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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
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. Justin 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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Kayla Richards (She/Hers), Oglala Lakota

Community Impact Director

Social Worker & PhD Student at U of M-Twin Cities, Social Work. Her research interests include the youth criminal legal system as a tool of social control, community and advocacy, workplace culture, and intergroup dynamics. Kayla can be reached at Kayla@mnjrc.org

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Sophia Lackens (she/her)

Communications Intern

Communications specialist and master's student at the University of Minnesota. Sophia supports MNJRC's digital branding and communications. Her research interests include neighborhood design, student organizing, and the carceral state. Sophia can be reached at sophia@mnjrc.org

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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. Katie leads MNJRC’s efforts to engage in participatory and collaborative community-led research. Katie can be reached at katie@mnjrc.org

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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. Zeke 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 zeke@mnjrc.org

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Cara Letofsky, MA, MPP

Associate Director

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

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Will Cooley

Policy Director

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

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. 

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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. 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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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.

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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.

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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. 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. 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

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.

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Abby Walker

Research Assistant - Pathways Home

Mediator, care worker, writer, artist. Shelter Advocate at Tubman.

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Avery Melton-Meaux (they/them)

Research Intern - Survivors of Sexual Violence Engagement Project

Student at Washington University in St. Louis studying English with a Creative Writing focus and Drama. Avery is passionate about telling the untold story of minority groups through creative writing, playwriting, and acting.

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Dr. Ryan Larson (He/Him)

Research Consultant - Pretrial Best Practices

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.

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Julia Moseman (she/her)

Research Intern - Pretrial Best Practices / Canopy Roots

University of Minnesota Twin Cities graduate of philosophy. She has a background of working with victims/survivors of domestic violence and serving her communities through various nonprofits.

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LaShayla Lumpkins (they/them/theirs)

Research Assistant - Canopy Roots

Graduate student at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, studying urban and regional planning with a specialization in race, housing, and community development. They're currently working as a graduate research assistant with the Center of Urban and Regional Affairs researching property vacancies and barriers to community-oriented redevelopment.

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Owen Jackson (He/Him)

Research Assistant - Pathways Home

U of MN-Twin Cities graduate of political science. In addition to working as a Research Assistant for the MNJRC's Pathways Home project, Owen is currently researching legal deserts and access to justice in rural state/tribal courts. He is a prospective J.D. candidate looking to begin law school in 2024 with interests in labor rights and restorative justice.

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Anna Hall (she/her)

Project Manager and Research Co-Lead - Pretrial Best Practices

Criminal defense attorney and researcher committed to building a legal system that is equitable and just and honors the dignity of all people. She leads MNJRC's Pretrial Best Practices project.

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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.

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Fernando Galvez

Social Science Research Assistant

LLM in US Law from St. Thomas University, and licensed attorney in Guatemala with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from Universidad Rafael Landivar. Fernando has experience in Legal Research in Sociology, Laws Compliance, Environmental Policy, and Human Rights. He is pursuing becoming a licensed attorney in the US, specializing in Civil Litigation and Immigration.

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Kailee E Schaberg (She/Her/They)

Research Assistant - Survivors of Sexual Violence Engagement Project

Maternal and Child Health MPH Candidate at the U of M School of Public Health. Their research and advocacy interests include public health abolition, intersectional environmentalism, queer sexual/reproductive justice, and decolonizing violence prevention praxis.

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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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Paulina Buitrago (She/Her)

Social Science Research Assistant

LLM graduate from Penn State Law and Bachelor of Laws from the Universidad del Norte in Columbia. She has a background in legal research on topics such as transitional justice, the pretrial process, and the legal liability of the State.

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Anna Simonton (she/her)

Research Assistant - Pretrial Best Practices

Journalist currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota. Her work as a reporter and editor has focused on injustice in the criminal legal system as well as education issues. Previously, she was an Editor and Development Coordinator for The Appeal, and she co-authored a book about a notorious RICO case in Georgia that criminalized educators.

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Dahlia Wilson (she/her)

Legal Research Assistant - Pretrial Best Practices

Third-year law student at University of Minnesota Law School. She has a background in and passion for public defense and helping indigent populations, as well as civil rights and appellate law.

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Jenny Debower (she/her)

Research Assistant - Canopy Roots Evaluation

Social worker, artist and PhD Student in Social Welfare at Hunter/Graduate Center of City University of New York (now based in MN). Jenny has more than 20 years of experience working in the youth development field, including leadership positions at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the LGBT Community Center, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

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Kalice Allen (She/Her/Hers)

Research Assistant - Pretrial Best Practices

Her research interests are health disparities, gender, and racial equity, and community violence prevention. Kalice was also a past RA with the MNJRC's Re-imagining Bail Project.

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Mariana Viquez (she/her)

Youth Research Assistant - Pathways Home

A youth criminal justice advocate with a focus on education policy and access to equitable services and opportunities for fellow youth. Her goal is to create pathways and provide the support needed for youth to find stability and achieve positive futures. She is currently a high school senior at North Education Center Academy and plans to graduate spring of 2024.

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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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