Criminal Justice Advocacy & Policy Counsel/Strategist – ACLU of Arizona

For the past nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of every major civil liberties fight in our country’s history.  Whether it’s ending mass incarceration, achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right to vote, we take up the toughest civil liberties issues to defend all individuals from government abuse and overreach.  With ACLU affiliate offices in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, we fight tirelessly in the courts, legislatures, and through community engagement to ensure that all individuals’ rights are protected.

Arizona has the country’s sixth highest rate of incarceration, the highest of the Western states. Between 2003 and 2013 the state had the third highest rate of prison population growth in the country, despite the fact that violent crime decreased by 41% and property crime decreased by 53% during that same time period.  The state’s machine of mass incarceration severely limits the ability of people, disproportionately people of color, to participate in the social, political and economic life of this country.

The ACLU of Arizona is committed to reducing jail and prison populations by 50 percent and to reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system.  Over the next three years, the ACLU of Arizona will work with state-based partners to engage in an ambitious campaign to substantially reduce the state’s incarcerated population, while also keeping communities safe, treating people fairly, and using fiscal resources wisely.

Criminal justice reform is one of four strategic priority areas for the ACLU of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights in Arizona.  Our three other priority areas are: educational equity, LGBT equality and immigrants’ rights. The ACLU of Arizona has 13 staff members, 23 board members, approximately 19,000 members, and an annual budget of $2,074,070, which includes a significant influx of resources to hire seven new positions in FYE 2018. Additional information about our work can be found at:

The ACLU of Arizona seeks a Criminal Justice Advocacy & Policy Counsel/Strategist who can guide the reform efforts that will be a centerpiece of our campaign.  The ideal candidate will have direct experience working within the Arizona criminal justice system and will have policy advocacy experience.  This is a three-year limited duration position, with possibility of extension, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Position

Reporting to our Policy Director, the Criminal Justice Advocacy & Policy Counsel/Strategist will be responsible for identifying areas of potential reform within the criminal justice system to pursue in order to support the campaign’s goals, drafting legislation and policy guidance to address those changes, and working closely with partners within the advocacy community, public, criminal justice system, and policymakers to achieve those changes.

One major focus of the ACLU of Arizona’s campaign will be reform of the money bail system.  For example, roughly 75% of those currently held in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office facilities are held pretrial, and are therefore presumed to be innocent. Many of these defendants remain in custody solely because they cannot afford to pay bail. Pretrial detention of low-risk and moderate-risk defendants, even for period as short as a few days, is correlated with higher recidivism rates and perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty.  The Advocacy and Policy Counsel will also support reform efforts in the areas of sentencing, drug policy, alternatives to incarceration, parole and probation, release opportunities, reentry, and combating racially disparate criminal justice policies.

Roles And Responsibilities

Specific responsibilities will include but not be limited to:

  • Work in collaboration with colleagues to identify and establish strategic decarceration and criminal justice reform policy goals.
  • Monitor, research, and analyze opportunities for decarceration at the state level and in localities across the state.
  • Draft policy analyses and model legislation designed to effect change by state policymakers.
  • Research and analyze state legislative or other policy proposals, including proposed court rules, paying close attention to implementation considerations.
  • Work with a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, agency heads, prosecutors and defense attorneys, local officials, community leaders and members, and other advocates, to craft policy proposals, and create educational and research materials.
  • Lobby state and local policymakers, as appropriate.
  • Prepare and deliver presentations and testimony to support criminal justice reform advocacy efforts.
  • Represent ACLU of Arizona in state task forces, working groups and coalitions.
  • Track and report the status of activities both internally and externally to funders as needed.
  • Develop relationships with allies and other organizations to further advocacy goals.

Experience And Qualifications

We seek applicants with strong familiarity with Arizona’s criminal justice system and with experience working through public policy and legislative processes. People with personal experience being incarcerated or otherwise entangled with the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply.

  • A broad understanding of the Arizona criminal justice system, including but not limited to areas such as pretrial systems, alternatives to incarceration, sentencing, parole and probation, and consequences of system involvement.
  • Critical thinking skills with an ability to identify, collect and interpret relevant data for incorporation into educational materials, with an emphasis on fiscal and social impact of policies.
  • A keen ability to build and maintain key contacts among a diverse range of stakeholders, and an attentiveness to reach out to contacts as appropriate to accomplish project goals.
  • Experience with the public policy and legislative processes.
  • Comfort with deadline-oriented work and an ability to complete tasks and assignments independently, with supervision, and collaboratively.
  • Experience working in coalitions, including sensitivity to internal political dynamics among partner groups.
  • Strong written and oral communications skills, with a high level of comfort presenting information;
  • Ability to synthesize complex information for various audiences, including the public, the media, and policymakers.
  • Commitment to and experience with working in close partnership with community members, including people directly involved with and affected by the criminal justice system.
  • Passion for and demonstrated commitment to criminal justice reform, ending mass incarceration, and racial justice.
  • J.D. degree preferred, but not required.


The ACLU-AZ offers a generous and comprehensive compensation and benefits package, commensurate with experience, and competitive with public interest legal salaries.  Benefits include three weeks paid vacation; 100%-employer paid medical and dental insurance, life and long-term disability insurance; 401(k); and twelve paid holidays.

To Apply:

Send a cover letter, CV, list of three professional references and a writing sample (no more than 5 pages, double-spaced, which may include a policy analysis) to: Beth Thomson-Gorman, Office Manager, ACLU of Arizona, Re: Criminal Justice Advocacy & Policy Strategist/Counsel, P.O. Box 17148, Phoenix, AZ 85011 or email to: Please list “Criminal Justice Advocacy & Policy Strategist/Counsel” in the subject line. Applications accepted until position is filled. Please indicate in your cover letter where you found this listing.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, people with records of arrest or conviction, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to apply.

The ACLU of Arizona comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the ACLU Foundation of Arizona. Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the ACLU Foundation of Arizona have the same overall mission, and share office space and employees. The ACLU has two separate corporate entities in order to do a broad range of work to protect civil liberties.

Get the newsletter