We at Common Justice are a team of change-makers, who believe that we can make a difference by addressing violence through community-based solutions and centering the needs of survivors.
We at Common Justice are a team of change-makers, who believe that we can make a difference by addressing violence through community-based solutions and centering the needs of survivors.
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar, and best-selling author. Her award-winning book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, helped to spark a national debate about the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, and inspired racial justice organizing and advocacy efforts nationwide. Numerous commentators have dubbed The New Jim Crow “the bible of a social movement,” and the book has become a staple of university curriculums, advocacy trainings, reading groups, and faith-based study circles. Alexander has been featured on national radio and television media outlets, including, among others, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, MSNBC, C-Span, and Democracy Now!
She has also written for numerous publications including, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times, and The Huffington Post. Currently, she is a Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City where she is exploring the moral and spiritual dimensions of mass incarceration, and working with other committed souls on multi-media projects aimed at transforming public consciousness with respect to race, justice and democracy in America. Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the United States Supreme Court, and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Todd Clear is Distinguished Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He has authored 11 books and over 100 articles and book chapters. His most recent book is Imprisoning Communities, by Oxford University Press (May 2007). Other books focus on the topic of community justice, including What is Community Justice? (Sage, 2002),The Community Justice Ideal, (Westview, 2000), and Community Justice(Wadsworth 2003). Dr. Clear has also written on community-based correctional methods, intermediate sanctions, and sentencing policy. He is currently involved in studies of religion/spirituality and crime, the economics of justice reinvestment, and the concept of “community justice.” Dr. Clear has served as president of The American Society of Criminology, The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and The Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice. His work has been recognized through several awards, including those of the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, The Rockefeller School of Public Policy, the American Probation and Parole Association, the American Correctional Association, and the International Community Corrections Association. Dr. Clear was the founding editor of the journal Criminology & Public Policy, published by the American Society of Criminology. He received his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from The University at Albany.
A long-standing contributor to the arts and social justice efforts of New York City, Anne Delaney has served in the capacities of philanthropist, board member, volunteer, and founder of two foundations - Lambent and the Starry Night Fund. She’s returning to the NYWF Board following several years as its Board Chair. She’s also currently or previously served on the Boards of the Little Red Elizabeth Irwin School (LREI), Big Dance Theater, Peace is Loud, and the Ms. Foundation. Her participation have led to her receiving the Ms Foundation Gloria Award, NYWF’s Philanthropic Vision Award, Korean American Family Services Center’s (KAFSC) Vision in Action Award and other awards from the Women's Funding Network, Lower Eastside Girls Club, and the New York Studio School. Equal to her passion for grant making is being an avid collector. She proudly exhibits her own paintings and drawings locally at the Bowery Gallery, where she’s been a member for many years. Mother to two sons, Anne holds a BFA from Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan and an MFA from Hunter College.
Dr. Richard Dudley is a leading clinical and forensic psychiatrist based in New York. His work is divided between a clinical practice focused primarily on the evaluation and treatment of African-American adolescents, and a forensic practice. As a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Dudley is frequently called upon to provide expert opinion and testimony in connection with both criminal and civil matters throughout the United States. In both practices, he focuses on the mental health of young men of color in the criminal justice system. Earlier in his career, Dr. Dudley was Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services. In that role, he was instrumental in developing new clinical programs in mental health services. Subsequently, he became Medical Director of the Washington Heights-West Harlem Community Mental Health Center. He has held teaching appointments at New York University School of Law and at the City University of New York Medical School at City College, and currently serves on the board of Housing Works, Inc. He is a graduate of Temple University School of Medicine.
Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, is the President of Auburn Theological Seminary, a multifaith seminary that equips leaders with the organizational skills and spiritual resilience required to create a lasting, positive impact in local communities, on the national stage, and around the world. Prior to Auburn, she was the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Her leadership among New York’s advocates and organizers has centered on advocacy for children. As Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York, she worked with advocates to name and address New York’s cradle to prison pipeline crisis; to prioritize youth justice within New York’s diverse faith communities; and, to close abusive youth prisons redirecting resources to invest in youth and their communities. She was the founding Executive Director of Girls Incorporated of New York City, and Executive Vice President of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation’s first community development corporation. Rev. Jordan-Simpson has often been called upon to provide “quiet” emergency executive leadership and interim management for New York’s social service agencies, ensuring stability for African American children and at-risk youth. Committed to ending child sexual abuse, she is a licensed facilitator of the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children® program.
A graduate of Fisk University, Union Theological Seminary, and Drew Theological Seminary, she serves on the pastoral team at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, and on the Boards of the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York, FPWA, Faith Matters Network, and Western States Center.
Mr. Hill, executive director of the 8th Amendment Project (the national campaign to abolish the death penalty), formerly: director of the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina, and a partner with the nationally renown civil rights law firm Ferguson, Stein, Chambers, Gresham & Sumter, P.A. Mr. Hill received his B.A. degree from Lehman College at the City University of New York and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. Following 10 years at the DC Public Defender Service, in 1991 he led the North Carolina Death Penalty Resource Center, in Raleigh. Later founded and served as director of the non-profit organization, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Durham, North Carolina. He is a frequent presenter and lecturer for many programs and professional organizations on Trial Advocacy and Death Penalty Defense and has served as a Lecturer at Duke University School of Law and as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr. Hill was a founding member of The Charlotte Coalition for Moratorium Now, a grass roots organization that led the successful drive for a resolution supporting a Moratorium on executions by the Charlotte City Council.
Susan Jackson has been married for 45 years to her husband Kenneth. She is the mother of 2 children, Alisa T. Jackson Purvis, a prior teacher in the New York School System and now within the Maryland Education System, and Kenneth S. Jackson Jr. (deceased Oct 2007 through gun violence). She earned an Associate’s Degree in Teacher Education and completed her certificate program in Developmental Disability from Medgar Evers with honors (Magna Cum Laude). She also graduated with certification in Christian Education from The New York School of the Bible. Mrs. Jackson along with her daughter Alisa Jackson-Purvis co-founded a nonprofit organization called Volunteer Initiatives for Live-Long Learners Achieving Greater Excellence, (The V.I.L.L.A.G.E. Inc.). The organization offers many opportunities for children and young adults to be the best they can be. One of the programs offered here and on the campus of Lincoln University, PA is S.I.S.T.A.H (Sweet Inspiring Soul/Spirit Touching Another’s Heart).
Some of the other VILLAGE projects she is involved in are: Each One Feed One, Health & Wellness Program, K2 Reach Award Luncheon in honor of her son, which provides financial assistance to people in need who want to attend college or trade school. Susan has appeared at various events as a speaker for a wide range of organizations focused on reducing community violence and advancing alternatives to incarceration for Common Justice, the Marshall Project, New York City Probation’s Stop the Violence program, and many others. After the killing of her son Kenneth S Jackson Jr in 2007, Susan along with her husband Kenneth and daughter Alisa, has continued to promote peace within the community and open avenues to success.
Michael Jacobson is the director of the City University of New York's (CUNY) Institute for State and Local Governance and a professor of sociology at CUNY’s Graduate Center. Prior to joining CUNY in May 2013 he was the director of the Vera Institute of Justice for almost nine years. He is the author ofDownsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration (New York University Press 2005). A PhD in sociology, he has an ongoing academic career as well as more than twenty five years of government service. From 1998 to 2005, he was a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and CUNY’s Graduate Center. He was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction from 1995 to 1998. From 1992 to 1996, he was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. He also worked in the New York City Office of Management and Budget from 1984 to 1992 where he was the deputy budget director. He is also the Board Chair of the Criminal Justice Agency--New York City’s pretrial agency.
Maggie Lear is the President of The Frances Lear Foundation which focuses on criminal justice reform, the environment, arts education, and the next generation of progressive leaders. As a Clinical Social Worker, Maggie facilitates parent discussions through Parents In Action in NYC’s independent schools for grades K-12. At the non-profit Bottomless Closet Maggie works with low-income women on job readiness skills to assist clients in securing employment. Maggie previously served as the Director of Public Information for NYC’S Administration for Children’s Services, and worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in the pre-natal clinic doing HIV and supportive counseling for low-income women. She currently serves as the Chair of the the Board of Youth Represent and is the Chair of The Youth Justice Funding Collaborative, a group of funders and activists focusing on criminal justice reform in New Orleans.
Wayne S. McKenzie is currently General Counsel at the New York City Department of Probation where he is the primary advisor to the Commissioner and the Chief of Staff on all legal matters; ensures that the Department is operating within the law at all times and provides direction and administrative review to all Deputy, Associate and Assistant General Counsels and attorneys. Prior to working at Probation, he served as the director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program. Prior to joining Vera he was a prosecutor in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office where he held several supervisory positions, the last being deputy bureau chief of the Crimes Against Children Bureau.
He is a past president of the National Black Prosecutors Association and the current co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Committee on Racial & Ethnic Justice & Diversity. Additionally, he is a member of the ABA Council on Racial & Ethnic Justice. Wayne is also a trial advocacy faculty instructor at the Ernest Hollings National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. He has also appeared as a legal analyst on Court TV and Fox TV’s cable news and has presented on criminal justice issues in the United States and the United Kingdom. Wayne graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from The City College of New York and was in the master’s program in microbiology. He received his JD from George Washington University School of Law in Washington, DC.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad is professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library and the world’s leading library and archive of global black history. He is the award-winning author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard), and a contributor to a 2014 National Research Council study, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Khalil is a frequent reviewer and commentator in national print and broadcast media outlets, such as the New York Times, The Nation, National Public Radio and MSNBC.
He has appeared in a number of feature-length documentaries, including Slavery by Another Name (2012) and the Oscar-nominated 13th (2016). He holds two honorary doctorates and is on the boards of the Vera Institute of Justice, The Museum of Modern Art, The New York Historical Society, and The Nation magazine, as well as the advisory boards of Cure Violence, Common Justice, The HistoryMakers and the Lapidus Center for the Study of Transatlantic Slavery.
Dr. Anna Ortega-Williams is a social work scholar, practitioner, researcher, and organizer that is inspired by the healing alchemy of social action, youth development & wellbeing. Dr. Ortega-Williams is an Assistant Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. As a social work educator, she is committed to uncovering trauma recovery interventions that push the boundary of where micro-level clinical practice ends and macro-level practice begins. Her approach to social work centers cultural humility, anti-racist, intersectional, and anti-oppressive frameworks. Dr. Ortega-William's area of research focuses on historical trauma, post-traumatic growth, and social action in trauma recovery. She has been a social worker since 2001 and has provided individual, group and family counseling, in addition to working as a director, program developer, capacity builder and evaluator, for 14 years at the Red Hook Initiative. Her work has been informed by local, national and global social movements; in particular, Black youth-led responses to interrupting systemic violence.
She received her Bachelor’s degree from the City University of New York, Hunter College, Master’s degree from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and PhD in Social Work from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. She is also one of the founding members of the Radical Social Work Group. As a Black queer mom, activist and organizer, born and raised in public housing in the Bronx, she believes social work practice can promote joy, healing, imagination and hope when it is rooted in transforming social and economic justice and protecting human rights.
Meryl Schwartz is currently the Deputy Executive Director of the Innocence Project. Previously roles include Portfolio Manager at the Blue Ridge Foundation New York, non-profit strategy consultant, Director of Strategic Planning at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services and Director of Planning at the Vera Institute of Justice. Meryl began her legal career as a staff attorney in the Civil Division of the Legal Aid Society and the HIV Law Project at South Brooklyn Legal Services. She holds a BA from SUNY Binghamton and a JD from CUNY Law School at Queens College.
Michael Skolnik was recently profiled in the NY Times and identified as "the man you go to if you want to leverage the power of celebrity and the reach of digital media to soften the ground for social change." Michael is a partner and co-founder of The Soze Agency, a creative agency that works with companies, non-profits organizations and movements to create campaigns that uplift compassion, authenticity and equity. The Soze Agency is a worker-owned cooperative. Earlier in his career, Michael served as President of Global Grind, a media company focused on a millennial audience. Prior to that, he spent over a decade as an award-winning film director and producer. Michael serves on the Board of Directors for Rock The Vote, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Policy Link, The Gathering For Justice and The Young Partners Board of The Public Theater. Michael Skolnik is the proud father to Mateo Ali and partner to Paola Mendoza.
Ray Tebout is an experienced justice program leader who provides a wide range of technical assistance, and training to organizations working with justice-involved and substance abuse populations. Ray is currently the Assistant Dean of Student Services for NJSTEP (New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education Program), an organization that facilitates access to higher education for people incarcerated in New Jersey state prisons. Prior to working with NJSTEP, Ray managed higher-education and work readiness programs at the College Initiative and Fortune Society and has consulted with a number of other organizations and businesses to help develop leadership strategies for empower staff with justice-involved populations.
Ray’s practice areas include Theory Y leadership development, HR management, college access program development,, and performance improvement planning. Ray holds a BA in Counseling Psychology and Economics from the City University of New York, and is credentialed in strategic human resources, addiction counseling, and strength based human service practices. He is currently completing his MS in Human Resource Management with Central Michigan University.
Nicholas Turner joined Vera as its fifth president and director in August 2013. Nick previously served at Vera from 1998 to 2007. During his first tenure, he guided the expansion of Vera’s national work, launched and directed Vera’s state sentencing and corrections initiative, and supervised domestic violence projects and the creation of its youth justice program. As vice president and chief program officer, Nick was responsible for the development and launch of the Prosecution and Racial Justice Program and the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons. Prior to re-joining Vera, Nick was a managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation, where he was a member of the foundation’s senior leadership team and a co-leader of its global urban efforts. Earlier in his legal career, Nick was an associate in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York from 1997 to 1998. He was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Jack. B. Weinstein, Senior United States District Judge in Brooklyn from 1996 to 1997. Before attending Yale Law School, he worked with court-involved, homeless, and troubled young people at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a Washington, DC youth services organization, from 1989 to 1993. In 2015, Nick joined the advisory council of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new, independent nonprofit aiming to eliminate the gaps in opportunity and achievement for boys and young men of color.
He currently serves on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and the Advisory Board to New York City’s Children’s Cabinet. Nick has previously served on the boards of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Living Cities, Center for Working Families, and St. Christopher’s Inc.
Bruce Western is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Justice Lab at Columbia University. His research has examined the causes, scope, and consequences of the historic growth in U.S. prison populations. Current projects include a randomized experiment assessing the effects of criminal justice fines and fees on misdemeanor defendants in Oklahoma City, and a field study of solitary confinement in Pennsylvania state prisons. Western is also the Principal Investigator of the Square One Project that aims re-imagine the public policy response to violence under conditions of poverty and racial inequality. He was the Vice Chair of the National Academy of Sciences panel on the causes and consequences of high incarceration rates in the United States.
He is the author of Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (Russell Sage Foundation, 2018), and Punishment and Inequality in America (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, and a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Western received his PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was born in Canberra, Australia.
Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt retired as vice president of the Fund for the City of New York after serving over two decades. He is founder of Strategic Destiny: Designing Futures Through Faith and Facts. He has mentored thousands ranging from young people in foster care, juvenile detention facilities, adults in prison, as well as individuals in Corporate America, youth-serving organizations, the faith community, or mentees receiving their Ph.D. He serves as an adviser and consultant to government, colleges, civic groups, community based organizations, public and charter schools, education intermediaries, foundations and the broader faith community.
He is the author of seven books, his latest for young people is, Madd Truth: Lasting Lessons for Students of Life. Dr. Wyatt attended Howard University, Columbia Teachers College, The Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy, Columbia Business School Institute for Nonprofit Management, and New York Theological Seminary. He serves on the Board of The Osborne Association.