Commission Senior Fellows
As a Senior Policy Associate at a national foundation, Alex works with states to pass legislative reform packages that safely and substantially reduce the juvenile and adult incarcerated and probationary population. As part of this effort, Alex works directly with high-ranking government officials as well as various stakeholder groups and impacted communities to develop data-driven policy recommendations, to translate the recommendation into legislation, and to craft legislative strategies to move the recommendations into law. Prior to his current position and while obtaining his Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Alex served as a Graduate Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of the Deputy Secretary. As a fellow, Alex served on the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, helping to develop federal guidance and deliver technical assistance to communities of color on issues like the school to prison pipeline, chronic absenteeism and school nutrition programs. Before moving to Michigan, Alex helped advance the national drumbeat for criminal justice reform as a Legislative Aide at the American Civil Liberties Union. At the ACLU, Alex helped cultivate a national bi-partisan coalition to elevate the criminal justice conversation and lobbied the Obama Administration as well as members of Congress to pass regulatory and legislative reforms that would dramatically reduce the number of incarcerated people. After graduating from college, Alex joined Teach for America in Metro Atlanta and taught both first and fourth grade in a high-poverty school.
Criminal Justice Legislative Advocate (Washington DC '18)
Pamela is a Latina youth program manager and community organizer living in New York City. Following three years in investment banking, Pamela Villa Kundu left to work towards achieving a fairer criminal justice system. She currently works at BronxConnect, where she runs a youth program that focuses on incarceration prevention in the South Bronx. Prior to joining BronxConnect, Pamela spent a year organizing around two highly successful criminal justice campaigns: the #CLOSErikers campaign at the local level, and a speedy trial campaign at the state level. The #CLOSErikers campaign achieved great success in 2017 when NYC Mayor de Blasio vowed to close the facility. On the side, Pamela enjoys sharing facts and quotes by trailblazing women through a platform she created, AllTheWomen. Pamela is particularly interested in the intersection of gender equity and the criminal justice system, and would look forward to collaborating with and learning from other MPI Commission Fellows on all the issues that touch/intersect with the criminal justice system.
Pamela Villa Kundu
Prevention Services Program Manager, BronxConnect (Chicago '13)
Maritza Perez is a Legislative Staff Attorney at MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) in Washington, DC. She started her legal career there as a Soros Justice Fellow, advocating for policies to end mass incarceration and the disproportionate representation of Latinos in the criminal legal system. Today, her portfolio at MALDEF has expanded to include employment law, immigration policy, education rights, and judicial nominations. She represents the Latino voice in each of these issue areas. Maritza attended the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), where she received the highest distinction for her pro bono work in the areas of criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, and education access for disadvantaged students. She also clerked at some of the most respected civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Washington, DC and the ACLU of Northern California in San Francisco. Prior to law school, Maritza joined Teach For America and was a teacher in New Orleans. Her longstanding commitment to serving underrepresented people through law and political action earned Maritza a spot in the Huffington Post’s “40 Under 40: Latinos in American Politics” list of 2014. She currently serves as an Executive Board Member of various organizations, including the Women’s March DC and the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Maritza is originally from Elko, Nevada.
Legislative Staff Attorney, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
Sarah Schirmer is the Criminal Justice Policy Advisor in Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Office of Criminal Justice Coordination where she is responsible for strategic planning, policy research, and cross-agency coordination of the Mayor's priorities for the criminal and juvenile justice systems. In this role, Sarah leads the city’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce overuse of jail. Sarah was one of the inaugural members of the New Orleans Innovation Delivery Team, joining the team as the Performance Management Lead, overseeing performance management and measurement for the city’s murder reduction strategy, NOLA FOR LIFE, Customer Service, and Economic Opportunity initiatives, and conducting in-depth data analysis and research pertaining to the murder reduction strategy. Sarah has worked on a broad range of issues in the criminal justice system for ten years, including murder reduction, policing strategies, information sharing and systems, problem-solving courts, reentry, prison education, sentencing, and budgeting. Her passion lies in developing and supporting the implementation of policies and solutions that will end intergenerational involvement with the criminal justice system. Sarah received a Master of Public Administration from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs at Cornell University and completed her undergraduate studies at Temple University with a Bachelor of Political Science.
Criminal Justice Policy Advisor, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Coordination
Natasha Baker is a Skadden Legal Fellow at Open City Advocates, where she represents juveniles during incarceration and re-entry. She is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School (J.D.) and Boston College (B.A.) Between undergrad and law school, Natasha worked in both private and public education in France, Brazil, and the United States. In law school, she sought out opportunities in criminal justice and civil rights, including internships with the Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender in California, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights non-profit legal organization as well as clinical experience as a student-attorney in the Prisoner & Reentry Clinic. She is a dual American and Brazilian citizen and a native of Silicon Valley. In her spare time, she can be found doing capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art) and getting involved in the #resistance. She is a 2012 NLC-Silicon Valley fellow.
Skadden Legal Fellow, Open City Advocates (Silicon Valley '12)
Commission Senior Advisors
Kanya Bennett serves as a Legislative Counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. In this capacity, Kanya advances criminal justice reform at the federal level. Prior to joining the ACLU, Kanya spent over three years at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy as the Director of Policy Development and Programming where she focused on civil and criminal justice issues. Kanya also served as Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 2003 to 2011 and completed a year-long fellowship at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation immediately following her graduation from law school. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and earned her law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
John Butler is the Director of Research and Outreach at Fair and Just Prosecution, a national non-profit that works with newly elected reform-minded prosecutors to help them implement their ambitious policy agendas through regular convenings, policy research, and expert assistance. In this role, John manages a team of lawyers and criminal justice policy experts and provides direct assistance to elected prosecutors and their senior staff on a wide range of criminal justice issues, including bail reform, alternatives to incarceration, drug policy, and police accountability. His clients include 18 elected DA’s, including Chicago State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Philly DA Larry Krasner, and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. John is also an Associate Director at the Center for Court Innovation, where his work focuses on court-based reform to the criminal justice system, including planning community courts and expanding procedural justice. Prior to joining the Center, John clerked on the District Court of New Jersey, worked as a researcher for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and was a director at a youth development non-profit in Newark, NJ. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Brown University, a Masters in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. He is the President of the Board of BioBus, Inc. and a Trustee at Frost Valley, YMCA; two education non-profits in the New York metropolitan area.
Director of Research & Outreach,
Fair and Just Prosecution
Brent J. Cohen is the Interim Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA). JLUSA is a national, member-driven advocacy organization that seeks to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030 by empowering people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to drive criminal justice reform. Brent is a noted justice reformer, with senior-level government experience at the city and federal level and a track record of legislative, policy, and operations successes. Previously, Brent served as an appointee in the Obama Administration, where he was a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). At DOJ, Brent focused on reforming state and local criminal and juvenile justice systems by addressing racial disparities and reducing reliance on incarceration. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Brent was the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the New York City Department of Probation, where he doggedly pursued progressive criminal justice reform and successfully passed several pieces of state legislation to implement the department’s ambitious reform agenda. In 2013, Brent was one of twelve people appointed by President Obama to be a White House Fellow. Brent began his career as a teacher in South Los Angeles. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master of Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Brent J. Cohen
Interim CEO & Vice President, JustLeadershipUSA
Khalil A. Cumberbatch is the Associate Vice President of Policy for the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy leading The Fortune Society’s advocacy, policy, research, and community education efforts. Mr. Cumberbatch has worked within the reentry community in NYC since 2010, when he was released after serving almost seven years in the NYS prison system. In 2014, he was one of two recipients of an Executive Pardon from NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to prevent his deportation from the United States. He is a powerful motivational speaker and formerly incarcerated national advocate for social justice issues. Khalil graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College in 2014 where he was awarded the Urban Justice Award for his work with underserved and marginalized communities that have ineffective access to social "safety nets." Khalil previously served as Manager of Training at JustLeadershipUSA, advancing campaigns to reduce mass incarceration. Khalil also serves as a lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work.
Associate Vice President of Policy,
The Fortune Society
Representative Laura Fine is serving her third full term as the State Representative of the 17th District in Illinois, which encompasses Chicago’s Northern suburbs. Representative Fine chairs the Insurance (Health & Life) Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, is Vice Chairman of the Mental Health Committee, and serves on the Appropriations-Higher Education, Human Services, Environment, and Insurance (Property and Casualty) Committees. Her legislative focus has been on consumer protection, environment and youth and young adults. Some of her current legislation include, expanding insurance coverage for treatment of eating disorders, implementing meaningful rate review for proposed health insurance premium increases, and incorporating key provisions from the Affordable Care Act that are not already the law in Illinois into the Illinois Insurance Code so that those protections remain even if Congress repeals the ACA. Last session, she chaired House Committee on Youth and Young Adults and has since been working on legislation to raise the age of juvenile courts to 21. Prior to being elected to the state legislature, Representative Fine was an instructor in the Political Science Department at Northeastern Illinois University and served as the Clerk of Northfield Township. Representative Fine has also worked in radio and television news for various media outlets throughout the Midwest. She is currently a board member of Angles (formerly Links North Shore Youth Health Service). Representative Fine holds a B.A. in telecommunications from Indiana University, an M.A. in political science from Northeastern Illinois University, and is a graduate of the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership; graduate of Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development; Edgar Fellow; member, Kiwanis Club of Glenview-Northbrook, Rotary Club of Glenview Sunrise and Glenview/Glencoe League of Women Voters. Representative Fine lives in Glenview with her husband, Michael and their two sons.
Illinois State Representative
Dwanna Nicole serves as Advancement Project’s Director of Policy and Stakeholder Outreach. In this role, she develops strategies to implement the policy agenda of Advancement Project and its partner organizations by supporting local, state, and national campaigns. She also builds and maintains relationships with external stakeholders, including teachers’ unions, school officials, law enforcement, judges, and policymakers to create a diverse constituency of support for Advancement Project’s initiatives. Prior to joining Advancement Project, she served as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Young Women’s Project, where she worked with local elected officials and government agencies to design and implement youth led campaigns, including those focused on health, education, and child welfare. Dwanna has held policy positions at nonprofits, within school systems, and at the local government level. She has coordinated legislative activities for various organizations and coalitions, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Let Haiti Live Coalition, and has developed legislation for the Maryland General Assembly, Council of the District of Columbia, City of Richmond, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County Public Schools Boards of Education. Dwanna routinely administers workshops for educators on the harms of exclusionary discipline policies and practices. She works with schools and school districts throughout the country to assist them with developing strategies to create more positive school climates for students, educators, and families, and provides training in restorative justice to educators and community members.
Director, Policy and Stakeholder Outreach,
Nicole D. Porter manages The Sentencing Project’s state and local advocacy efforts on sentencing reform, voting rights, and eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Her advocacy has supported criminal justice reforms in several states including Kentucky, Missouri, and California. Porter was named a "New Civil Rights Leader" by Essence Magazine in November 2014 for her work to eliminate mass incarceration. Since joining The Sentencing Project in 2009, Porter's work has been cited in several major media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, and National Public Radio. She has given a number of talks on state sentencing policy, collateral consequences, and racial disparity to various audiences including the League of Women Voters, NAACP, and the United Methodist Women's Assembly. Porter is the former director of the Texas ACLU’s Prison & Jail Accountability Project (PJAP). PJAP’s mission was to monitor the conditions of confinement in state jails and prisons. Porter advocated in the Texas legislature to promote felony enfranchisement reforms, to eliminate prison rape, and improve prison medical care. Porter received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. Her master’s thesis addressed exploring self-employment among formerly incarcerated African Americans. She also studied African Politics at the University of Ghana, West Africa.
Director of Advocacy, The Sentencing Project
Marc Schindler is Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a national research and policy organization dedicated to reducing the use of incarceration in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Prior to joining JPI in 2013, Marc was a partner with Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), a philanthropic investment organization funding youth programs in the National Capital Region. Schindler came to VPP from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), Washington, DC’s juvenile corrections agency. At DYRS he held numerous leadership positions between 2005-2010, including General Counsel, Chief of Staff, and Interim Director. While there he helped lead overall management of the agency and reforms, and was the agency’s point person on issues related to professional development, communications, legislative relations and internal investigations. Prior to joining DYRS, he served as a Staff Attorney with the Youth Law Center (YLC), a national public interest civil rights law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of young people in juvenile justice and child welfare systems nationwide, from 1997 to 2005. Marc also served as co-chair of the national Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition in Washington, DC, was a founding member of the Justice for DC Youth Coalition, and taught children’s rights at American University’s Washington College of Law. Schindler has served on numerous boards and commissions including as a member of the ABA’s Juvenile Justice Committee, the DC Police Complaints Board, the Maryland Governor’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice, the Committee for Baltimore’s Children, and the Mayor’s Advisory Council on a Safer, Stronger DC. He previously worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Baltimore's juvenile court representing children in delinquency proceedings. He is a recognized expert in the field, providing commentary in the national media, and is also the author of numerous articles and book chapters. Marc is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Maryland School of Law.
Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute
Judge Steven C. Teske is the Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA. He was appointed juvenile court judge in 1999 and also serves as a Superior Court Judge by designation. Teske has testified before Congress on four occasions and several state legislatures on detention reform and zero tolerance policies in schools. The Governor has appointed him to the Children and Youth Coordinating Council, Governor’s Office for Children and Families, DJJ Judicial Advisory Council, JDAI Statewide Steering Committee, Georgia Commission on Family Violence, and the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Commission. He served two terms on the Federal Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and is the National Chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. He is a member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and has served on the Board of Directors. He is past president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the Clayton County Bar Association. He has written several articles on juvenile justice reform published in the Juvenile and Family Law Journal, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, Juvenile Justice and Family Today, Family Court Review, and the Georgia Bar Journal. His book, Reform Juvenile Justice Now, is a collection of essays on juvenile justice issues. He is a Toll Fellow of the Council of State Governments and received his J.D., M.A., and B.I.S. degrees from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. Judge Teske is an adjunct law professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, GA.