The Sentencing Project’s staff and board of directors represent a diverse group of individuals with expertise in fields including research, policy, advocacy, and law, with a shared passion for criminal justice reform.
Amy Fettig is a human rights lawyer and leading expert on criminal justice reform who has garnered national recognition for her work on prison conditions. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, Fettig served as Deputy Director for the ACLU’s National Prison Project. At the ACLU, she litigated federal class action prison conditions cases under the Eighth Amendment. Her practice focused on claims regarding medical and mental health care in prison, solitary confinement, sexual assault in detention settings, and comprehensive reform in juvenile facilities. Fettig also founded and directed the ACLU’s Stop Solitary campaign seeking to end the practice of long-term isolation in our nation’s prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers through public policy reform, legislation, litigation and public education. Fettig served as a leading member of the national coalition seeking to end the practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women.A national expert on prisoner rights law and criminal justice reform, Fettig has also provided technical assistance and advice to advocates around the country and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where she taught courses on public interest advocacy. Prior to law school, Ms. Fettig worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and their families in New York City. She holds a B.A., with distinction, Carleton College; a Master’s from Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs; and a J.D. from Georgetown University. Fettig is a member of the New York State Bar (2002) and the Bar for the District of Columbia (2006).
Warren Allen supports state and local advocates operating cohesively to challenge the nation's life sentencing laws. His priorities include advocating to end life imprisonment for the juvenile justice system, encouraging restorative justice methods, promoting “second look” opportunities and motivating healthy educational practices that oppose systemic institutional programing that’s unproductive. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, Allen served over two decades in federal prison where he acquired his high school diploma and received college credits from the Georgetown Scholars Program. He was an influential leader in the YME (Young Men Emerging) mentoring program at the Central Treatment Facility, working to better the lives of troubled youth. During his incarceration, he created a cognitive thinking program called Hard Lessons, which promoted and provided appropriate solutions to problem solving. Allen is also a recipient of Washington, DC’s Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act bill that allowed for his early release from a 35-year to life prison sentence.
Alexandra Bailey, End Life Imprisonment Strategist
Alexandra Bailey supports state and local advocates working to challenge the nation’s life sentencing laws. Her priorities include supporting efforts to end life without parole, capping maximum penalties at 20 years, promoting “second look” provisions, and fostering a culture shift that rejects excessive punishments in favor of restorative approaches to public safety.
Prior to joining the Sentencing Project, Bailey was a Campaign Strategist and National Organizing Specialist for the ACLU and a Coordinator for Women’s March in Chicago. She has used her organizing skills to win campaigns including voting rights for unhoused citizens, ending the use of 287g ICE agreements, and the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois. Bailey is also an Advisory Commissioner in Washington DC’s Ward 2. She studied organizing and political change theory at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government under Marshal Ganz.
Celeste Barry supports The Sentencing Project's Executive Director and the Operations and Development Teams with administrative, research, and fundraising assistance. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, she interned with the Seattle Clemency Project where her work for criminal justice reform began. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Whitman College located in Walla Walla, WA.
Breanna Bishop provides support to The Sentencing Project's social media efforts, newsletters, websites and other communications outlets. She also assists with research, publication production, and advocacy events.
Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, Bishop was the Communications Associate at the Alliance for Aging Research, where she managed the organization’s social media accounts, created multimedia content, and crafted copy for the organization’s websites. Bishop received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a Masters in Journalism from Georgetown University.
Kristen M. Budd, Ph.D., has an academic and research background in the social and legal responses to interpersonal violence with a focus on crimes of a sexual nature. She has conducted research on public perceptions of sex offenses and corresponding laws and criminal justice practice as well as patterns and predictors of sex offense behavior and victimization. Her research has been published in highly regarded scientific journals, such as Sexual Abuse, Criminology & Public Policy, Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. For her research on sex offenses and sex crime law and policy she was honored with the Scholarly Achievement Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems' Crime and Juvenile Delinquency Division in 2020. She has presented her work to academics, practitioners, and general audiences at a wide range of academic and professional conferences. Dr. Budd earned her Master’s and Doctoral degree in Sociology, specializing in Law and Society, from Purdue University.
Durrel Douglas supports The Sentencing Project's state and local jail-based voting coalitions and initiatives moving the meter on Democracy. Douglas is an experienced community organizer, advocate, and activist in the progressive criminal justice realm after a five year career in corrections rising to the rank of Lieutenant for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. After seeing, first-hand, the inner workings of the Texas prison system, the impact on those incarcerated, and their families, he devoted his life to creating a world where fewer Black people, poor people, or otherwise disenfranchised people have less of a chance to end up involved in the justice system. Following his career in corrections, Douglas worked as a legislative staffer for Texas State Rep. Alma Allen managing her Corrections Committee portfolio. In 2014 he founded Houston Justice, a grassroots organization aimed at impacting local and statewide reforms in Houston, Texas where he spearheaded #ProjectOrange, the county jail's initiative to register eligible voters.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., conducts and synthesizes research on criminal justice policies. She has written about racial disparities in the justice system, public opinion about punishment, and the scope of reform efforts. In The Lancet Infectious Diseases, she explained why people serving long sentences for violent crimes should be included in COVID-era decarceration efforts. Her latest report, “A Second Look at Injustice,” is a comprehensive analysis of a growing, powerful tool to curb mass incarceration: second look policies that enable extreme sentences to be re-evaluated. She regularly presents to academic, practitioner, and general audiences and her work has been featured in outlets including the Washington Post, theNew York Times,and WNYC’sOn the Media. She also edits The Sentencing Project’s Race and Justice Newsletter.
Dr. Ghandnoosh earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Challenging Mass Incarceration: A California Group’s Advocacy for the Parole Release of Term-to-Life Prisoners,” was an in-depth study of a South Los Angeles-based group challenging severe sentences.
As Deputy Director, Kara Gotsch oversees The Sentencing Project’s federal advocacy work and develops special projects and partnerships to advance the organizational mission of reducing mass incarceration. Gotsch returned to The Sentencing Project in 2016 after serving as its Director of Advocacy from 2005-2012, when she helped lead the multi-year effort to reform the notorious 100-to-1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity that resulted in the 2010 passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Her sentencing reform advocacy was honored in 2011 by Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Prior to her return, Gotsch led the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, a project of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, comprised of 50 national faith-based organizations. The coalition organized faith leaders and clergy to advance federal criminal justice reforms, particularly around issues of sentencing, reentry, and collateral consequences of incarceration.
Gotsch has also worked for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union overseeing media outreach, public education and federal legislative activities. She concluded her tenure there bringing international attention to the issue of prison rape in Texas. Gotsch received her undergraduate degree from Binghamton University and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Maryland.
Liz Komar advocates for an end to extreme sentencing in the state and federal criminal legal systems by supporting the work of the Sentencing Project’s Campaign to End Life Imprisonment, leading federal advocacy efforts, and managing amicus litigation activities. Her priorities include promoting sentencing second chances, ending life without parole sentences, and capping maximum sentences at 20 years. Prior to joining the Sentencing Project, Komar was the Director of Strategic Initiatives and a member of the leadership team at Fair and Just Prosecution, where she led FJP’s prosecutorial reform policy work across a wide array of areas. Komar also served as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County (Brooklyn), NY and as an Attorney Advisor in the US Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review. Komar received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her juris doctorate from Brooklyn Law School.
Heather Koslov leads The Sentencing Project’s fundraising strategy and initiatives. As a dedicated development professional, she is committed to ensuring the staff at The Sentencing Project have the resources they need to achieve their goals and do their best work. Over the past ten years, she has advanced the development efforts of a variety of nonprofits, including Venture Philanthropy Partners, Sitar Arts Center, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Most recently, Heather was the Director of Development for Sixth & I, a local center for arts, entertainment, and ideas in Washington DC. She received her undergraduate degree from The University of Texas, Austin, and holds a Master’s degree in Arts Management from American University. She is a proud member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Florence Lee supports The Sentencing Project's fundraising activities including donor relations, marketing and communications, direct mail appeals, grant proposals and reports, and gift processing. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, she worked in a variety of development and operations roles which gave her experience in a breadth of industries including education, marketing, and retail. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland.
Bob Libal is a nationally recognized civil rights leader, community organizer, and the former executive director of Grassroots Leadership.
Bob has spent his entire adult life fighting for criminal justice and immigration reform. He has waged successful campaigns to close troubled private prisons, stood alongside communities impacted by the deportation and criminal justice system, and taken on powerful interests from private prison executives to ICE’s deportation forces.
Amongst many honors, Bob was named to The Frederick Douglass 200, a project to honor the impact of 200 living individuals who best embody the work and spirit of Douglass and named one of 15 people changing the nonprofit world by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. in 2022, Bob received more than 7,000 votes for a seat on the Travis County Commissioners Court running on a criminal justice reform platform.
Bob has authored numerous reports on the immigrant detention and mass incarceration system. Bob’s work on immigration and criminal justice issues has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, Business Week, and numerous national, state, and local media outlets.
Morgan McLeod oversees The Sentencing Project’s communications planning and evaluation, media outreach, report publication, graphic design and data visualization. She manages the website, social media platforms, constituency mailings and newsletters, and the organization's database of advocates, allies, media contacts and donors. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, McLeod was the New Media Strategist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where she oversaw social media outreach and managed website content and re-development. She also provided communications, research, and programmatic support to the Joint Center's Energy and Environment Program, and managed their Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate Change and the Environment. Her research and professional interests focus on race, health, social justice, and the built environment. McLeod received her undergraduate degree and a Master of Science in Global Medicine from the University of Southern California.
Richard “Dick” Mendel is a Senior Research Fellow for Youth Justice, where he conducts research and writes reports to promote reform of our nation’s youth justice systems. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, Mendel spent more than 20 years as an independent writer and researcher on youth justice and other social justice issues. During that time, he authored several highly-cited publications on juvenile justice for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, including The Missouri Model: Reinventing the Practice of Rehabilitating Youthful Offenders (2010); No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration (2011); and Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Vision for Getting it Right (2018). Previously, Mendel authored: Prevention or Pork: A Hard-Headed Look at Youth-Oriented Anti-Crime Programs (1995) and Less Hype, More Help: Reducing Juvenile Crime, What Works – and What Doesn’t (2000) forthe American Youth Policy Forum. As a journalist, Mendel has published articles in TheAtlantic, Washington Monthly, The Marshall Project, Legal Times, Baltimore Sun, [Raleigh, NC] News & Observer, The American Prospect, and other publications. He holds a Bachelors in Public Policy from Duke University and a Masters in Journalism from the University of Maryland.
Ashley Nellis, Ph.D. has an academic and professional background in analyzing criminal justice policies and practices, racial disparities, juvenile justice systems, and long-term imprisonment. Her documentation of the prevalence of life imprisonment has served as a national resource for academics, advocates, policymakers, reporters, and incarcerated persons. She is the coauthor with Marc Mauer of The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences (The New Press, 2018) which has received praise from the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, and has been featured on National Public Radio. Dr. Nellis is also the author of A Return to Justice: Rethinking our Approach to Juveniles in the System (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) which chronicles America’s historical treatment of youth in the justice system and the need to reorient juvenile justice practices toward the original vision. She has presented her work at a wide range of academic and policy convenings, and is frequently interviewed by a range of news media. Dr. Nellis received her Ph.D. in Justice, Law and Society from American University’s School of Public Affairs.
Terry Nixon is responsible for day-to-day operations of the office including coordination of financial functions, management of employee benefits, contract commitments and expenditures, and liaison with the agency’s board of directors. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, he worked as Managing Director of Operations for the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Before that, he was Director of Administration and Human Resources for the National Academy of Social Insurance. Nixon received his undergraduate degree from Albany State University (GA) and his Master of Applied Sciences from Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL.
Named a "New Civil Rights Leader" by Essence Magazine for her work to challenge mass incarceration, Nicole D. Porter manages The Sentencing Project’s state and local advocacy efforts on sentencing reform, voting rights, and confronting racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Since joining The Sentencing Project in 2009, Porter’s advocacy and findings have supported criminal legal reforms in several states including Kentucky, Maryland Missouri, California, Texas and the District of Columbia.
Porter’s areas of expertise include research and grassroots support around challenging racial disparities, felony disenfranchisement, in addition to prison closures and prison reuse. Her research has been cited in several major media outlets including Salon and the Washington Post, and she has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and on National Public Radio and MSNBC. Porter has also been invited to speak 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 and on Capitol Hill. She has authored reports highlighting ballot access for people detained in jails, state prison closures and declining prison populations, in addition to articles on the collateral impacts of justice involvement on communities of color and how current social movements are challenging mass incarceration.
Porter is the former director of the Texas ACLU’s Prison & Jail Accountability Project (PJAP) where she advocated in the Texas legislature to promote felony enfranchisement reforms, 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.
Joshua Rovner manages a portfolio of juvenile justice issues for The Sentencing Project, including juveniles sentenced to life without parole, the transfer of juveniles into the adult criminal justice system, and racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice. His work has supported reforms in numerous states through research and testimony. He is the author of several papers and fact sheets for The Sentencing Project, including How Tough on Crime Became Tough on Kids: Prosecuting Teenage Drug Charges in Adult Courts and Racial Disparities in Youth Commitments and Arrests, and has had opinion pieces published in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, and the Hartford Courant.
An expert in child and adolescent well-being, Rovner has worked on juvenile development issues, such as access to primary and mental health care, tobacco prevention, and comprehensive health education. Rovner previously worked at the School-Based Health Alliance, Metro TeenAIDS, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Council of the District of Columbia. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester and a Master of Public Policy from the George Washington University.
Bill Underwood is a Senior Fellow at The Sentencing Project for the Campaign to End Life Imprisonment. In January 2021, Bill received a compassionate release from federal prison after serving 33 years on a life sentence. With zero infractions during his over 3 decades of incarceration, Bill was the inspiration for Booker and Bass's Second Look Act. Recognized for his dedication & commitment to rehabilitating his life, his unwavering love and devotion to his children and grandchildren, and his continuous efforts to create a culture of responsibility in his prison community despite the hopelessness of his life without parole sentence. Prior to his arrest, Underwood held a successful career as a prominent music promoter, manager and music business publisher for some of the top R&B, Pop, & Jazz artists in the world.
Henderson Hill is Senior Counsel at ACLU. He previously worked as a public defender (PDS), director of the NC Death Penalty Resource Center, a partner at the civil rights law firm, Ferguson Stein Chambers (CLT), and as director of the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina. Most recently, Henderson served as founding director of the 8th Amendment Project. Henderson launched, and continues to serve as co-director of Redress NC, an initiative to unwind extreme sentences through collaboration with community stakeholders. Henderson is a graduate of Lehman College, CUNY, (B.A. Economics), and Harvard Law School, J.D.
Santha Sonenberg, Vice President
Santha Sonenberg served as a public defender in the federal and local courts, litigator, consultant, and associate professor at various schools of law—including Harvard Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, and University of Maryland School of Law. As a career practitioner, Sonenberg’s emphasis has been the fair and individualized treatment of the disenfranchised. Sonenberg received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and her Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Mark MacDougall, Treasurer
Mark MacDougall is a trial lawyer with extensive civil and criminal trial experience. He formerly served as a federal prosecutor with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. For more than a decade, MacDougall has devoted considerable time to the pro bono representation of defendants facing the death penalty in South Carolina and has received national recognition for this work, including the Foot Soldier Award from the NAACP and the Exemplar Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. MacDougall received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame, his MBA from Boston University, and his law degree from the George Washington University.
Ashley McSwain, Secretary
Ashley McSwain is the Executive Director for Community Family Life Services, an organization serving women returning home from prison or jail and serves, homeless and low income families offering case management, release planning and navigation services. McSwain is also adjunct faculty for Catholic University’s Graduate School of Social Work and is licensed to practice Social Work in Maryland and the District of Columbia. She holds a Master of Social Work from Temple University, a Master of Organizational Development from American University and a bachelors in Criminal Justice from Temple University.
Michael Blake is an independent consultant who advises endowments, foundations, and private family financial offices on governance and management of investments. Blake served as Vice President of Finance at Evelyn and Walter Haas Fund, San Francisco and worked as Country Director of Central African Republic (CAR) Peace Corps. Blake received a B.A. in Economics from Duke University, and Master’s in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.
Angela J. Davis
Angela J. Davis is a professor of law at American University's Washington College of Law. She is an expert in criminal law and procedure with a specific focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system. Davis previously served as director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, where she began as a staff attorney representing indigent juveniles and adults. Davis is the author of Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor. She received her undergraduate degree from Howard University and her law degree from Harvard Law School.
Jason Hernandez was sentenced to life without parole plus 320 years for a nonviolent drug offense in 1998 at the age of 21. Fourteen years into his sentence, he started his own grass-roots organization in prison called Crack Open The Door, which advocated for crack cocaine offenders serving life without parole. In 2011, Jason prepared his own Petition for Commutation and sent it to President Obama, along with a letter, asking for his sentence to be reduced, becoming one of the first to receive clemency from President Obama. Since his release in 2015, Jason has assisted nearly a dozen individuals receive clemency through the Obama and Trump Administration, most of whom were serving life without parole.
Jason is considered an expert in the field of clemency and has appeared on media outlets such as The New York Times, MSNBC, and CNN. He also authored the Guidebook Get Clemency Now, which teaches people in prison and their families how to create robust clemency petitions. Jason has recently launched his own Leadership Initiative for Latino High School Students called ATLAST (Aspiring Texas Latinos Achieving Success Together), and is opening a nonprofit grocery store "La Tiendita" in his old neighborhood.
Marc M. Howard
Marc M. Howard is one of the country's leading voices and advocates for criminal justice and prison reform. He is a Professor of Government and Law, and the founding Director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, at Georgetown University. He is also the Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice, a non-profit organization that launched in 2020. Howard’s scholarly research addresses the deep challenges of contemporary democracy and the tragedy of criminal justice and prisons in America. He is the author of three books and dozens of academic articles; his work and teaching have received numerous awards. Howard received his B.A. in Ethics, Politics, and Economics from Yale University, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and his J.D. from Georgetown University.
Cynthia Jones is a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law where she teaches courses in Evidence, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and a seminar on “Race, Crime and Politics.” Jones served as a law clerk to the Honorable Frank E. Schwelb of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and worked as an associate at the law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro and Morin. In addition to serving as a public defender, she was also the Executive Director of the Public Defender Service and the Deputy Director of the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency. Jones received her undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and her law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law.
Ebony Underwood is a social entrepreneur, content creator, and founder/CEO of WE GOT US NOW, a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy organization amplifying the collateral consequences that children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration face. Founded in 2017, the organization has been instrumental in raising national attention to the issue of children with incarcerated parents, passing 5 pieces of legislation at the local, state and federal levels in 2021 and reunifying families separated by incarceration from all across the United States. This work is personal and pivotal for Ebony. As a daughter of an incarcerated parent, her advocacy efforts led to the compassionate release of her father after spending 33 years in federal prison with a life without parole sentence. Ebony's thought leadership has received numerous awards including, the Soros Justice Fellowship, ASPEN Institute Ascend Fellowship, Next Step to Justice Award, Galaxy Gives Fellow, Salute HER award, and Arizona State University Champion of Child Well Being Award. In 2022, she was a featured speaker and distinguished fellow of the 2022 ASPEN Ideas Festival.