Prison Policy Initiative Alumns

The success of the Prison Policy Initiative is due in large part to the students and other volunteers who give large gifts of time. We are proud to have worked with them and look forward to staying in touch with all of them. On this page you can learn more about some of our past volunteers and staff, their contributions, and their current work.

As a participant in our 2011 Alternative Spring Break program, Andrew Adams helped to complete our Primer for reporters on county or municipal redistricting & prison-based gerrymandering before calling dozens of rural reporters to introduce them to the problem of prison-based gerrymandering. Andrew is currently a law student at City University of New York School of Law.

As a first year student at Smith College, Natalie Aflalo helped out one afternoon a week with our prison gerrymandering and other projects in the spring of 2013.

Erika Arthur's research on prison-based gerrymandering in the summer of 2008 was published in Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in California. California went on to be the fourth state in the nation to end prison-based gerrymandering.

In 2006, Arla Berman worked on projects that were later published as Phantom constituents in the Empire State and the Democracy Toolkit.

As a 2006 law clerk, Brett Blank led our research that was published as Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Illinois. He also published Prisons Warp Vote on TomPaine.com which explained how the prison industry exploits a loophole in Reynolds v. Sims to exert direct influence over the political process. He will graduate from the Western New England College School of Law in May 2009.

As a January Term 2014 intern, Catherine Cain's projects included creating a database of progressive legislators and contributing to our Locator Tool before returning to work with us in the Fall of 2014. She is currently a Junior at Smith College.

As a participant in our 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, Jennifer Cioffi helped us build a database that will help end prison-based gerrymandering in Nevada and Mississippi. She will graduate from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2013.

After graduating from Smith College in 2009, Avi Cummings volunteered as a research intern at the Prison Policy Initiative. Among other accomplishments, he co-authored a report on prison gerrymandering in Maryland — which led to that state being the first in the nation to enact a law requiring that incarcerated people be counted at home for redistricting purposes — and researched the impact of incarceration on families and communities. Avi now lives in New York and works at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project as the Director of Grassroots Fundraising.

As part of our 2007 Alternative Spring Break program, JooHye DellaRocco calculated how the prison miscount harms democracy in rural Tennessee, co-authoring Phantom Constituents in Tennessee's Boards of County Commissioners. She graduated in 2007 with a Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York at Albany.

As a participant in our 2010 Alternative Spring Break program, Christian de Ocejo helped prepare our reports Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Connecticut and Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: A 50 state guide. The Connecticut report led to legislation being introduced in that state, and the 50 state report was cited in a New York Times editorial. Christian will graduate from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2012.

Emily Doll, a 1L at the University of North Carolina School of Law, performed research for us over winter break about the history of a provision in the National Municipal League's Model State Constitution (Section 4.04(b), 6th ed., 1963) that prohibits prison gerrymandering.

Sue Gershon came to us from our partner Demos in 2010. She wrote the article 20 years ago, California's Attorney General endorsed counties' response to prison count, and helped to prepare a half dozen fact sheets and a over a thousand individualized letters to county officials in rural counties that had large prisons. In January 2011, she will be joining the Boston office of the Public Interest Network as Assistant General Counsel.

Hillary Fenton was a Prison Policy Initiative law clerk in 2012 where she investigated prison-based gerrymandering in county and municipal governments. Some of her findings are available in articles she authored about Arkansas, California and Louisiana. She graduated from the Boston College School of Law in May 2014. In August 2014, she started working as a public defender in the Committee for Public Counsel Services Worcester office.

picture of Corey FrostCorey Frost led our research on the correctional standards in order to support the Prison Policy Initiative's work fighting to end letter bans in local jails. He is the author of Protecting Written Family Communication in Jails: A 50-State Survey, the first draft of which he prepared as a participant in our Alternative Spring Break program. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in May 2016, and he will join Legal Aid of North Carolina as an Everett Fellow in Fall 2016.

picture of Rachel GandyRachel Gandy, an LBJ School of Public Affairs & UT School of Social Work graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, joined us as an intern for Summer 2015. Her work included analyses of the geographic patterns in the racial disparites between incarcerated people and prison staff, the death penalty, the differing views on confidence in the police by Blacks and Whites, the parole failures behind New York State's elderly prison boom, and explaining explaining Texas' overnight prison boom. She graduates in 2016.

William Goldberg was a Prison Policy Initiative intern in 2006 and a research associate in 2007. Among other projects, he wrote Imprisoned in Low Wages: Limited access to education for people in prison leads to economic exclusion in the July/August 2007 issue of Dollars & Sense and co-authored our reports The Geography of Punishment and Phantom Constituents in the Empire State.

picture of Sadie Gold-ShapiroSadie Gold-Shapiro worked with the Prison Policy Initiative one or two afternoons a week while she was a student at Smith College. She curated the Research Clearinghouse, and her recent projects have included cross-checking our annotations of correctional facilities in the 2010 Census and researching CenturyLinks's call termination practices for our Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry report.

As an undergraduate, Ellie Happel researched how the New York City council's use of flawed Census Bureau counts of the Rikers Island population to draw council districts distorts electoral democracy. This research won her the 2005 Borgman Prize for the best senior thesis in the social sciences at New York University, and her findings were included in our report Phantom Constituents in the Empire State: How Outdated Census Bureau Methodology Burdens New York Counties.

Stephen Healy co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative in 2001. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Geography in the Physical and Earth Sciences department at Worcester State College.

As a 2006 law clerk, John Hejduk wrote Census Bureau's Prisoner Count Hurts Ohio Democracy and co-wrote Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin. He will graduate from the Western New England College School of Law in May 2009.

As a a junior at Smith College, Sarah Hertel-Fernandez helped out as a intern in the Spring Semester of 2014, and was a part-time Research Associate in the summer.

Kip Hustace came from Stanford Law School for Alternative Spring Break 2014 where he investigated prison gerrymandering in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin school boards.

Rose Heyer developed that GIS methodology for the Prisoners of the Census project, enabling us to quickly calculate how Census Bureau's prison miscount distorts representative democracy. She produced our most popular map U.S. Prison Proliferation, 1900-2000 and she co-authored Too big to ignore: How counting people in prisons distorted Census 2000, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Massachusetts, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Texas, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Ohio, and Thirty-Two Years After Attica: Many More Blacks in Prison but not as Guards. Rose is now GIS and CAD consultant in California.

In 2006, Ben Iddings was the first editor of our legal resources for prisoners database. Ben did the hard work of the original compilation, allowing us to easily update the list each year. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law and is now a public defender in Fort Collins, CO.

picture of Elydah Joyce Elydah Joyce, who is entering her fourth year at Hampshire College and is a leader of the school's chapter of Students Against Mass Incarceration, joined us as a Research Associate for Summer 2015. Elydah has helped us with illustrations about our prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zone, and video visitation projects. To see some of her work, see The prison phone industry's new business model: Fee Harvesting and Are campaign contributions the new "commission"? Analysis of Securus's contributions in Sacramento.

As a participant in our 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, Kris Kauffman helped us build a database that will support ending prison-based gerrymandering in Wyoming and Louisiana. He will graduate from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2014.

As a policy intern from the Smith College School of Social Work (Class of 2012), Alex Kim helped with outreach to rural county and municipal officials about the solutions to prison-based gerrymandering.

picture of Yoo Eun KimYoo Eun Kim was a work-study Research Associate at PPI from Spring 2014 to Spring 2016. Among other responsibilities, she was responsible for our legislator outreach list. Read some of Yoo Eun's work here. She graduates from Smith College in May 2016.

As a participant in our 2011 Alternative Spring Break program, Cara Kowalski reached out to dozens of rural reporters in Oklahoma and Texas to introduce them to the problem of in county and municipal redistricting. Following graduation from SUNY Geneseo with degrees in sociology and geography in 2011, she ran a food bank in Spokane, WA through AmeriCorps and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. She is now a volunteer coordinator for Sullivan Renaissance, a community beautification non-profit in the Catskills region of New York.

Sarah Kowalski co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative in 2001. After she graduated from Smith College in 2003, she lived in China teaching English. In 2008, she moved back to the U.S. to seek a position as a high school teacher of Chinese.

As a participant in our 2011 Alternative Spring Break program, Drew Kukorowski helped to complete our Primer for reporters on county or municipal redistricting & prison-based gerrymandering before calling dozens of rural reporters to introduce them to the problem of prison-based gerrymandering.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law, Drew returned to the Prison Policy Initiative for 4 months in 2012 to help us investigate the extent -- and frequent avoidance -- of prison-based gerrymandering in rural counties and municipalities. Somehow he found the time to prepare a groundbreaking report, The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry, and worked with our partner SumOfUs to collect 36,690 public comments calling on the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the prison telephone industry. His work was cited in a New York Times editorial, in letters from Congress to the FCC, and in a major exposé of the industry on Bloomberg Businessweek. He also co-authored a follow up report, Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry, exposing the prison phone industry's hidden fees, which saddle the families of incarcerated people with staggeringly high phone bills. You can also see Drew explain the issue on Russia Today.

Drew also has an M.A. in Philosophy from Tufts University and holds bar licenses in Maryland and North Carolina. He currently works at the Council for Children's Rights in Charlotte and defends children that are charged with crimes.

As a participant in our 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, Lynnsey Lafayette reached out to dozens of counties and municipalities in Georgia to determine how they handled the problem of prison-based gerrymandering. She also helped us build a database that will support ending prison-based gerrymandering in Nebraska. Currently (spring 2013) she is working for a law firm in Athens, Georgia. She will graduate from the George Mason University with a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution in May 2013.

Elena Lavarreda joined the Prison Policy Initiative as a research associate shortly after graduating from Smith College in 2008. Among other projects, she co-authored reports about prison gerrymandering in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. The Massachusetts report became the basis of a resolution that passed the state legislature in August 2014. Shortly after leaving PPI, Elena joined the staff of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin as Statewide Organizer and Lobbyist. In 2013 she earned a Master's degree in Gender and Women's Studies from UW Madison. In 2013 Elena returned to PPI as a consultant and researched the effects of prison gerrymandering on school board districts. Her methodology was the prototype for the Alternative Spring Break 2014 research project. Elena lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a Policy Analyst at the Service Employees International Union 32BJ. SEIU 32BJ is a union that represents building service workers and fights for economic, social, and racial justice for all working people. Elena has the great privilege of serving on the board of New York Abortion Access Fund which supports anyone who is unable to pay fully for an abortion and is living in or traveling to New York State by providing financial assistance and connections to other resources.

Lauren Marcous worked with us as a law clerk on a Public Interest Fellowship in the summer of 2010. She researched how prison-based gerrymandering harms democracy in dozens of rural counties around the country, and wrote articles about her findings in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Her Alabama article was picked up by the Atmore Advance. She graduated from the Western New England School of Law in 2012.

Laura Meyer worked with us on the Prisoners of the Census project, researching how prison gerrymandering harms democracy in counties and cities around the country.

Corey Michon, a senior at Williams College joined us for two weeks in 2016 as part of our Alternative Spring Break program where she wrote about Uncovering Mass Incarceration's Literacy Disparity. She has previously worked with the Innocence Project in New Orleans, as well as the Political Science Department of Williams College conducting research on millennial racial attitudes.

Ryan Morrow's research while he was a student at Western New England College School of Law in 2004 and 2005 helped us understand the history of Kansas' practice of adjusting the census' counts of students and the military for the purposes of state legislative redistricting. Kansas' law demonstrated that it was technically possible to adjust the census to count particular populations at alternative locations and was an inspiration for the laws ending prison-based gerrymandering that were passed in Maryland and New York.

As part of our 2006 Alternative Spring Break program, Yugo Nakai researched how how the prison miscount distorts democracy in Illinois counties. This research was published in Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Illinois. His work helped to fine tune our research methodology eventually published in Democracy Toolkit. He graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2007 and is now a Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association.

As a first year first year law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Rebecca Neubauer helped us with a project on automatic suspension of drivers licenses for drug convictions unrelated to driving.

As a participant in our 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, Stephanie Rainaud helped us build a database that will help end prison-based gerrymandering in Missouri. She will graduate from the St. John's University School of Law in 2014.

Sophia Robohn joined the Prison Policy Initiative in the summer of 2014 on a RRASC Internship. Sophia, a Hampshire College student, focused on researching prison gerrymandering in school boards across the country.

As part of our 2007 Alternative Spring Break program, Meghan Rudy helped to complete research on how counties in New York State grapple with the redistricting implications of the Census Bureau's decision to count people in prison as residents of the census block that contains the prison. She co-authored our report, Empire State: How outdated Census Bureau methodology burdens New York counties, the findings of which were endorsed by the New York Times editorial board. She will graduate from the Hofstra University School of Law in May 2009.

picture of Leah SakalaLeah Sakala worked with the Prison Policy Initiative in various capacities, including as a Senior Policy Analyst, from 2008 to 2015. She is the author of Return to Sender: Postcard-only Mail Policies in Jail, which the National Institute of Corrections called "required reading for policy makers and anyone working with individuals in jail custody," and also Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity. She also co-authored Reaching too far, coming up short: How large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark, Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, and States of Incarceration: The Global Context. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College. She is currently an Associate at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, in December 2016 will graduate with a dual Master of Public Policy/MBA in Nonprofit Management Program at the Brandeis University Heller School.

As a participant in our 2014 Alternative Spring Break program, Arielle Sharma researched prison gerrymandering in school board jurisdictions around the country, and developed innovative new messaging for our work on ending prison gerrymandering and reforming sentencing enhancement zone policy. She will graduate from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2016.

As a summer intern in 2006 from Smith College, Justine Sheffler found the data that became our Phantom Constituents in Tennessee's Boards of County Commissioners report and helped to map the exclusion of people on Georgia's sex offender registry for the Southern Center for Human Rights' Whitaker v. Perdue case. She graduated from Smith College in 2008, and is now (2011) doing outreach and development work at Nuestra CDC, a nonprofit working to improve the built and environment and promote community wealth generation in Roxbury, Mass.

As a participant in our 2011 Alternative Spring Break program, Marbre Stahly-Butts reached out to dozens of rural reporters in Texas and California to introduce them to the problem of in county and municipal redistricting. Marbre is a 1L at Yale Law School.

As a policy intern from the Smith College School of Social Work (Class of 2012), Morgan Stone helped to build a database of correctional facility locations to be used for redistricting.

As a summer intern in 2006, Allison Tompkins researched how how the Census Bureau's prison miscount distorts democracy in rural counties. Her work helped us fine tune the our research methodology eventually published as the Democracy Toolkit. Allison also spent a week helping us to map bus stops in Georgia for the Southern Center for Human Rights' lawsuit Whitaker v. Perdue which challenged Georgia's ban on people on the sex offender registry from living within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and a long list of other places including school bus stops. The state's hundreds of thousands of school bus stops are, almost by definition, any place there is habitable housing. The legislature unwittingly declared all urban areas, all suburban areas and most rural areas off limits. This law was so extreme that it merited opposition from many of the state's sheriffs. This litigation is still ongoing. Allison graduated from Smith College in 2008.

Lindsie Trego is a law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law. She was conducting pro bono research on some of the prison and jail phone industry's dirtiest profit-boosting, family-fleecing tricks including the companies seizing customer's funds instead of turning them over to state unclaimed funds programs.

As a participant in our 2010 Alternative Spring Break program, Sheila Vennell O'Rourke wrote a memo with a list of most of the new prisons built or expanded from 2000 to 2010 and the Idaho profile in our report Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: A 50 state guide. This report was cited in a New York Times editorial. Sheila graduated from the Roger Williams School of Law in 2012 and is currently a clerk for Justice Thomas G. Saylor of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 2013-2014, she will be clerking for Judge John E. Jones, III, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania before seeking a career in public interest law.

Alison Walsh worked with Prison Policy Initiative as a Policy and Communications Associate. She co-authored States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2016 and assisted with the research for our national project on driver’s license suspensions for non-driving related drug offenses. Alison currently works as an animal care specialist for the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In 2011-2012, Carson Whitelemons worked with us one day a week on our project working to end prison-based gerrymandering, primarily building out our Correctional Facility Locator. She graduated from Smith College in May 2012 and is now a Research Associate in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

In 2003, Matt Widmer researched how all 50 states define in their constitutions and statutes where people in prison reside. His research formed an integral part of all future publications and advocacy on the Prisoners of the Census project. He is now an attorney in Alaska.

As a participant in our 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, Tom Wiehl helped us build a database that will support ending prison-based gerrymandering in Vermont and Idaho, and he used his skills developed while earning an MFA in Fine Arts to help us graphically explain vote dilution and prison-based gerrymandering in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2013 and is now a Staff Attorney at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Children and Family Law Division.

As a first year first year law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Joseph Miles Wobbleton helped us with a project on automatic suspension of drivers licenses for drug convictions unrelated to driving.

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