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We are dedicated to engaging in hard conversations, conducting rigorous and balanced research, and building bridges across differences in order to transform our criminal legal system.


Our organization is made up of individuals with a diverse range of expertise and experience with the criminal legal system including scholars, practitioners, students, survivors, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

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Who We Are

We engage a broad diversity of community members and criminal legal system stakeholders in conversations on ways to transform the existing system into one that provides real justice.


We do this through our annual Re-Imagining Justice conference, online webinars, and community events.


Our research is collaborative and participatory, drives our education and engagement with the community, and has an impact on policy. We conduct three broad buckets of research: partnerships and evaluations, policy-focused research, and community-led research. 


We use our research to support the development of policies that shift the criminal legal system toward our vision of justice.


In addition, our research is used by partner organizations and public policymakers in their development of policy and advocacy efforts.

Justin Terrell

Executive Director

Community leader with a record of executing successful issue campaigns and is an expert in Criminal Justice and Democracy reform. He leads MNJRC’s efforts to build a balanced and rigorous research program aimed at equipping Minnesotans with information and tools needed to transform the punitive criminal legal system.

Zeke Caligiuri

Community Engagement Manager

Writer and organizer from South Minneapolis. He authored This is Where I Am (UMN Press, 2016), and contributed to several volumes on the school-to-prison pipeline. He co-founded The Stillwater Writer’s Collective, the first all prisoner-created, all prisoner-run writer’s collective in the country. He is committed to the empowerment and re-humanization of currently and formerly incarcerated human beings. Zeke can be reached at

Dr. Katie Remington Cunningham (She/Her)

Research Director

Community-based researcher whose work spans the criminal legal system, youth development, and education. She leads MNJRC’s efforts to engage in participatory and collaborative community-led research. Katie can be reached at

Will Cooley

Re-Imagining Community Supervision Project Lead

Experienced researcher and policy advocate on issues of probation and parole, violence prevention, and policing strategies. He serves as the lead for MNJRC’s “Re-Imagining Community Supervision in Minnesota” project. Will can be reached at

Cara Letofsky, MA, MPP

Associate Director

Nonprofit and policy leader with a commitment to helping build a more racially just world. She leads MNJRC’s operations, including financial management, communications, board support, and program development. Cara can be reached at

Our Team
Our Research Steering Committee

The Research Steering Committee (RSC) is a group of researchers who advise on, support, and engage with our work. We are fortunate to have research scientists across varying fields from legal researchers, sociologists/criminologists, other social science researchers, and experts in community-based research working in collaboration with our team. 

Dr. Christopher Uggen

Research Steering Committee

Regents Professor, Martindale Chair, and Distinguished McKnight Professor in Sociology, Law, and Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Studies crime, law, and inequality from a life course perspective, firm in the belief that sound research can help build a more just and peaceful world.

Dr. Maria Ponomarenko (She/Hers)

Research Steering Committee

Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law and a co-founder and counsel at the Policing Project, a non-profit based at the NYU School of Law. She teaches criminal procedure, constitutional law, and administrative law.

Dr. Yohuru Williams

Research Steering Committee

Distinguished University Chair, Professor of History, and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the U of St. Thomas

Dr. Ebony Ruhland (She/Her)

Research Steering Committee

Associate Professor of Criminology at Rutgers University Newark, School of Criminal Justice. Formerly the research director at the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice - U of MN Law School. She researches how criminal justice policies and practices impact individuals, families, and communities.

Dr. Michelle Phelps (She/Her)

Research Steering Committee

Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the U of MN. Her research is in the sociology of punishment, focusing on the punitive turn in the U.S with primary lines of ongoing research on mass probation, criminal justice transformation, and policing.

Mark Osler

Research Steering Committee

Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the U of St. Thomas. He also holds the Ruthie Mattox Preaching Chair at First Covenant Church, Minneapolis. A former federal prosecutor, he focuses his research and writing clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy.

Dr. Joshua Page (He/Him)

Research Steering Committee

Fink Professor of Liberal Arts at the U of MN, where he serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate in the Law School. He is currently focusing his studies on the bail bond industry.

Dr. Robert Stewart (He/Him)

Research Steering Committee

Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. He studies the social, political, and collateral consequences of criminal legal involvement and the accumulating effects of criminal records on impacted people and communities.

dr. raj (he/him/they)

Research Steering Committee

Associate professor at Metropolitan State University. He is a recovering criminologist, alcoholic, and survivor of sexual abuse, with 20+ years of community-based activism as a researcher & educator. He explores our justice system's depths and creates a framework where knowledge, critical consciousness, and heart become the root of our practices.

Our Research Team

Our growing team of Research Managers, Assistants, and Consultants are on-the-ground designing evaluations, collecting data, working with partners, and contributing to research products and the creation of educational tools and policies on a project-by-project basis. Our research interns support our Research Director, working across projects.

Amy Dorman, MPP (She/Her(s)/Ella)

Research Manager - Returning Home St. Paul Evaluation

PhD candidate at the U of M School of Social Work where her research centers on feminist and anti-racist cross-sector approaches to violence prevention policy and practice in Minnesota.

Christopher Robertson (He/Him/His)

Research Assistant - Community Safety Specialist Evaluation

PhD candidate in sociology at the U of M - Twin Cities. His research examines how exposures to community and police violence shape health and well-being across racial and ethnic groups.

Kayla Richards (She/Hers), Oglala Lakota

Research Manager - MDHR Community Engagement

PhD candidate at the U of M - Twin Cities, Social Work. Research interests include social work pedagogy, juvenile legal systems as tools of social control, intergroup dominance, and the settler-colonial project.

Tsiyhon Kika (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - From the Block to the Ballot

Honors undergraduate student at U of MN- Twin Cities pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Justice. Her work examines methods for increasing civic participation among those formerly incarcerated.

Brieanna Petersen-Watters (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - Reimagining Bail Project

PhD candidate at the U of M - Twin Cities. Her research examines the way tribal-state law enforcement agreements shape criminal justice processes and social inequalities in rural space.

Dr. Ryan Larson (He/Him)

Research Consultant - Fines and Fees

Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hamline University. His research examines the intersections of punishment, crime, and inequality, with a focus on quantitative methodologies and causal inference.

Marci Exsted, MSW, LGSW (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - Reimagining Bail Project

Research Associate for the Center for Social Justice Research, Policy, and Advocacy at Urban League Twin Cities focused on promoting access to justice and the rule of law, advancing equity, and building capacity within the African American community.

Victoria Piehowski (She/Her/Hers)

Research Manager - Reimagining Bail Project

PhD candidate at the U of M - Twin Cities in the Department of Sociology. Her research examines the politics of punishment, and specifically how court professionals and political actors understand and create responses to violent crime.

Caity Curry (they/them)

Research Assistant - Reimagining Community Supervision

Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at UMN. Their research and teaching interests include law, punishment, race, and social movements. Their dissertation entitled, "Public Defenders as the New Civil Rights Leaders? Resistance Lawyering in Southern Courtrooms" examines the role of public defenders in criminal justice reform and transformation.

Kalice Allen (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - Reimagining Bail Project

Her research interests are health disparities, gender, and racial equity, and community violence prevention.

Sharin Park (she/her/hers)

Research Manager - Survivors of Sexual Violence Engagement Project

M.S. in Education Policy and Director of Parent Programming at Jeremiah Program, focused on disrupting generational poverty. Research interests include education, gender and racial equity, and professional development within school systems.

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