formerly incarcerated people, examining the right to food and the uses of food to resist the carceral state. Her article, “The Post-Incarceration Kitchen: Food-Based Community Organizing and Employment After Imprisonment” was recently published in The American Studies Journal (2018). Underwood has taught courses that employ incarceration and abolition as lenses through which to explore American culture. She is also on the board of the Austin Bar Association’s Civil Rights and Immigration section and mentors a child with an incarcerated parent through the Seedling Foundation. Underwood holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, a JD from Boston College Law School, and a BA in the Growth & Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College.

Clarence Watson

Social Work Student; Founder Students With A Purpose, Austin Community College; Co-coordinator, Austin Regional Chapter, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice

Clarence Watson is an Austin Community College (ACC) Social Work student and student liaison. At ACC, he founded “Students With A Purpose” (SWAP), an organization that works with criminal justice-involved students and their families. Watson is the Austin regional chapter Co-coordinator for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), a trauma-based organization dedicated to supporting the community and changing it at the highest level. In 2018, Watson participated in an ACC President’s Podcast, “Building Equity: Putting Ideas into Action.” Watson is a community activist and organizer determined to make a difference to formerly incarcerated students as well as the homeless community.

Hari Ziyad

Artist & Author; Editor-in-Chief, RaceBaitr

Hari Ziyad is an artist and the Editor-in-Chief of the digital publication, RaceBaitr. Their work engages with identity, race, gender and sexuality, ally politics, and the arts. It is informed by Ziyad’s passion for storytelling and wrestling with identity as a black, non-binary child of Muslim and Hindu parents while growing up in Cleveland. They authored Black Boy Out of Time: A Never Coming of Age Story (forthcoming, 2020) and recently published “The Future is Black: Afropessimism, Fugitivity and Radical Hope in Education” in Critical Ethnic Studies (2018). Other work has appeared in, for example, Gawker, Out, and The Guardian. Ziyad is a script consultant on the drama series David Makes Man (Oprah Winfrey Network) and Managing Editor for an online platform, Black Youth Project. Ziyad holds a BFA from New York University, where they concentrated in Film & Television and Psychology.