Justice Roundtable Clemency Event Participants

Roy L. Austin, Jr.

Roy Austin is a partner with the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. He began his career with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division investigating and prosecuting hate crime and police brutality cases. In 2000, he joined Keker & Van Nest LLP, working on complex civil and white-collar criminal cases, including a successful pro-bono lawsuit aimed at preventing racial profiling by the Calif. Highway Patrol. He joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. and prosecuted domestic violence, adult and child sexual assault, human trafficking, homicide and fraud and public corruption cases. He later became Senior AUSA and Coordinator of the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force.  In January 2010, Mr. Austin was appointed Deputy Asst Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, DOJ and supervised the Criminal Section, and the Special Litigation Section’s law enforcement portfolio.  In March 2014, he joined the White House Domestic Policy Council as Deputy Asst to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. Here, he worked with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, on issues of reentry, and was a member of Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

Rachel Barkow

Rachel Barkow is the Vice Dean and Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy at NYU School of Law. She also serves as the Faculty Director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU. In June of 2013, the Senate confirmed her as a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission. Since 2010, she has also been a member of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Policy Advisory Panel. Professor Barkow teaches courses in criminal law, administrative law, and constitutional law. In 2013, she was the recipient of the NYU Distinguished Teaching Award. The Law School awarded her its Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2007. After graduating from Northwestern University (B.A.’93), Barkow attended Harvard Law School (’96) where she won the Sears Prize. She served as a law clerk to Judge Laurence H. Silberman on the D.C. Circuit and Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Barkow was an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans in Washington, D.C.

Brittany Barnett

Brittany K. Barnett is an attorney and social justice advocate. As the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Brittany knows first hand the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching, devastating families and entire communities. She is co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, an organization that works to end life without parole sentencing handed down under federal drug laws through transformative litigation, legislation, and humanization. While working several years as a corporate attorney, Brittany was committed to pro bono representation of clients in federal prison. Her dedication to this life changing work paid off tremendously – resulting in executive clemency from President Obama for seven of her clients, as well as freedom for several additional clients through the federal court system. She is a member of the legal team that represented Alice Johnson, who was granted clemency from President Trump after serving over 21 years of a life without parole sentence. Brittany is also founder of Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM). GEM partners with women’s prisons in Texas and works to lessen the impact of maternal separation by strengthening the mother-daughter relationship and equipping girls with the tools to make positive life choices.

Norman Brown

Norman Brown is a lifestyle coach who helps recipients of Presidential commutations returning from federal prison to acclimate to society by helping to decrease their risk of recidivism. He bridges the gap that so frequently leaves re-entry citizens vulnerable to psychological setbacks, by helping them find the resources needed to function and grow. His experience goes beyond textbook, involving training and practicality. Norman himself was rewarded clemency from President Obama after serving 24 ½ years for a non-violent crime. He had the honor of having lunch with President Obama in 2015, after being rewarded clemency. Norman has received specialized training in public speaking, lifestyle coaching, and mentoring youths as well as adults. He plays a major role in working with youth for The Dept of Rehabilitation Services, and consults with the executive staff of DYRS in effective innovative approaches with training. He has spoken at the White House and testified for the Federal and DC Government on matters around Mass Incarceration. As Deputy Project Director for Project New Opportunity, Norman manages a staff of consultants who are working with clients preparing to reenter society and start their lives over in being productive citizens.

Rhozier “Roach” Brown

While serving a life sentence for murder at Lorton Reformatory, Roach Brown conceived and founded THE INNER VOICES, a national traveling prison theatrical troupe, wrote and directed several award winning plays, a television documentary and specials. The Inner Voices performed outside the gates of Lorton over 1,500 times without escape or incident. Roach designed a drug exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum for the White House, was invited by Members of Congress to testify on national legislation, designed a drug prevention program for the Embassy of Ghana and designed and implemented correctional programs. He has won acclaim at New York, Sundance, Cannes and International Film Festivals and developed prison therapeutic theater troupes. Because of his work with the Inner Voices, President Gerald Ford commuted his life sentence, on Christmas day 1975. A community activist extraordinaire, Roach Brown’s aggressive legislative organizing includes increased voter awareness and registration for returning citizens, support of ban the box campaigns and fair hiring practices, and repeal of federal mandatory minimum sentences. He is the host of WPFW-FM’s popular Cross Roads’ radio show.

MiAngel C. Cody

MiAngel Cody picks locks to human cages. As a federal criminal defense lawyer, Ms. Cody won presidential clemency and freedom for six prisoners serving life sentences for drug crimes. Ms. Cody has defended hundreds of people in federal court, achieving a range of courtroom victories, from jury acquittals to successful federal appeals to significantly reduced sentences. As Founder and Lead Counsel for The Decarceration Collective law office, Attorney Cody has seen incarcerated fathers and mothers kiss children goodbye. She’s watched judges lament that mandatory sentencing laws left them hamstrung with no discretion. She’s seen people leave prison with nothing to insure their future success. She’s witnessed a system dehumanize humans and, in doing so, become dehumanized itself. Ultimately, she has stood with people as they were sent into cages. And she’s received desperate calls when those same people returned from prison with nothing. In 2018, Ms. Cody received a Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship. In 2014, she received the Federal Bar Association’s Federal Lawyer of the Year Award. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC, Chicago Tribune, Amazon’s Audible Series and CNN.

Van Jones

Van Jones is the President and Co-Founder of #Cut50, CNN political commentator and host of The Messy Truth and the Van Jones Show. He is founder of The Dream Corps, Rebuild The Dream, Green For All, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change. Jones is a Yale-educated attorney and author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor. He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act, the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Obama. In this role, he helped to lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors. Jones has been honored with numerous awards and spotlighted on several lists of high achievers, including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation; Rolling Stone’s 2012 “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”; TIME’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The World”; and the Root’s 2014 “The Root 100.”

Jason Hernandez

In 2011 Jason Hernandez, who was serving a sentence of life without parole for a nonviolent drug crime, constructed his own clemency petition along with a letter asking President Obama to commute his sentence. On December 19, 2013, President Obama responded by commuting his sentence to twenty years. Jason was released in 2015, after 17 years in prison, and continued working on clemency petitions. In the process, he assisted six prisoners serving life receive a commutation through the Clemency Initiative. He continues to file petitions for prisoners in the state and federal system and is a recent recipient of a Soros Justice Fellowship wherein he will advocate for clemency to be used on a broader scale and create a toolkit that will allow prisoners, families of prisoners and students to initiate their own clemency campaigns.

Mark Holden
Mark Holden serves as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Koch Industries, Inc. He is also president and COO of the Legal Division of Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, which provides legal, government and public affairs services to Koch Industries, Inc. and its affiliates. In addition, he also serves as Chairman of the Board of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors of Americans For Prosperity. Mr. Holden began his career with Koch Industries in 1995 as a litigation attorney, and was vice president and general counsel for litigation and compliance. He has worked with the various Koch companies on a variety of litigation, regulatory, compliance, and commercial issues.  Mr. Holden earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts. He earned his law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, where he was an associate editor of the Catholic University Law Review.

Andrea James
Andrea James J.D is the Founder and Executive Director of the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Founder of Families for Justice as Healing, author of Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts On the Politics of Mass Incarceration, a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow, and recipient of the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award. As a former criminal defense attorney and a formerly incarcerated woman she shares her personal and professional experiences to raise awareness of the affect of incarceration of women on themselves, their children and communities. Her work is focused on ending incarceration of women and girls and contributing to the shift from a criminal legal system to community led human justice.

Alice Marie Johnson

Alice Marie Johnson, a first time offender, served 21 years of a life sentence without parole for a drug offense. To date she is the only person with a drug sentence commuted by President Trump. Alice was #1 on CAN DO Clemency’s list of the “Top 25 Women most Deserving of Clemency.” She was one of six people featured in the ACLUs ad campaign to end mass incarceration. Coordinated by the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and the Real Women Real Voices Symposium, while imprisoned Alice was able to use skype to address audiences at Ivy League Universities such as Yale and NYU, as well as Google. She was one of the call-in guests on Cross Roads’ National Clemency and Criminal Justice Reform RadioThon, and the Justice Roundtable brought her daughters to Washington, DC to join the White House’s March 31 Life After Clemency convening and bring attention to their mother’s case. Alice was a model prisoner with an exemplary prison record who is also an ordained minister. While imprisoned she wrote and produced numerous original plays and skits. Mic featured Alice in a video op ed in October 2017 that caught the attention of Kim Kardashian, who successfully advocated for her release at the White House. Alice has often referred to Kim as her “war angel.”

Paul J. Larkin, Jr.

Paul J. Larkin, Jr., is the Rumpel Senior Legal Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received his law degree from Stanford Law School. He has held numerous positions in the federal and state governments, as well as in the private sector. Among them are Assistant to the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice and Counsel to the Senate Judiciary under the chairmanship of Senator Orrin Hatch. He has written a variety of articles on clemency, such as Revitalizing the Clemency Process, 39 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 833 (2016); Essay: A Proposal to Restructure the Clemency Process—The Vice President as Head of a White House Clemency Office, 40 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 237 (2017); and “A Day Late and a Dollar Short”: President Obama’s Clemency Initiative 2014, 16 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 147 (2018).

Mark Osler
Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He also holds the Ruthie Mattox Preaching Chair at First Covenant Church, Minneapolis. Osler’s writing on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in law journals at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Georgetown, Ohio State, UNC, William and Mary, and Rutgers. A former federal prosecutor, he played a role in striking down a mandatory 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines by winning the case of Spears v. United States in the U.S. Supreme Court. Osler’s 2009 book Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon Press) critiqued the American death penalty through the lens of Jesus’ trial. His second book, Prosecuting Jesus (Westminster/John Knox, 2016) is a memoir of performing the Trial of Jesus in 11 states. Most recently, he is the author of Contemporary Criminal Law (West, 2018), a casebook. The character of Professor Joe Fisher in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet was based on Osler, and he has been the subject of profiles by Rolling StoneThe American Prospect, and CBS News.

Amy Ralston Povah

For the past eighteen years, Amy Ralston Povah has been an accomplished filmmaker, writer, speaker, and activist. After receiving clemency from President Clinton, she advocated for other women seeking “justice through clemency” and started the CAN-DO Foundation (Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders). Amy has organized five White House vigils for the prisoners profiled on the CAN-DO website; spoken on panels at Yale University, Pepperdine University, Vanderbilt University, Washington State University, New York University, Columbus School of Law, and on Capitol Hill. She wrote about the lack of women who received clemency from President Obama for the Federal Sentencing Reporter and authored Op Eds published in the New York Times, Fusion, San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill and 5 HuffPost articles. Amy submitted the numerous cases profiled by the “Mercy Lottery: Review of the Obama Administration’s Clemency Initiative released by NYU Law School. CAN-DO profiled and assisted 20 men and 44 of the 105 women who received clemency under President Obama’s clemency initiative. The CAN-DO media page. works to garner exposure for the prisoners on the CANDO website.

Kemba Smith
Growing up as an only child in Richmond, VA, Kemba Smith graduated high school and entered Hampton University. What happened to Kemba in her new campus environment was a nightmare, and led to a 24.5-year sentence in a federal prison. In Dec. 2000, after serving 6.5 years, President Clinton commuted her sentence to time served. Kemba shares her traumatic real life experience in her book, “Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story.” Featured on CNN, Nightline, Court TV, The Early Morning Show, Donahue, Judge Hatchett, and a host of other television programs, Kemba’s story has also been written about in national publications including The Washington Post, NY Times, Glamour, People, JET, Emerge, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Essence magazines. Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University and was a past recipient of a Soros Justice Fellowship. In December 2014, Kemba was appointed a member of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission by Governor Terry McAuliff. She has spoken at the White House and testified before Congress and the United Nations, and is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, high schools, juvenile facilities, churches and national conferences around the nation.

Nkechi Taifa

Nkechi Taifa is Advocacy Director for Criminal Justice at the Open Society Foundations and Open Society Policy Center and convener of the Justice Roundtable, a Washington-based coalition advancing federal justice reforms. Taifa was founding Director of the Equal Justice Program at Howard University Law School and adjunct professor at both Howard Law and American University Wash. College of Law. She was legislative counsel for the ACLU, serving as principal spokesperson for its Washington Office on criminal justice and civil rights issues. Taifa also served as public policy counsel for the Women’s Legal Defense Fund and as staff attorney for the National Prison Project. As a private practitioner she represented indigent adults and juveniles. Over the course of her career she has spoken across the country on justice reform and human rights issues and has testified before the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Council of the District of Columbia and the American Bar Association Justice Kennedy Commission. She has served on the boards of numerous public interest organizations, as consultant to various groups and projects, and as an appointed commissioner and chair of the DC Commission on Human Rights. Taifa received her JD from George Washington University Law School.

Ebony Underwood
Founder and CEO of We Got Us Now, Ebony Underwood is a social entrepreneur, filmmaker and Soros Justice fellow leading a powerful movement built by, led by and for children of incarcerated parents in an effort to create greater awareness about the issue of parental incarceration and the rippling effects of mass incarceration. Ebony’s interest in this advocacy work is personal and pivotal. As a daughter of an incarcerated parent, Ebony was traumatized and emotionally devastated by her father’s harsh mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. For 25 years she suffered with the shame and despair she felt. In 2014, she found her voice and began to speak publicly, sharing her story through film, television and social media advocacy. Ebony is a leading voice on the issue of children impacted by parental incarceration, speaking nationally at Yale, Columbia, American and NYU Law Schools, and John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Sing Sing State Correctional Facility, and Google. She has published op-ed articles in Huffington Post, Vibe and Mic, and spear-headed the Google-initiated #LoveLetters campaign to demonstrate the unbreakable bond between a child and their incarcerated parent on Mothers and Fathers Day.

 

 

 

Get the newsletter