Prisoners’ Access to Justice: Exploring Legal, Medical, and Educational Rights


Elizabeth Alexander
Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander has litigated a number of important prisoner rights cases including Farmer v. Brennan, one of three cases that she argued in the United States Supreme Court. Another case she litigated, Hadix v. Caruso, was featured on “60 Minutes” in 2007. In 2009, Ms. Alexander argued Nelson v. Corrections Medical Services in the en banc United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, resulting in the first appellate decision holding that shackling women prisoners during active labor and delivery can violate the Eighth Amendment. In 2011, she led mediation that resulted in a settlement changing national policy on the medical treatment available to immigration detainees.

The former Director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Ms. Alexander has taught prison law at several law schools. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and of the Yale Law School. Ms. Alexander is currently in private practice in Washington, D.C.

James Austin
JFA Institute

Dr. James Austin has over 25 years of experience in correctional planning and research. He is the former director of the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He serves, or has recently served, as director for several large DOJ-funded research and evaluation programs. He was jointly appointed by the Department of Justice and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice to monitor the state's compliance with the issues specified in a Memorandum of Agreement.

Dr. Austin has served as the project director of the BJA-funded corrections options technical assistance program, which provides a wide variety of assistance to local jails, probation, parole, and prison systems. He also directed two BJA projects that focused on juveniles in adult correctional facilities and a national assessment of adult and juvenile private correctional facilities. He is currently assisting parole boards in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Maryland to develop risk assessment systems for prisoners eligible for release. And he serves as an advisor to The Urban Institute's "Returning Home" Initiative.

Dr. Austin has authored numerous publications, was named by the American Correctional Association as its 1991 recipient of the Peter P. Lejin's Research Award, and received the Western Society of Criminology Paul Tappin Award for outstanding contributions in the field of criminology. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1970, a Master of Arts from DePaul University in Chicago in 1975, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from University of California, Davis in 1980.

Sheila Bedi
Northwestern Law School

Sheila Bedi has extensive experience in civil rights litigation, community-based advocacy campaigns and legislative advocacy. She joined the MacArthur Justice Center in 2012, where her work focuses on enforcing the civil rights of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. She previously served as a Deputy Legal Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, there she worked to reduce the imprisonment of young people and to increase investments in communities and schools. Her previous litigation experience includes cases involving race, gender and disability discrimination, open government and freedom of information, racial profiling and religious freedom in state prisons. In 2008, the American Bar Association Journal named her a Newsmaker of the Year. She has received the Heroes for Children Award, the NAACP's Vernon Dahmer Award and the NAACP's Fannie Lou Hamer Award.

Steven Bell
Western State College of Law

Steven Bell was born and raised in Southern California. Following his graduation from Cal Poly Pomona in 1977, he pursued a successful career in Information Technology. In 1994 he was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life-plus-four-years in California state prison. During his nearly 17 years “inside” Steve was a model prisoner with numerous staff commendations and no disciplinary infractions. For several years he worked as a prison library clerk, becoming a self-taught “jailhouse lawyer” and advocating pro bono on behalf of other prisoners; he ultimately won court-ordered releases for three “lifers” and countless other sentence reductions, disciplinary reversals, and administrative appeals.

Paroled in 2011, he currently is a second-year, full-time law student at Western State College of Law in Fullerton, Calif., specializing in criminal law. He has earned several Witkin Awards for Academic Excellence, is Lead Articles Editor on Law Review, is a member of the Dean’s Circle, and currently co-chairs the Public Service Committee. He actively participates in several student and professional legal organizations, and regularly volunteers at the Prison Library Project and Legal Aid Society, among others.

John Boston
Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society

John Boston is Director of the Prisoners' Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, where he has worked for many years, and is co-author of the Prisoners' Self-Help Litigation Manual.

Erwin Chemerinsky
UC Irvine School of Law

Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at UC Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in Political Science. He has taught at Duke Law School, the University of Southern California School of Law, DePaul College of Law, and UCLA School of Law. His areas of expertise are constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He is the author of seven books, most recently, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (October 2010, Simon & Schuster), and nearly 200 articles in top law reviews. He frequently argues cases before the nation’s highest courts, and also serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media.

Benjamin Conway
Public Counsel

Ben Conway is a supervising staff attorney at Public Counsel in Los Angeles. He supervises a multi-disciplinary team that provides direct service to and policy advocacy for children with disabilities, English learners, youth in the juvenile delinquency system, and youth who have been subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. He litigates education cases including Casey A. v. Delgado, a class-action lawsuit for approximately 2,000 youth detained in Los Angeles County that is in its third year of a court-supervised settlement agreement. Prior to joining Public Counsel, Conway was a staff attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services where he represented children with mental and developmental disabilities. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan and his J.D. from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

John Dannenberg
Spectrum Systems SF

John Dannenberg has earned degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Mathematics from the University of Utah. After a career in the aerospace engineering business, he began his own firm in energy conservation systems. That was interrupted by his tour with CDC from 1986 up to and including February 20, 2014, when he was discharged from parole. While in the CDC, Mr. Dannenberg taught himself the law, and engaged in litigation for both himself and for others while working for 8 years in the San Quentin Law Library. This included numerous petitions for writs of habeas corpus and mandate, as well as civil rights suits.

Mr. Dannenberg has written over 1,000 articles for Prison Legal News in the past 13 years, and has written legal case reviews for the California Lifer Newsletter for over 3 years. Today he works with Life Support Alliance, a non-profit group in Sacramento that works both sides of the street: with the parole board, the Department of Corrections, and Legislature, on the one hand, and with families of lifer prisoners on the other hand, to promote the healing necessary to bring life prisoners safely back into society.

Since getting out on parole in 2009, he has worked as a paralegal for attorneys representing life prisoners in their pursuit of grants of parole. Today, he has returned to his engineering roots, and has taken a full time position as Vice President, Business Development, for Spectrum Systems SF, a San Francisco lighting control contractor.

Lisa Daugaard
Deputy Public Defender, King County, Washington

Lisa Daugaard is the Supervising Attorney at the Racial Disparity Project at The Defender Association, a non-profit law firm representing indigent defendants in criminal matters in King County. She has played a leading role in developing the Law-Enforcement-Assisted Diversion program ("LEAD"), a promising new interagency collaboration designed to provide needed services to low-level offenders engaged in drug or prostitution activity. She has represented clients in felonies and misdemeanors and has supervised the misdemeanor division at The Defender Association. In 1999, she led the successful defense of hundreds of activists falsely arrested during the WTO demonstrations. Prior to becoming a public defender in 1996, she directed the Urban Justice Center Organizing Project and was Legal Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, both in New York City. She was also a fellow at the ACLU National Legal Department, where she helped to coordinate the successful campaign and litigation to shut down the internment camp for HIV+ Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. She graduated from the University of Washington in 1983, obtained an M.A. in Government from Cornell University in 1987, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1992.

Sharon Dolovich
UCLA School of Law

Prof. Dolovich is a leading expert on the law, policy and theory of prisons and punishment, and teaches courses on criminal law, the constitutional law of prisons, and other post-conviction topics. Recent publications include “Forms of Deference in Prison Law,” 24 Federal Sentencing Reporter 245 (2012), “Exclusion and Control in the Carceral State,” 16 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law 259 (2011), and “Cruelty, Prison Conditions and the Eighth Amendment,” 84 N.Y.U. Law Review 884 (2009). Prof. Dolovich has been a visiting professor at NYU, Harvard, and Georgetown, and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She recently served as Deputy General Counsel for the Los Angeles Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, which was charged with investigating use of force in the L.A. County Jail and making recommendations for institutional reform. She served as a consultant during the settlement phase of Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499 (2005) (the U.S. Supreme Court case concerning racial segregation in the California prisons), and as an expert witness in a challenge to the policy of racially segregated lockdown in the California prisons. She has testified before both the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.

Prof. Dolovich has conducted a landmark empirical study of the L.A. County Jail’s practice of segregating vulnerable prisoners for their own protection. The first article growing out of this research, “Strategic Segregation in the Modern Prison,” 48 American Criminal Law Review 1 (2011), received the Ezekiel Webber Prize and a 2012 Dukeminier Award. The second, “Two Models of the Prison: Accidental Humanity and Hypermasculinity in the L.A. County Jail,” appears in volume 102 of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Among other projects, Prof. Dolovich is currently focused on a critical examination of Eighth Amendment doctrine as it applies to prison sentences and prison conditions. Works in progress include “Eighth Amendment Decency” and “Some Puzzles about Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference.”

Peter Eliasberg
ACLU of Southern California

Peter Eliasberg is the Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. He joined the ACLU in 1996 and served as the Managing Attorney and the Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights until February 2011. During his tenure, he has worked on cases involving the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, disability discrimination, and educational equity, among others. He represented Frank Buono in federal district court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court in an Establishment Clause challenge to the presence of a cross on federal land in Buono v. Salazar. He represented a class of bus riders with disabilities who sued the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority over the agency’s failure to provide accessible buses in Beauchamp v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. Eliasberg graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude and clerked for both Judge Stanley Sporkin of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Luis Garcia
Tri-City Mental Health Center

Luis S. Garcia is currently working towards the completion of an Ed. D. Educational Leadership for Social Justice doctorate from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) while employed fulltime as Quality Improvement Program Analyst for a local public mental health agency in Los Angeles County. His research interest is centered on distance Post-Secondary Correctional Education (PSCE) opportunities via the Education Based Incarceration initiative within the Los Angeles County Jail system. Luis’ path originates after a decade of community college attendance, impeded by jail, and state prison incarcerations. During these experiences, he earned his adult high school diploma while incarcerated in the Los Angeles County jail system. After a final state prison system incarceration in 1997, determined to continue to pursue higher education, Luis returned to his local community college, transferred to LMU where he went on to earn his undergraduate degree in theology with a minor in psychology in 2001; one year after successfully discharging his state parole number that he lived with for nearly 10 years. Luis then went on to earn his Master’s in Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in Community Organization and Planning Administration from the University of Southern California (USC) in 2007.

He has worked in diverse community settings working with HIV reentry populations, transitional housing for reentry populations, and mental health direct service with co-occurring disorder state parolees residing in an In-Custody Drug Treatment community-based setting. In 2012 Luis was invited by the US Department of Education (USDOE), Office of Vocation and Adult Education (OVAE) to serve on their Correctional Education Reentry Program Model Panel. Later that year he joined a panel of experts to discuss the state of education in correctional facilities at a Correctional Education Summit hosted by the USDOE. In April 2013, Luis was honored to be the guest speaker preceding the keynote delivered by then Sheriff of Los Angeles County Leroy Baca at the first high school graduation in two years within the Los Angeles County Jail system. Luis is committed to promoting educational opportunities and successful reintegration strategies to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons through his ongoing commitment to service as the spokesperson for the Prison Education Project founded by Dr. Renford Reese and mentoring persons formerly incarcerated. Luis enjoys spending time with his fiancée and her two sons and helping them with their homework.

Craig Haney
UC Santa Cruz

Prof. Haney's research concerns the application of social psychological principles and data to various legal and civil rights issues. He has specialized in the assessment of institutional environments, especially the psychological effects of incarceration, as well as study of the social histories of persons accused or convicted of serious violent crimes. He has also worked on the way in which attitudes and beliefs about crime and punishment are changed by legal procedures (such as death qualification), as well as the role such attitudes and beliefs play in influencing legal fairness and impartiality. Prof. Haney and his students are currently involved in a wide range of research projects including examining criminogenic social histories, the psychological effects of different forms of incarceration, the role of pre-trial publicity in creating juror prejudice and pre-judgment, and the structure of criminal justice attitudes and the mechanisms that underlie discriminatory legal decision making.

Carrie Hempel
UC Irvine School of Law

Carrie Hempel is the founding associate dean for clinical education and service learning and a clinical professor of law at UC Irvine School of Law. Professor Hempel previously taught at the University of Southern California School of Law, where she was a directing attorney for the Post-Conviction Justice Project, a clinical program that provides legal assistance to indigent prisoners at state and federal correctional institutions in habeas corpus, parole and civil rights cases.

Gloria Killian
Action Committee for Women in Prison

Gloria Killian first heard about the murder at the Davies home on the local news. During a robbery, Grace Davies was shot in the head, crawled out of her house, and was found the following day; Ed Davies was killed. Six suitcases of silver had been taken from their home. There had been a string of robberies connected to coin shops in the area, and Ed Davies was a customer at the coin shop where Gloria Killian worked. Killian, at the time a 35-year-old law student, was asked by police to appear at the station soon after the shooting. “I didn’t see any reason not to go,” she said. “I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have anything to hide.”

After several hours of questioning, she was arrested, charged with murder, and because it was a capital offense, denied bail. After four and a half months in jail, the case against Gloria was dismissed for lack of evidence. Killian says, “They took me to an office, gave me back my clothes, and shoved me onto the street.”. Another suspect, Gary Masse, had been convicted of the murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The day he was sentenced, Masse returned to prison, called the District Attorney’s office, and offered to testify against Gloria Killian, whom he alleged was the mastermind behind the crime. Gary Masse’s sentence was reduced to 25 years. Gloria Killian was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 32 years to life.

She lost all her appeals, and with it, her hope. “The worst was about seven years in,” she says. “It happens to lifers between five and seven years. I guess reality hits you in the face. You lose all hope. You lose everything.” Gloria was assigned to work in the law library, where she was able to assist fellow inmates without access to legal resources. The work kept her sane, she says, “I figured if I couldn’t help myself, at least I could help somebody else. It did a lot to distract me from my own particular disaster.”

After 10 years, a new investigation uncovered the evidence of Gary Masse’s agreement with prosecutors to testify against Killian in exchange for leniency, which had never been disclosed to the defense. They also found a letter Masse had sent to the District Attorney soon after Killian was sentenced—a letter stating, “I lied my ass off for you people.” Had the prosecution disclosed this evidence to the defense, Killian would have been re-tried within a year. Instead, she served 17 and a half years before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her conviction.

Gloria Killian continues to work for women in prisons, including her friends from the years she spent incarcerated. “We are like a family,” she says. “Once you get inside prison, it doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty or somewhere in between. What happens to us, it’s like being in a war zone. We band together to survive. We’ve taken that outside.”

Hailly T.N. Korman
Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings

Hailly T.N. Korman began her career in education with nearly a decade in the classroom including five years as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is currently the Director of Special Projects for the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS). CEEAS consults with and supports state youth corrections agencies to dramatically improve education programming in their long-term secure juvenile facilities through direct service, legal guidance, and public advocacy.

Prior to that, Ms. Korman was a litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP, representing clients in a broad range of commercial matters including the favorable appellate resolution of free speech disputes and a billion dollar patent jury verdict for a leading domestic electronics manufacturer. From 2010-13, she represented the student plaintiffs in Reed v. State of California alongside Public Counsel and the ACLU of Southern California. In 2011, she received awards from both organizations for her work and was identified by Education Week as one of 15 people who are “going to change education.” Ms. Korman earned her B.A. cum laude from Brandeis University and her J.D. from UCLA, where she is an alumna of the Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies programs. She works and lives in Los Angeles with her godsons—three boys who know more about the California justice system than anyone ever should.

Tung Nguyen

Tung Nguyen is 36 years old, born and raised in Vietnam. He arrived in the US around 1991 at 14 years of age. In 1993, at 16, he was sentenced to 25 years to life for his involvement in a crime of murder and robbery. In 2011, after having served 18 years, he was found suitable for parole with a future release date of 2023. In April 2011, Governor Brown, reviewed the Board of Parole’s decision and modified the Board’s decision to allow my immediate release from prison. While incarcerated he earned his high school diploma and an associate of arts degree from Patten University-Prison University Project and participated in various self-help programs. He is currently living with his family and works as a dry cleaner, a vocation learned in prison. When possible, he participates in community outreach, including restorative justice, juvenile advocate, and victim reconciliation.

Priscilla Ocen
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

Priscilla Ocen's work examines the relationship between race and gender identities and punishment. Prior to joining the faculty at Loyola, Prof. Ocen served as the Critical Race Studies Law Fellow at UCLA. While at UCLA she developed a project that examined conditions of confinement within women’s prisons and the race and gender implications of the use of practices such as shackling during labor and childbirth. Prof. Ocen graduated magna cum laude from San Diego State University with a B.A. in African American Studies and Political Science. Thereafter, she received her J.D. from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in Critical Race Studies. Upon graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Detroit, Michigan. Following her clerkship, Prof. Ocen served as the Thurgood Marshall Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she litigated in the areas of voting rights, affirmative action, school desegregation, police misconduct and spearheaded the development of a Black Women’s Reentry Project.

Keramet Reiter
University of California, Irvine

Keramet Reiter is currently Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law & Society and Law. She specializes in prisons, legal history, criminal justice policy, criminal and civil rights law, and law and society. Prof. Reiter studies prisons, prisoners' rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems. She uses a variety of methods in her work—including interviewing, archival and legal analysis, and quantitative data analysis—in order to understand both the history and impact of criminal justice policies, from medical experimentation on prisoners and record clearing programs to the use of long-term solitary confinement in the United States. She has published extensively.

The Honorable Gretchen N. Rohr
Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Magistrate Judge Gretchen Rohr was appointed to the DC Superior Court in 2012. She has presided over the Juvenile Behavioral Diversion Court, Paternity and Child Support Court and administered involuntary outpatient and inpatient commitment proceedings for the Family Court Division.

Prior to her installation, Judge Rohr served as the Director of the DC Jail and Federal Prison Advocacy Project for University Legal Services where she designed an interdisciplinary initiative for diverting men and women with mental disabilities from behind bars into community-based, self-directed treatment. Prior to her practice in DC, she monitored Georgia psychiatric and correctional institutions’ compliance with federal disability laws protecting individuals from abuse, neglect and sexual violence. She also litigated constitutional class action cases in prisons and jails in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana through a fellowship with the Southern Center for Human Rights and later as an attorney with Holland & Knight LLP.

Judge Rohr is an active contributor to the National Judicial-Psychiatric Leadership Forum and is a certified trainer in developing Trauma Informed Systems and Crisis Intervention Teams in judicial and correctional settings. She also serves on the District’s Mental Health Action Taskforce as well as on a number of judicial bodies supporting the integrity and fair functioning of the mental health community court and juvenile behavioral diversion courts since their inception. Judge Rohr’s current civic commitments include teaching as an Adjunct Faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center as well as facilitating mindfulness and meditation practice in underserved communities.

Margo Schlanger
University of Michigan Law School

Prof. Margo Schlanger is a member of the University of Michigan Law School faculty since fall 2009. She has expertise in civil rights, prison reform, torts, and empirical legal studies to the Law School; she also heads the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. In 2010 and 2011, she was on leave, serving as the presidentially appointed Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Previously, she had been a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and an assistant professor at Harvard Law School.

Prof. Schlanger earned her J.D. from Yale in 1993. While there, she served as book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal and received the Vinson Prize for excellence in clinical casework. She then served as law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1993 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, she was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, where she worked to remedy civil rights abuses by prison and police departments and earned two Division Special Achievement awards. Prof. Schlanger, a leading authority on civil rights issues and civil and criminal detention, served on the Vera Institute's Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons; she worked as an advisor on the development of proposed national standards implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and testified before the Prison Rape Elimination Commission. She also served as the reporter for the American Bar Association's revision of its Standards Governing the Legal Treatment of Prisoners, and as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Law and the Social Sciences.

Donald Specter
Prison Law Office

Donald Specter has been Director of the Prison Law Office, based in San Quentin, Calif., since 1984. He manages and directs the legal and administrative operations of a nonprofit 11 attorney office providing free legal services to California state prisoners. He has been lead counsel in numerous successful institutional reform litigation, with assistance from major Bay Area law firms, through federal and state class actions challenging various conditions of confinement system-wide at all 32 state prisons, and at individual prisons, including Pelican Bay, San Quentin, and Vacaville. Mr. Specter also has an extensive appellate practice, including one argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, six arguments before the California Supreme Court (two death penalty cases), numerous prison conditions cases and criminal appeals before state and federal appellate courts. He has been chair of the State Bar's Commission on Corrections, has spoken to local and national audiences of attorneys and correctional officials, and is frequently interviewed by the local and national media. He earned his B.A. in Economics from New College in Florida in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1978.

Donna Strugar-Fritsch
Health Management Associates

Donna Strugar-Fritsch is a Managing Principal with Health Management Associates (HMA), where for more than 10 years she has worked with a wide variety of public and private sector health care clients. She is HMA’s practice leader in correctional health care, with a decade of experience advising prisons, jails, policy makers, and correctional health vendors in correctional health care operations, best practices, and emerging trends. Ms. Strugar-Fritsch has led analyses of all aspects of inmate health care, participated in practice redesign projects, developed models for tracking inmate health care costs, written and monitored contracts for inmate health services, audited inmate health care from intake through release, and assisted DOCs and Medicaid agencies to collect federal matching funds for inpatient hospital admissions. She has also helped prisons and jails gain access to 340B pricing for costly HIV, hepatitis, and psychotropic drugs through partnerships with hospitals and health centers. She has lectured and written widely on the elements of the Affordable Care Act that affect correctional health care, and is working with many prisons, jails, and correctional health care vendors to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of health care reform, including how to better manage mental illness and chronic disease to reduce recidivism. Ms. Strugar-Fritsch is a registered nurse with a Masters Degree in Public Administration and is a Certified Correctional Health Professional under the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Prior to joining HMA, she managed a private consultancy, was director of planning for a large public health institute, conducted policy analysis for a state hospital association, and held a variety of clinical and management positions in managed care organizations and hospitals.

Melanie Velez
Southern Center for Human Rights

Melanie Velez joined SCHR in October 2004. Her work focuses on litigation challenging prison and jail conditions in Georgia and Alabama and on litigation regarding the provision of indigent defense in Georgia.

Prior to joining SCHR, Melanie was a litigation associate with Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, New York, where in addition to handling general commercial litigation matters she represented numerous clients pro bono. Her pro bono matters included representing individuals seeking asylum, obtaining orders of protection in domestic violence matters, and she was part of a team that won discharge planning for a class of individuals with mental illness incarcerated in New York City Jails. During law school, she took part in the Prisoners & Families Clinic which represented incarcerated mothers who faced termination of their parental rights, and she served as an editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and Columbia’s Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 2001 and earned her undergraduate degree from Williams College. She is a member of the bars of New York and Georgia.