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
Education

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.

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Research

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. 

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Policy

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.

MNJRC Staff
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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.

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Zeke Caligiuri

Re-entry Education Coordinator

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.

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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.

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Korie Manley (She/They)

MNJRC Intern

Senior studying Criminal Justice & Criminology, Forensic Science, and Sociology at Hamline University. She’s interested in the differences of how certain groups of people fall in contact with the Criminal Justice System and the societal implications that from it.

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Cara Letofsky, MA, MPP

Operations Consultant

Nonprofit and policy leader who works with mission-based organizations at the intersection of community engagement, policy development, and nonprofit excellence.

 
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. 

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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.

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Dr. Maria Ponomarenko (She/Hers)

Research Steering Committee

Associate Professor of Law at the U of MN Law School 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.

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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. A noted scholar of the civil rights and black power movements, an education activist, and a frequent national commentator, he is an important voice on the topics of race and social justice.

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Dr. Ebony Ruhland (She/Her)

Research Steering Committee

Assistant professor at the U of Cincinnati - 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 and Research Assistants are on-the-ground designing evaluations, collecting data, working with partners, and contributing to research products and the creation of educational tools and policies. 

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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.

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Coy Carter, Jr (He/Him)

Research Assistant - Community Safety Specialist Evaluation

PhD candidate in Educational Policy & Leadership at the U of M – Twin Cities. His research explores the connection between race, space, and education to understand how historic and current policies create inequitable opportunities for minoritized students.

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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.

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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.

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Eskender Yousuf

Research Manager - Community Safety Specialist Evaluation

PhD candidate at the U of M - Twin Cities where his research and evaluation include: African immigrant identity development, race, urban mentorship, culturally responsive leadership, and program evaluation.

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Shonni Krengel (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - Reimagining Bail Project

Master’s of Human Rights candidate at the University of Minnesota, concentrating in racial and gender justice with a law minor. She is focused on public policy and legal responses to intersectional discrimination on the basis of race and gender.

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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.

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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.

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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.