Arnold Ventures today announced the expansion of its work to reimagine and reshape the criminal justice system. Approximately 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States, and 4.5 million are on either probation or parole. In addition, more than 70 million people have a criminal record, often for minor offenses long in their past, that continues to create barriers to opportunity. These striking statistics reflect a system that does little to promote public safety and, in fact, inflicts harm on far too many Americans. That is why Arnold Ventures is increasing its work on the crucial issues surrounding prisons, fines and fees, and community supervision, and is proud to announce a new initiative aimed at removing policy barriers to employment and economic mobility for people with justice system contact.
“The need to address these barriers has never been more urgent,” said Jeremy Travis (he/him), Arnold Ventures’ executive vice president for criminal justice. “Reintegration sits at the intersection of economic, public health, and criminal justice systems that unfortunately reenforce long-standing racial disparities in the United States.”
The expansion of this work comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has energized calls for the reduction of prison populations and the removal of barriers keeping people under correctional control. “COVID opened a window for politically difficult conversations,” said Julie James (she/her), who has been promoted to vice president of criminal justice and will lead Arnold Ventures’ prisons and fines and fees portfolios.
This year, James will focus on supporting work to release people from prisons, improve prison conditions, and end the harmful and racially discriminatory practices related to fines and fees. “It’s so important. We’re in an economic crisis, people are really suffering right now, and being punished for being unable to pay is really an unjust debt,” she said. “We also see an opportunity to support efforts to decarcerate, particularly through back-end release measures. Courts and Governors indicated a willingness to reconsider long sentences during COVID, and we hope to build on these efforts to create more opportunities for release going forward.”
Amy Solomon (she/her), a vice president of criminal justice, will work at the forefront of Arnold Ventures’ efforts on community supervision and its new reintegration portfolio. Approximately one in three Americans have some kind of involvement with the criminal justice system. Whether leaving prison or challenged by a decades-old criminal record, people face significant reentry hurdles. These barriers to reintegration are severe and often permanent for the millions of people in America with a criminal record, and keep people from getting a job, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities, the economy, and civic life. Solomon’s goal is to support efforts that break down employment barriers and advance economic mobility.
“As the new administration, Congress, and state legislatures get to work helping us recover from COVID-19, we believe that increasing opportunity and reducing barriers to success for people impacted by the criminal justice system should be a top priority,” said Solomon. “Here at AV, we have made a major commitment to the Clean Slate Initiative, which aims to expand eligibility for record clearance to achieve widespread relief. And now in 2021, we will also be making significant investments in state campaigns to remove policy barriers to employment and occupational licensing.”
To bolster the work, Arnold Ventures has hired four new team members experienced in advocating for reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system.
Dylan Hayre (he/him) will join the reintegration and community supervision team as director of criminal justice. He previously worked at the ACLU Justice Division and JustLeadershipUSA, at a Boston-area law firm, his own practice, and at the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office. He has also been a part of several political and grassroots campaigns including regional, statewide, and national democratic campaigns for candidates and issue coalitions, and has served in various roles in numerous political committees and conventions.
Carlton Miller (he/him) will work on prisons and fines and fees as director of criminal justice. He most recently worked at FWD.us, and before that served in several government roles, including policy advisor for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, focusing on issues related to transportation, public safety and corrections, and energy and environmental issues. Carlton also served as an attorney on the Transportation Committee for the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Alexa Herzog (she/her) will take on the role of criminal justice manager for community supervision. She previously worked at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, as a program manager in the Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives, where she managed a number of New York City’s efforts to safely reduce the pretrial detention population. Previously, Alexa worked as a senior program associate for the New York City Board of Correction on Rikers Island, the agency charged with regulating and providing oversight for the City’s jails. She also supported the Board’s sexual safety rulemaking process informed by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and led the Board’s monitoring of Department of Correction compliance with standards limiting the use of punitive segregation.
Whit Washington (they/them) will serve as criminal justice manager for Arnold Ventures’ prisons and fines and fees portfolios. They previously worked for the Public Defender for the District of Columbia, where they served as a staff attorney and advocated on behalf of people charged with a DC Code Offense in the DC Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Before that, Whit directed an Equal Justice Works fellowship project at American University Washington College of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law working with incarcerated transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to address the issues they face in prison.
These new colleagues will join Jocelyn Fontaine, PhD, director of criminal justice research; Cybele Kotonias, criminal justice research manager; Carson Whitelemons, criminal justice manager; and Dina Xie, criminal justice analyst.
“Arnold Ventures has always been dedicated to the mission of maximizing opportunity and minimizing injustice, and it is a sad fact that too much of our criminal justice system today works to deny people the opportunity to succeed and thrive,” said Arnold Ventures CEO Kelli Rhee (she/her). “We need to remove these stumbling blocks from the path to a free and productive life.”