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2022 Speakers

Keynote Speakers



Musician with a Message

SaulPaul is a GRAMMY Nominated Musician with a Message. He has had 2 #1 Songs on Sirius XM as well as a Top 5 & Top 15 album on iTunes. He has also presented 3 TEDx Talks, performed at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and been featured on America’s Got Talent. His life story of transitioning from tragedy to triumph has been told on screen via the documentary Tower to Tower as well as via his memoir Be The Change. Most recently, SaulPaul founded Change Water, a beverage company that donates to the local community with each case of water sold. Whether via art, entrepreneurship or community service, SaulPaul is committed to #BeTheChange.

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Stephanie Taylor-Thompson

Field Director - Prison Fellowship  Idaho & Montana

Stephanie Taylor-Thompson is a 38-year-old resident of Idaho Falls, Idaho. She is in long term recovery and a formerly incarcerated person. Stephanie earned full pardons from both Idaho and Montana in 2017. She graduated from Idaho State University with degrees in Sociology and Criminology and is currently a student at Northwest Nazarene University pursing her MSW. Stephanie is a former Reentry Specialist for the Idaho Department of Correction District 7 Probation and Parole office and is now a Field Director with Prison Fellowship. She is also a Certified Peer Support Specialist, Certified Family Support Partner and Recovery Coach. She is a graduate of the Idaho Citizens Law Academy. Stephanie is an elected board member for Community Suicide Prevention, Center for Hope, Behavioral Health Crisis Center and Region Seven Behavioral Health board and a council member for the Idaho State Rehabilitation Council. Stephanie has received both state and national awards for her dedication to reentry and criminal justice reform. She is passionate about corrections, criminal justice, reentry, recovery, suicide prevention and anti-human trafficking efforts. 


David L. Garlock

Formerly Incarcerated Criminal Justice Reform Advocate & Reentry Expert

David L. Garlock is a successful returning citizen, reentry professional, and criminal justice reform advocate who is currently the Faith, Community and Legislative Advocate for Straight Ahead.  David enjoys educating the next generation of criminal justice professionals on rehabilitation and advocating in various spheres for an effective and equitable justice system. He is a writer, author and poet who shares his story in many written forms. He is a frequent speaker at colleges and universities, criminal and social justice conferences, and community events, and he appeared in the film Just Mercy (2020). He also did a TEDx at Arcadia University in April 2022.

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Jayson Williams

Former NBA All-Star and Owner of Rebound Holistic Care

Jayson Williams is a survivor…born and raised on the streets of New York City’s Lower East Side, Jayson learned at an early age what street smarts, and hard work were all about…Hard work, was life’s only option as a way out. Tragedy struck early in Jayson’s career, when he lost two sisters to the aids virus, and then a third sister, who was murdered by her husband. With school and D-1 basketball alone as a full-time job, Jayson adopted the children of his deceased siblings, and raised them while attending St. John’s University.


Despite the pressure and despair, his game flourished and he became the top draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA draft. Rather quickly Jayson learned about life in the NBA, and all the potential pitfalls that lurked… As a “free agent,” he signed a 6-year $90 million contract with the New Jersey Nets, only to suffer a career ending injury, during his initial season with the Nets.


In spite of the setback, Jayson parlayed his sense of humor, and larger than life personality, and quickly became an analyst for the “NBA on NBC.” His life however, came to a crashing halt, when he was charged, to which he served a 27-month prison term.


Upon his release, Jayson vowed to turn his life around, and entered a facility for treatment for his own addictions. After, Jayson realized that something was missing for him, via the traditional rehab therapy-sitting in a room and talking, was only part of what was imperative. For Jayson, the missing component was “Adventure Therapy.” He believed that sobriety could be achieved, by adding a regiment of “Extreme Sports,” to one’s treatment…In short time, The ‘Rebound” facility was born.


The “Rebound” facility much like its leader, has an ultimate goal of not only survival, but helping those in need prosper and thrive in society. There can’t be a better example of survival, and ultimately redemption, than Jayson Williams.

Featured Speaker

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Secretary of Corrections Ricky D. Dixon

Florida Department of Corrections

Ricky D. Dixon was appointed the Secretary of Corrections in November 2021.

Dixon previously served as Deputy Secretary responsible for the overall operation of the agency, working collaboratively with each program area to ensure the mission and vision of the department are accomplished. Dixon oversaw the largest evacuation of inmates in the U.S. during Hurricane Irma, establishing Florida as a national leader in hurricane response.

Previously serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Institutions for four years, Dixon was responsible for the administration and management of FDC’s 50 major correctional institutions, comprised of 145 total facilities. Facilities include death row, high custody units, male and female units, work camps, community and work release centers, road prisons and residential treatment facilities.

Dixon began his career as a Correctional Officer at Lancaster Correctional Institution in 1996. He promoted through the security ranks and was appointed Correctional Officer Colonel of Florida State Prison. Following this appointment, he gained experience as an Assistant Warden at Martin and Okeechobee Correctional Institutions and was later promoted to Warden, a position he held at three state correctional institutions. He was then promoted to Regional Director of Institutions overseeing approximately one third of Florida’s prisons.

Over the course of his career, Dixon has been certified as an instructor in every major facet of correctional training including firearms, defensive tactics, ethics, field training and hostage negotiation. He was asked to assist with the development of the American Correctional Association’s Correctional Behavior Health Certification exam, which is used nationally to certify correctional mental health professionals. His experience also includes time as an auditor, ensuring all institutions meet or exceed operational review standards.

He has been recognized nationally as a correctional subject matter expert and served on numerous panels including the American Correctional Association, and the National Institute of Corrections.

He holds membership and affiliations with the American Correctional Association, National Institute of Corrections, Correctional Leaders of America, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Florida Police Chiefs, Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, Correctional Officer’s Foundation and the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation.

Dixon is a Certified Corrections Executive with American Correctional Association and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University. He is a graduate of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Executive Seminar.


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Robert Adler

Trial Attorney | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Robert Adler is a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where he litigates discrimination claims against employers on behalf of the federal government. He is based in the EEOC’s Miami District Office, which covers most of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to joining the EEOC, Robert was an associate at a litigation firms in Miami and New York. Robert earned his law degree, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center.

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Ricky Aiken

Founder and Executive Director | Inner City Innovators

Ricky Aiken is the founder and Executive Director of Inner City Innovators and has made it his life’s mission to inspire and empower inner city youth to embody the change so desperately needed in their communities. Ricky is a boots-on-the-ground, “all-in”, agent of change who believes that real change happens when the people who need it, lead it. As a child raised in the inner city of West Palm Beach, Ricky has seen firsthand the plights associated with growing up in communities of concentrated disadvantage. He has suffered homelessness, witnessed familial addiction, lost friends to gun violence, and was expected to be another statistic; in fact he admits to being well on his way to fulfilling that destiny until he vowed to change the trajectory of his life. Well known in West Palm Beach for his community activism, Aiken has found a way to use his life experiences and social capital to bring hope to his neighborhood and promote the value of resilience. A celebrated speaker and mentor, he has big plans for the inner city and is working hard to change the image and climate of inner city neighborhoods throughout Palm Beach County.

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Reality Allah

Reentry Coordinator | READI Chicago Heartland Alliance

Reality Allah (Richard Lovett) grew up on Chicago’s South Side near Englewood and Auburn Gresham. He is the youngest of five siblings. Reality is the Reentry Coordinator for READI Chicago, where he leads engagement with incarcerated men in Cook County Jail. Previously he worked as an Outreach Worker and Senior Outreach Worker for READI Chicago for three years, where he received the prestigious honor of Mutual of America’s outstanding service award. Reality’s work was also recognized in the PBS documentary First Hand: Gun Violence.

As a youth, Reality experienced being justice involved. His first arrest came at the age of 11 years old and his last arrest came at the age of 20, which subsequently led to him serving over 22 years in prison. It was this experience that led to Reality back to that community to work with individuals who were considered high risk for justice involvement and violence. Reality considers his role on the Fully Free Campaign board to be an advocate for the countless individuals that have come home before and after him. With a strong focus on housing and jobs, his goal is to see all returning citizens have their rights fully restored.

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Dr. Cassandra Atkin-Plunk

Associate Professor and Associate Director | Florida Atlantic University

Dr. Cassandra Atkin-Plunk is an Associate Professor and the Associate Director in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University. Her research interests span both institutional and community corrections with an emphasis on contemporary issues in corrections, including the reentry and reintegration of individuals returning to the community from incarceration. Dr. Atkin-Plunk examines evidence-based practices and conducts program and policy evaluations to identify what works in corrections. She is the recipient of over $800,000 in external funding and has been the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI in the evaluation of programs and policies for a variety of agencies, including the Florida Department of Corrections, Palm Beach County (FL) Criminal Justice Commission, Palm Beach County Public Safety Department, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, The GEO Group, and The Lord’s Place. As evidenced, Dr. Atkin-Plunk’s research is largely community-based, and she won the 2018 FAU Presidential Award for Outstanding Community-Engaged Research. Her research has been published in Justice Quarterly, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Journal of Criminal Justice, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Criminal Justice Policy Review, and Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.

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Amy Barch

Founder and Executive Director | Turn90

Amy Barch is the Founder and Executive Director of Turn90. In 2012, Amy founded Turn90, a nonprofit with the mission to help men succeed after prison. Prison reentry became her life’s passion after an internship in a local jail helping incarcerated individuals earn their GED. Turn90 has received national attention for its innovative, therapeutic, and evidence-based approach to reentry. Turn90 has two locations in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. Amy has a Bachelor’s in Law, Societies and Justice from the University of Washington and is currently earning a Master’s in Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. She has called Charleston her home since 2010.

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Chasman Barnes

Policy Professional and Advocate for Criminal and Social Justice Reform

Chasman Barnes is a native Floridian. He is a tale of Chasman Barnes two cities, having grown up in Eatonville, Florida-the oldest black municipality in the United States, established in 1887- in Catalina Park, and South Apopka in the Lake Opal Estates neighborhood. Chasman, like many young people in

Central Florida, was drawn to the arts at a very young age. He is a trained pianist and has played for or led the worship of several churches in the Orlando area. He is a former child actor and entertainer for the Walt Disney World Company. He worked in Wireless Communications with his eyes on a bachelor’s degree in Business. While climbing the ladder of success during his late teens, tragedy befell Chasman’s life, causing him to be swept into the criminal legal system on one fateful night in January of 1999. Having been falsely accused and wrongly convicted, Chasman spent 20 years in prison. Though his story is long and arduous, it does not end there. By God’s unthwarted purpose and unending grace, Chasman experienced great growth and development while inside prison walls and is continuing the work of pursuing divine calling by living as a man of influence in the nonprofit sector as a Policy and Legislative Assistant for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and as an Independent Advocate for Criminal and Social Justice Reform. As an advocate, Chasman is passionately pursuing real change in systems that cause people in general and returning citizens in particular to experience chronic poverty, economic disparity, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and a lack of participation in democracy. Chas is a well-sought-after speaker, panelist, and community organizer; particularly helping communities of faith understand their role in advocacy and civic engagement.

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Melissa Black

Correctional Program Administrator - Medical Release Unit | Florida Department of Corrections

Melissa Black, M.S., is a Correctional Program Administrator within the Bureau of Admission and Release Management for the Florida Department of Corrections. She is the supervisor of a specialized team whose main objective is the successful reintegration of elderly and medically compromised inmates back into the community. The primary focus is working with Florida communities to place eligible inmates into housing that meet their physical health and/or ambulatory needs. She and her team are heavily involved with the identification of post-release healthcare needs, benefit establishment, and connection with nursing homes or assisted living environments that can meet advanced healthcare needs following incarceration.

Ms. Black has held many positions within the Department of Corrections up to this current point in her career. The experience has provided her with knowledge of substance abuse counseling, classification management, mental health treatment planning, and currently, with post-release transition planning. Since her unit’s inception in 2017, Ms. Black and the leadership team have been able to establish formal partnerships with multiple agencies to aid in inmates’ transition. This innovative unit has made the Florida Department of Corrections tremendously successful assisting this specific subset of the inmate population.  

Melissa holds a Master of Science Degree in Family and Child Sciences from Florida State University. She also obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Gender Studies from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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Jonathan Bleiweiss

Executive Director | Florida Justice Center

Jonathan Bleiweiss After serving as a Deputy Sheriff and then Detective, Jonathan found himself in handcuffs. As he fought his way through the courts and over four years of incarceration, his eyes were opened to the injustice and inequities of the broken system of which he had once been a part.

With this realization, as well as his experience on both sides of the law, Jonathan created Florida’s first legal aid organization focused on mitigating the effects of justice-involvement while giving people a better chance at employment, housing, and education.

Today, Jonathan serves as the Founder and Executive Director of the Florida Justice Center. Jonathan is a JustLeadershipUSA Leading with Conviction Fellow, an Advisory Council Member of the Courts Matter Florida Coalition by NCJW, and a Policy Council Member of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Jonathan has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Eckerd College and a Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix.

Jonathan has dedicated his life to helping those marginalized and disenfranchised by the system and to bringing access to justice to underserved communities.

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Jessica Blue-Howells

Deputy National Director, Veterans Justice Programs | US Department of Veterans Affairs

Jessica Blue-Howells, LCSW, serves as Deputy National Director, Veterans Justice Programs, at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration (VHA). In this role Jessica oversees VHA’s national prison outreach effort, and supports the Veterans Justice Outreach program, which serves Veterans in local jails and courts, including Veterans Treatment Courts. Jessica is also the national subject matter expert for Project CHALENG (Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups) and serves as the operational partner on numerous studies focused on justice involved Veterans. Jessica joined VHA in August 2001 and has spent her VHA career serving homeless and justice involved Veterans.

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Brandon Boyce

Field Director | Prison Fellowship

Brandon Boyce is a Field Director for Prison Fellowship serving the incarcerated and all who have been affected by crime. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Anchor House a Christ Centered Transitional Program. He will soon be celebrating his tenth year of sobriety and as a restored citizen. He has a beautiful wife Emily, a son named Gideon, and another child on the way.

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Dr. Jennifer L. Brinkley

Assistant Professor | University of West Florida

Dr. Jennifer L. Brinkley is an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of West Florida and a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  She is a certified Inside-Out instructor and has run a Reading Writing Group at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution since 2020.  She has been published in various journals, including the Kentucky Law Journal, Northern Illinois University Law Review, South Carolina Law Review, Quinnipiac Law Review, Lincoln Memorial University Law Review, Kentucky Bench & Bar, The Legal Educator, and Legal Writing: Journal of Legal Writing Institute.

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Tony Britten

Reentry Program Manager | Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

Tony Britten is the Reentry Program Manager for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. Tony graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska. He has over thirteen years of correctional experience, with the last seven serving with the reentry team. He was chosen as one of the first three Reentry Specialists to be brought on to the reentry team in 2015. He was promoted to Reentry Case Manager, and in 2019, promoted to Reentry Program Manager. Tony helps oversee a team of thirteen people who assist individuals releasing from the state’s nine correctional facilities. He has been instrumental in the development of the reentry team and a tireless advocate for the formerly incarcerated. He serves on the board of Bridges to Hope, a nonprofit organization which provides individuals coming out from incarceration with essential items necessary to set up a home. He is an avid traveler and enjoys spending time with his wife and labradoodle.

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Jason Bryant

Director of Programs | CROP Organization

Jason Bryant holds a BA from Adams State University with an MA in Philosophy from California State University and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He has 20 years of lived experience within the CDCR.

Jason dedicated his term of incarceration to higher education and serving other people through thoughtful conversations and coaching about new possibilities for people’s lives.


Jason was a lead counselor who collaborated with the CROP Organization in the development of several successful workforce development and personal leadership programs. Jason holds an advanced certification as an Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor and received Senatorial recognition for his contributions in the development of a counseling program for justice-involved people.


Additionally, Jason wrote a master’s degree thesis on the existential value of incarcerated people choosing to live responsibly (i.e. in alignment with their higher commitments to freedom, family, and community) along with the value of engaging transformative programs within correctional institutions.


In 2020, Jason’s sentence was commuted by Governor Newsom who ordered his immediate release from prison due to his remarkable contributions in transformative and rehabilitative work while incarcerated.

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Orie Bullard

Director | The Reentry Center in Riviera Beach

Orie Bullard is currently the director of The Reentry Center in Riviera Beach and has been on a mission for more than a decade to engage and empower his local community by diminishing the barriers for its most underserved population: returning citizens. Throughout his tenure at The Reentry Center, Orie has helped to impact the lives of more than 1500 criminal justice-involved men and women. Orie’s goal is to provide a sustainable system of care that educates and supports returning citizens and their families throughout the arduous reentry journey. With 15 years of executive level leadership in the Reentry field, Orie has been consistently effective in merging his transformational leadership style and passion for innovative community engagement to create impactful opportunities for returning citizens. 

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Christal Carmichael

Director of Youth Development | Communities In Schools of North Carolina

Passionate about Juvenile Justice, leadership and mental health.  Christal was appointed by the Board of Commissioners to serve on the Juvenile Council for Crime Prevention and was selected to serve on the Executive Board. She was also selected by Communities in Schools of North Carolina, one of the leading nonprofit organizations in the nation, to serve as director of youth development for ReEntry to Resilience, a program that seamlessly and successfully transitions at-risk youth from confinement back to their communities. Christal was selected by the National Council of Negro Women as the 2020 Woman of Excellence for her leadership in the community and is a 2021 recipient of the 40 under 40 award. Christal graduated with honors with her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from North Carolina Central University. During her undergraduate years, she served as Miss Freshman, Miss Psychology and reigned as Miss North Carolina Central University. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Arizona State University. Christal Carmichael has demonstrated her passion for youth from a very young age. Her productive career as a therapist, professor and mentor has given her the opportunity to share her knowledge all over the country.  Her vision and leadership are remarkable, and her accomplishments have been transformative. She has been and continues to be a noteworthy role model, change agent, and advocate of many. She and her husband of 10 years have three beautiful children. She enjoys reading, traveling and “all things fun” with her family.

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Dr. Wendy Cavendish

Professor | University of Miami

Dr. Wendy Cavendish is a Professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami. Her interdisciplinary research focus includes the examination of the relationship between institutional processes involved in educational and transition decision making for diverse youth. Her recent work includes the use of an equity-focused, intersectionality-based policy analysis framework for research on the practices and processes in schools and other social institutions (e.g., criminal justice system) that facilitate successful transition of special education, juvenile-justice involved, and foster care youth. She has published over 60 articles and research and policy reports on these topics.

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Barbara Cheives

President and CEO | Converge & Associates Consulting, Inc.

Barbara Cheives is the President and CEO of Converge & Associates Consulting.  Converge specializes in race and ethnic relations consulting, employee relations and community engagement.  Converge has developed a training niche in Equity & Inclusion; Cultural Competency; Implicit Bias; Racial Equity; and Respectful Communication in the Workplace. Their client base includes government entities; law enforcement and public safety; not for profit organizations; media; education; and corporations.

Barbara served as the first Executive Director of Toward A More Perfect Union in Palm Beach County, Florida - a non-profit initiative addressing the critical impact of race and ethnicity in a diverse community. Among the organizations that Barbara has provided training for are International Speedway Corporation; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; Palm Beach County and Broward County Children’s Services Councils; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice; The City of West Palm Beach; Planned Parenthoods of Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast, plus numerous municipalities, and non-profit organizations. She has also designed and delivered workshops around youth violence prevention; Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), and the portrayal of minorities in the media.

Barbara's community appointments include the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission where she is a past chair. She served on West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio’s Transition Team where she chaired Neighborhood Improvement and Community Outreach.  She was also appointed as a Commissioner to the statewide 2007 Blueprint Commission for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

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Dr. Carmen Colquitt-Turks

Reentry Supervisor | Davidson County (Nashville, TN) Sheriff’s Office

Dr. Carmen Colquitt-Turks grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and received her early education in the Knox County School System. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Tennessee State University, a Master of Public Service Management from Cumberland University, and a Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Trevecca University. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Criminal Justice from Walden University.

In 1994, Dr. Turks began a career at the Nashville Sheriff’s Office were she is currently employed a Program Manager (Reentry). At the Sheriff’s office she has worked in many roles, Transitional Specialist (career track), Case Manager, Culinary Arts Coordinator, Gang Intelligence Officer, Substance Abuse Counselor, and a member of the Special Operation Response Team (S.O.R.T.). Dr. Turks was an adjunct faculty member in the Criminal Justice Department at Tennessee State University. She is a Desert Storm Veteran in the United States Army Reserves.

She is married to Col. Harold E. Turks, and they have two sons Harold Jr. and Jordan.

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Dr. Lucius Couloute

Assistant Professor | Suffolk University

Dr. Lucius Couloute is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminal Justice at Suffolk University and the co-investigator for Just Income GNV. He came to Suffolk University in the summer of 2019. Previously, he worked as a policy analyst with the Prison Policy Initiative where he produced policy reports using Bureau of Justice Statistics data and advocated for criminal justice reform.


Dr. Couloute’s primary research interests involve the practices, processes, and impacts of criminalization. His current research investigates the structural barriers and cultural ideas that permeate a northeastern prisoner reentry system. Dr. Couloute’s work also examines how organizations produce, mediate, or experience systems of inequality.

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Natalie Crespo

Chief Operating Officer | Rebel Recovery Florida

Natalie Crespo serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Rebel Recovery FL and has directed Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) since inception with the Care Coordinator and Peer Navigator.  Natalie also is the Housing Quality Standards Inspector for the agency. Her experience is emphasized in business management & administration, construction management, property management & maintenance, code enforcement, vocational training & management of day services for individuals with SPMI & ID, public housing & section 8 including tenant and landlord law. This experience has aided Rebel Recovery in providing exemplary services to the participants served in the community. Natalie is a rare local of south Florida who defends her beliefs and advocates for her clients in any setting. Her upbringing paired with her cultural background has supported her efforts and drive to assist those in need within the diverse environment we call home here in Palm Beach County. 

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Dr. Sondra Fogel

Associate Professor | University of South Florida

Dr. Sondra Fogel is an associate professor and chair of the PHD program at the University of South Florida School of Social Work. Dr. Fogel’s research interests are focused on homelessness and vulnerable populations with special attention to housing and other social determinates of health, forensic social work issues, including capital punishment, and social work education. Her research is published in numerous interdisciplinary journals. Dr. Fogel received her MSW from Columbia University and her PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Amlak-I Foley

Post-Release Case Manager | The GEO Group

Amlak-I Foley’s life took a tumultuous turn on January 23, 1998 when he was arrested. An arrest that resulted in a 21-year prison sentence to be served in over ten different prisons, which included a 38-month term of 24-hour lockdown in a single man cell.  Where many would say it was a list of crimes which sent him to prison to endure these conditions, he’s compelled to believe that it was bad decisions which sent him to prison. It was from this understanding that he began changing his way of thinking, in turn changing his behavior and ultimately changing his life. These mental transformations, along with his passion to help others, placed him in a position to assist in changing the behaviors and lives of others through peer-mentorship. He served as a Substance Abuse facilitator, created two curriculums while facilitating them and even served in the capacity as peer orientation coordinator for new arrivals while incarcerated.  As ironic as it may sound, going to prison was the main catalyst to his path of success.

It was behind the walls of societal seclusion where he would pour himself into the time and effort of turning his cell into a college dormitory. It was there in his cell intended for his incarceration where he would find his liberation. He would block out time slots where he would study collegiate unabridged textbooks in an autodidact fashion, which ultimately led to him enrolling in Miami Dade College. However, upon his release he would go on to enroll in Broward College to begin his journey of acquiring his international human rights law degree where he plans to fight against global injustices.

To name a few of his achievements: he has mentored in over 15 schools, lectured at FAU (Florida Atlantic University) and Broward College, served as an advisor to the Palm Beach Reentry Task Force, facilitated a professional development course on student-teacher connectivity for the Palm Beach County School District, met with 5 State Senators to discuss prison reform.  He now serves as a post-release case manager for the GEO Group.

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Dr. Ralph Fretz

Psychologist | Palm Beach County Youth Services Division

Dr. Ralph Fretz is a licensed psychologist (New Jersey and Florida) employed as a psychologist and coordinator for trauma-informed care at the Highridge School, a County-run adolescent residential program in Palm Beach County. He is Board-Certified in Couple and Family Psychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology. For the past 40 years, Dr. Fretz has worked with various populations, including children, families, juvenile and adult offenders, psychiatric inpatients, Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity patients, and sex offenders. Dr. Fretz’s work has been published in journals, including Corrections Compendium, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Journal of Community Corrections, and Corrections Today. Dr. Fretz has presented at national and international conferences on various topics, including Forensic Assessment Centers, Gender-Informed Correctional Treatment, Alternatives to Incarceration, the Families of Armageddon, and Risk-Need-Responsivity Principles.

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Nikki Girard

Program Manager | Intel Corporation

Nikki Girard is a strategic, innovative, and collaborative servant-leader helping to create world-changing technology as a Program Manager at Intel Corporation. 

She's been recognized for holding key Program and Project Management positions in the non-profit and social services sector spearheading Social Justice initiatives and preventative interventions for marginalized communities for 8+ years. 


Nikki previously helped to drive anti-recidivism efforts at The Lord's Place by coordinating the SCA program and managing the Pilot COSA project.


She is extremely passionate about building community, delivering solutions to under-represented groups, and committed to driving business value by cultivating meaningful relationships with stakeholders across organizations. 


Nikki holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Florida International University.

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Dr. Jessica M. Grosholz

Associate Professor | University of South Florida

Dr. Jessica M. Grosholz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at USF on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. She is the Sarasota-Manatee Campus Chair, the Director of the 100% online Master's in Criminal Justice Program, and the Sarasota-Manatee Campus Research Administration Faculty Fellow. Dr. Grosholz earned her PhD from Emory University in 2014. Her research focuses on prisoner reentry and recidivism, health and the criminal justice system, and qualitative field research. For the last 20 years, Dr. Grosholz has been a staunch advocate for individuals who are currently incarcerated as well as those who are formerly incarcerated. Dr. Grosholz’s research has been published in outlets such as Journal of Criminal Justice, Youth & Society, Criminal Justice & Behavior, Health & Justice, Social Science and Medicine, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, and Deviant Behavior.

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Dr. Wendy P. Guastaferro

Professor and Director | Florida Atlantic University

Dr. Wendy P. Guastaferro is the Director and Associate Professor in the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice and Associate Dean of Research with the College of Design & Social Inquiry. Dr. Guastaferro’s research centers on effective behavioral health (primarily substance abuse and mental health) treatments and policies within community, jail, and prison settings. Dr. Guastaferro’s current project is a quasi-experimental study looking at the effect of implementing parenting, trauma-care services, and a program of pro-social leisure activities focused on community and family oriented events (called the Social Recovery Initiative (SRI)) to an adult felony-level drug court and a family (drug) treatment court. Dr. Guastaferro is the co-PI on this study funded by the US HHS Administration for Children and Families 5-year, $4.9 million grant. Her latest research examines how well current treatment services meet the criminogenic and substance abuse treatment needs of participants in drug courts and the impact of peer support for women with opioid use disorder. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Offender Treatment and Comparative Criminology, Journal of Drug Issues, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and the American Journal of Public Health. Dr. Guastaferro teaches courses in criminal justice policy, health and justice, courts, and program evaluation.

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James Haskell

Veterans Reentry and Justice Reentry and Outreach Specialist | Baltimore VA Medical Center

James Haskell, MSW, MA, BS, is a Veterans Reentry and Justice Reentry and Outreach Specialist at the Baltimore VA Medical Center and has been since the program’s inception in August of 2007.  Mr. Haskell provides services to Veterans at both the PreTrial and Post-Conviction status.


Though he never served in the military himself, Mr. Haskell admits that he is the proud son of a 28 year Army Veteran of WW II, Korea and Viet Nam who was once an Army Drill Sargent and every Veteran is like family to him.


Mr. Haskell is a trained and certified VA Strength At Home Intimate Partner Violence [IPV] Group Therapist and VA MRT * Moral Reconation Treatment, Group Therapist who encourages the use of VA Video on Demand technology to promote Veteran access to quality VA Clinical Treatment Services, especially those Veterans who live in rural or more remote areas and those with significant transportation challenges.


Mr. Haskell earned his Masters in Social Work from The University of Maryland at Baltimore, School of Social Work in 1994. Mr. Haskell also has a Masters in Employee Assistance Counseling and an undergraduate degree in Health Education. 


Mr. Haskell currently conducts Incarcerated Veterans Reentry Recovery Programs in correctional facilities in the greater Baltimore Metropolitan area. Mr. Haskell has completed over 1,000 psychosocial assessments on incarcerated veterans, conducted group sessions with hundreds of incarcerated veterans, and collaborated with Public Defender Offices, Maryland Parole Commission, Specialty Drug, Mental Health and Veterans Courts and other local courts to promote access to treatment for incarcerated and Justice Involved Veterans as they leave incarceration or complete adjudication of their court proceedings.

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Carey Haughwout

Public Defender | Palm Beach County

Carey Haughwout took office in January of 2001. She graduated with High Honors from Florida State University College of Law in 1983. In 1979, she earned a degree in economics and sociology from New College in Sarasota. She began her career as an associate with a Tallahassee trial firm. From 1985 to 1990, she was an assistant public defender in Tallahassee and Palm Beach County, working her way from misdemeanor to capital cases. She practiced as a private criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee and Palm Beach County for 17 years.

As a leader for poor people in our justice system, Carey has worked with many organizations throughout Florida. She has been a member of the Palm Beach County, state and national Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Criminal Justice Commission, Legal Aid Society and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. She chaired the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission’s Reentry Task Force from 2008-2016, providing leadership in obtaining more than $4 million in federal funding to assist those returning from incarceration and cutting recidivism rates in half among the clients served. After establishing Reentry as a permanent department in Palm Beach County government with committed ad valorem funding, Carey turned leadership of the task force over to other policy makers. She returned in 2021 as Chair of the Task Force where she continues today. 

She has been recognized by her peers many times including receiving the Palm Beach County Bar Association's Professionalism Award, Palm Beach Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer's Champion of Justice Award and the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Law Service and Homeless Advocacy awards. Her legal expertise was recognized with the Governor Lawton Chiles’ appointment to the Domestic Violence Clemency Panel from 1995-1998, and the Supreme Court of Florida 1997 Appointment to the Special Advisory Committee on Minimum Standards of Competency for Counsel in Capital Cases.

Throughout the community her work has been acknowledged by countless organizations as the recipient of The ACLU Harriet S. Glasner Freedom Award, March of Dimes Women of Distinction Award, and the Lord's Place Ending Homelessness Award.

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Dr. Heather Howard

Associate Professor | Florida Atlantic University

Dr. Heather Howard research and clinical expertise focus on gender-specific and trauma-informed care for women that reduces stigma and encourages health empowerment. She has been awarded several local and national foundation grants for clinical research involving women’s health issues, such as substance use disorders and trauma. Prior to her current, tenured position at Florida Atlantic University, she was a perinatal social worker specializing in perinatal mental health and maternal substance use for more than 20 years. Her recent peer-reviewed publications focus on factors associated with adherence to standard of care and the use of shared decision making with pregnant women presenting with opioid use disorder. These publications emphasize the importance of decreasing stigma for perinatal women who are opioid dependent, and utilizing interprofessional approaches involving physicians, clinical social workers, and health educators, focusing primarily on health disparities and public health responses to maternal substance use. She is active in the peer recovery community in South Florida, and she developed the trauma-informed care-learning module for the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Initiative. Her most recent community-based participatory study with mothers impacted by substance use and the child welfare system demonstrated the importance of family preservation and support due to the traumatic experience of infant removal.

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Christopher Howell

Treatment Counselor | Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL) Sheriff’s Office

Christopher Howell is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a Master's Degree in Sociology and has been a Treatment Counselor for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for over 21 years. He began his career in the helping profession working with children who had been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused. After arriving at the Sheriff's Office, he created and facilitated a parenting program for adults and currently facilitates a 30 day drug treatment class for the In Jail Substance Abuse Program. He has also facilitated groups with juveniles facing adult charges, with a specific focus on teen parenting and victim impact. In 2009, Mr. Howell joined a local collaborative called Children of Hillsborough County Incarcerated Parents (CHIPs). As a core member and Chairperson of CHIPs, he was a part of the strategic planning committee and served as the keynote speaker for the 2013 CHIPs Symposium on Attachment Disorder and Generational Incarceration. In 2014, he conducted a School Age Trauma and Parental Incarceration Training for Hillsborough County School District psychologists, guidance counselors, and school social workers. Mr. Howell will be speaking today about how Jail Re-Entry can provide holistic programs to effect change.

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Dr. Lolita Johnson

Lead S.O.A.R Counselor | Davidson County (Nashville, TN) Sheriff’s Office

Dr. Lolita Johnson is one of the Lead Counselors with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (D.C.S.O), SSI/SSDI, Outreach, Access and Recovery (S.O.A.R.) program. Dr. Johnson has worked with D.C.S.O since 2004 and has been with the SOAR program for the last 6 years. Dr. Johnson’s 17+ years with D.C.S.O. has been very rewarding to her because she has worked in several capacities while at D.C.S.O. Dr. Johnson has worked with the state certified batterers’ intervention program, Sheriffs Anti Violence Effort (S.A.V.E), New Avenues Substance Abuse Treatment program as an Orientation Counselor and has also served as a Re-Entry Specialist. Dr. Johnson is also certified by the American Corrections Association (ACA) as a Correctional Behavioral Health (CBHC) professional. Dr. Johnson was also an adjunct faculty member in the Criminal Justice Department at Tennessee State University for 5 years. 

Dr. Johnson is a native of Nashville, TN and is very passionate about the work that she does. In Dr. Johnson’s spare time she loves to spend time with her family.  Dr. Johnson has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science w/a minor in Sociology from Maryville College and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Kaplan University and just completed her Doctorate Degree, Doctor of Education in Leadership and Professional Practice, from Trevecca Nazarene University. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Criminal Justice from Walden University.

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Vanessa Klein

Director of Reentry Services | The Lord’s Place

Vanessa Klein is the Director of Reentry Services at The Lord's Place where she currently oversees both pre and post-release reentry services programs , including coordination of the day-to-day responsibilities associated with operating both programs, and providing leadership and supervision to program staff. Vanessa has close to a decade of experience working with local not for profit social service agencies where her focus has been in the area’s of preventing chronic homelessness and providing innovative reentry services. She is a certified group facilitator in the University of Cincinnati’s Moral Recognition Therapy (MRT). She is also a trainer in the Level of Service Inventory – Revised (LSI-R) Assessment. Vanessa holds a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida.

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Brian Kowles, M.Ed

Manager of the Office of African, African American, Latino, Holocaust, and Gender Studies | School District of PBC

Brian Knowles, M.Ed. has been an educator for over 15 years. He earned his B.A. degree in History from Florida Atlantic University and completed his graduate studies at the University of West Florida. 

Brian currently serves as the Manager of the Office of African, African American, Latino, Holocaust, and Gender Studies within the School District of Palm Beach County, the tenth–largest public-school district in the United States. The Office of African, African American, Latino, Holocaust, and Gender Studies has been in existence for 26 years with a major focus on providing best teaching practices for students of color and the development of culturally responsive curriculum.

Brian and his team have been instrumental in supporting schools to create environments that are conducive to the academic success of Black students. His work has served to eliminate systemic barriers and interrupt practices rooted in racism at many levels including the classroom, the School District, and the community. During his tenure, he is proud of several accomplishments including authoring the SDPBC Equity and Access Policy 1.041, which legally binds the district to address systemic deficiencies that create gaps in academic achievement. Brian has also designed a series of state-wide, secondary-level courses that highlight the historical contributions and experiences of African Diasporic people:

  • Great Men and Women of Color Who Shaped World History

  • Examining the African American Experience in the 20th Century through Music and Visual Arts

  • Exploring Hip Hop as Literature, and

  • The History and Contribution of Haiti in a Global Context.

Brian was named one of South Florida’s Top Black Educators by Legacy magazine. His work and research have been featured in the Journal of Literacy Innovation: Rethinking Literacy Instruction.

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Monta Knudson

CEO/Executive Director | Bridges to Change

Monta Knudson has worked in many different capacities throughout his career, starting as a peer mentor in 2008, and now working as the Executive Director/CEO at Bridges to Change. At age 16, Monta entered the criminal justice system through McLaren Youth Correctional Facility. From 1987 until 2005, he spent nine years incarcerated, each time released without any support services or assistance. Finally, in 2005, he was released to a reentry program within Bridges to Change in Oregon. Monta navigated a newfound recovery with the help of a peer recovery mentor, addictions treatment, and clean and sober housing. For the first time, he experienced wrap-around services and their effectiveness. Monta has sustained his long-term recovery since March 3, 2003, celebrating 15 years sober this past March.  Throughout his journey, Monta has seen the impact of the war on drugs, specifically on people of color and those experiencing poverty.  From an overfilled prison system to stretched resources for underserved communities to the systemic racism within institutions, Monta has been part of making a change within Oregon. Where doors have opened for him, he has seen them close for other people based on their intersecting identities. Since his journey began, Monta has dedicated his life to working in addictions and mental health, with a focus on changing the systems that we are structurally embedded within. 


He has worked alongside individuals, organizations, and communities to ensure they have the tools to succeed in recovery, including treatment, housing, mentorship, job development, and broader support. Monta also believes in a commitment to social justice and working from an anti-racist framework. Monta enjoys yoga, racing motorcycles, and traveling with his loved ones in his free time. 

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Judge Timothy Kuhlman

Toledo Municipal Court

Judge Timothy C. Kuhlman was born and raised in Arlington, Ohio.  He graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan in 1988 and graduated from the University of Toledo Law School and joined the Ohio Bar in 1991. 

During Law School he was a member of the Law Review and was a Prosecutor Intern in the Toledo Municipal Court.  After graduation he became an associate at Eastman & Smith, Ltd., where he practiced for 14 years, trying more than 20 jury trials and handling more than 20 appeals.

In February 2005 he joined the Toledo Municipal Court and served as Presiding and Administrative Judge from 2007 through 2010, and again starting in 2019-2020.   As Presiding Judge, he worked closely with the other Judges, the Toledo Bar Association, city and other government officials and interest advocacy groups to continue improvements in the Toledo Municipal Court to ensure efficiency of operations, budget saving measures, and justice for all people who are served by the Court.   

Judge Kuhlman serves on the Lucas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council as Vice Chair and Finance and Re-entry Committee Chairs.  He works closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force and its Court’s Subcommittee to ensure safe and fair access to the Court for victims of domestic violence, and works with the YMCA Storer Camps on Camp Hope for children who witness violence.  He works with the Re-entry Coalition of Northwest Ohio to give incarcerated offenders an opportunity to be successful citizens upon release, and since October 2011 has run a monthly re-entry docket where recently released offenders have an opportunity to address outstanding Toledo Municipal Court issues.  Judge Kuhlman also serves on the Toledo Police Athletic League Board.

Judge Kuhlman has focused recent efforts on working with leadership in Lucas County to reduce its overall jail population, with particular focus on defendants of color, defendants with mental health, drug and alcohol issues and poverty.  Judge Kuhlman serves on the Lucas County committee that successfully obtained a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge grant to continue to focus on these issues, and has worked with others in Lucas County and the Arnold Foundation (Arnold Ventures) to implement the Public Safety Assessment risk assessment bond tool.  With others in that group, Judge Kuhlman presented at the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan Journal of Race and Law, at their seminar titled “Innocent Until Proven Poor, Fighting the Criminalization of Poverty” on February 20, 2016.  Judge Kuhlman is part of the Leadership Team that has provided procedural justice training to over 600 people in the Toledo Lucas County Criminal Justice System; he taught procedural justice to participants of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Smart Suite Fellows Academy through Michigan State University and has been an instructor for the Ohio Supreme Court and the Municipal Court Judges Association on topics ranging from procedural justice to alternative bail practices. In October 2019 he participated with the Center for Court Innovation, the Joyce Foundation and Latham and Watkins for Risk Assessment, Violent Crime and the Fight to End Mass Incarceration: A National Judicial Leadership Summit. 

Judge Kuhlman is married to Kathy and has two sons, Benjamin 13 and Scott 8.

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Nichole Landrum

Statewide Reentry Administrator | Florida Department of Corrections

Nichole Landrum began her career with the Florida Department of Corrections in 1995.  Throughout the past 27 years she has held positions of increasing responsibility and authority.  She has more than 10 years of experience working with reentry initiatives, to include serving as the Classification Supervisor during the opening of Gadsden Re-Entry Center and Assistant Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Re-Entry and Education, where apprenticeship programs were introduced to facilities, several veterans’ dorms were created, and the management of the 100 Hour Transition program and Re-Entry Seminars were under her direction. 


Nichole currently is the Statewide Re-Entry Administrator where she is leading the efforts to establish programming and restorative connections the FDC’s Short Sentence Correctional Institutions (SSCI).  Additionally, she oversees the Mentor Academy selection process, Roadmap to Restoration efforts throughout the state, the oversight, and operations of the statewide Volunteer Services program, monitoring of the reentry seminars statewide, and providing training to staff, volunteers, and stakeholders.  She also participates in several local reentry coalition/taskforce meetings.

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Kayla Larkin

Instructor & PhD student | University of Miami

Kayla Larkin is a Special Education PhD student at the University of Miami in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include the overrepresentation of students with disabilities in the school to prison pipeline, the experiences of incarcerated students with disabilities, and teacher bias and the experiences of Black student-athletes at predominantly white institutions. As a doctoral student, Kayla serves as an undergraduate instructor to student-athletes and as the graduate coordinator to Inspire U Academy, a mentoring program for first generation students.

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Terah Lawyer-Harper

Executive Director | CROP Organization

Terah Lawyer-Harper joined CROP in January 2022. She is the former Associate Director of Impact Justice’s groundbreaking reentry program - The Homecoming Project - a $3.5M housing innovation that matches eligible returning citizens with rooms for rent with compatible hosts. Over three years, she developed and led the program which has received national and state awards and provided nearly 70 formerly incarcerated individuals with

sustainable housing in the Bay Area.

Terah brings deep program development experience, reentry housing expertise and a passion for investing in people. Her lived experiences as a formerly incarcerated woman who spent 15 years in prison informs her work and approach to rehabilitation and reentry. She has received multiple fellowships and scholarships, and over the last ten years has launched programs and organizations that invest in the leadership development of justice-involved professionals in all trades and careers.


While incarcerated, Terah became a certified peer health educator, a drug and alcohol counselor and earned two associate degrees. She developed the Offender Responsibility program, which is still offered at Central California Women’s Facility. Terah also developed the program curriculum to launch a nonprofit, CORE (Criminal Offender Reform Establishment), which provides rehabilitative correspondent courses nationwide to people incarcerated in prison. The organization has served 2500 students since 2012. From 2012-2013, she was the elected chairperson of the Beyond Incarceration Panel and led an organization of 20 members to gain certifications as Congressionally Recognized Youth Diversion Specialists.


After returning home in 2017, Terah has dedicated her life to her community. She is the spokeswoman for the Drop the Life Without the Possibility of Parole campaign and has been featured in A New Way of Life testimonial series. Her work has been profiled in major media outlets such as NPR, CNN Great Big Story, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Mother Jones. Terah is a Young Professional of Color Fellow with the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and was a 201X Next Generations Fellow with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.


Terah is a San Francisco State University graduate and holds three undergraduate degrees in business administration, management, and social and behavioral sciences.

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Jill Levenson, PhD, LCSW

Professor | Barry University

Jill Levenson, PhD, LCSW, has been working in the re-entry field for 35 years in South Florida as a professor, researcher, and treatment provider. She uses a scientist-practitioner model to inform her trauma-informed research and clinical work with survivors, offenders, and families impacted by sexual harm. Dr. Levenson is one of the world's leading experts in treatment, policy, and re-entry for people convicted of sexual crimes, and she studies the impact and effectiveness of sex offense registries. She has published over 125 articles and six books, and her research includes projects funded by the National Institutes of Justice, the CDC, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. She has conducted Trauma-informed Care Trainings in clinical, forensic, and correctional settings in over 20 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2019 she was the recipient of ATSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was named by the Journal of Social Science Research as among the top 100 Social Work Scholars in North America. 

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Tara Libert

Co-founder and Executive Director | Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Tara Libert is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a Washington DC based nonprofit that assists incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth and adults using the literary arts, trauma healing, workforce development and violence prevention outreach. Free Minds is a community of support for members to achieve their education and career goals and become powerful change agents.


Before co-founding Free Minds in 2002 at the request of a young man charged as an adult on Texas' death row, Tara worked as a radio and television news and documentary producer. After producing many features on the US criminal legal system, showcasing such topics as the death penalty, prison conditions and juvenile justice reform efforts, she was drawn to direct service. Tara is a trained literacy tutor and restorative justice facilitator with youth. She has won the Linowes Award for “unsung community heroes” and the DC Department of Corrections George Strawn Volunteer Award. Under her leadership, Free Minds has won numerous awards, including the Aspen Ideas Award and the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. Tara launched the development of the Free Minds Connect, a magazine written by Free Minds members, staff, and volunteers, and distributed to Free Minds members in federal prisons across the country; she also created Free Minds’ innovative violence prevention project called “On the Same Page: Free Minds Poetry in the Classroom and Community,” in which Free Minds poets home from prison share their powerful stories of personal change to educate the community on the root causes of mass incarceration. Tara is also a founding member of the DC Reentry Action Network (DC RAN), a coalition of direct service providers for formerly incarcerated individuals.

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Mahlia Lindquist

Executive Director | Ladies Empowerment & Action Program

Mahlia Lindquist is the Executive Director of Ladies Empowerment and Action Program (LEAP), a re-entry program for women who have experienced incarceration. She brings her advocacy skills from years of practicing law to fight on behalf of the marginalized women she serves through LEAP. As a former prosecutor in Miami-Dade, she saw first hand how the justice system is stacked against vulnerable women and vowed to foster change and bring hope to justice-involved women. Under Ms. Lindquist’s leadership, LEAP has evolved from  a small non-profit providing services to women in prison, to being recognized as a leader in the women’s re-entry space.  Since taking the helm at LEAP 5 years ago, her vision of providing housing, wraparound services, trauma-informed therapy, even a retail business to provide jobs and job training have all been realized. Mahlia has a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University and a BA in economics from Emory University.

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Lazaro Lopez

Regional Director | Prison Fellowship

Lazaro Lopez is a Regional Director for Prison Fellowship, and is honored to serve the returning citizens of Department of Corrections in South Eastern States. He has witnessed time and time again the power of restoration through the quality programming Prison Fellowship offers. Besides having a degree in Theology and serving alongside with Reentry Transitional Programs for many years, he has been blessed with many other successes in life, but the one he is most proud of is being married to Elsy for the last 30 years. Together they have gone through the valley and the top of the mountain. They have raised 4 amazing kids and now enjoy their grandchildren.

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Dr. Richard Louis

Assistant Professor of Speech Communication | Broward College

Dr. Richard Louis is an Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at Broward College where he teaches at the college’s South Campus located in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Richard received his Bachelor of Science (Athletic Administration) from St. John’s University in Queens, New York, Master of Arts (Sports Administration) from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, Master of Business Administration (Human Resources) and Doctor of Education (Organizational Leadership) from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As a returning citizen himself, Richard was inspired to chronicle his reentry experiences in combination with his academic studies to optimize a research framework within his doctoral dissertation. His doctoral dissertation was titled “The Relationship Between Recidivism Rates and Post-Release Employment”, which sought to highlight the importance of education and sustainable employment/entrepreneurship for returning citizens as part of their overall reentry journey.


In his prior professional experience, Richard has worked for The Fortune Society in New York as a Family Services Specialist in which his job was to assist single fathers who were formerly incarcerated, successfully reintegrate into mainstream society which included being reunited with their children and building a new and fulfilling post-incarceration life.


In addition to his current professional role at Broward College, Richard is also an Adjunct Professor at Broward College and Miami-Dade College where he teaches courses such as Training & Development, Applied Concepts in Human Resources, Introduction to Speech Communications, and Speaking for Professionals. Richard is also a member of The African American Advisory Council of the City of Hollywood (FL) and is active in numerous nationwide criminal justice reform/reentry initiatives, and in addition is the Founder & President of Second Chance Coaching, LLC which is a consulting firm designed to assist returning citizens with re-integrating into the workplace, pursuing higher education, optimize entrepreneurial opportunities as well as provide organizational culture coaching, leadership, and professional development for organizations/higher education institutions to provide successful recruitment and retention of returning citizens as well as for the entire workforce/student body. Richard is also the host of the podcast “Second Chance Coaching with Dr. Richard Louis” which can be found on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Music.

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Jennifer Loyless

Program Coordinator | Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office

Jennifer Loyless works as Program Coordinator for The Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office. In her 20+ years with the agency she has assisted in the implementation of many programs to assist incarcerated and recently released individuals in hopes of reducing recidivism. Jennifer began her work in reentry by assisting in the implementation of a pilot county-jail program in 2002.  Over two decades that work has grown to assisting in the implementation of programming for jail and prison populations in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, Florida Department of Corrections, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and numerous community-based service providers. Additionally, Jennifer assists Palm Beach County’s elected Public Defender in community outreach work advocating for criminal justice policy change locally and statewide. 

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Dr. Cristina Lucier

Vice President of Community Programs | The Lord’s Place

Dr. Cristina Lucier is the Vice President of Community Programs at The Lord's Place, where she oversees several departments including Street Outreach and Engagement, Women's Services, Employment Services, Reentry Services, Clinical Services and Compliance.  In 2016 she began working at The Lord's Place, a social impact agency aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness in Palm Beach County.  She received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Boston College in 2014, and has published extensively in peer-reviewed social science journals, touching on topics such as social inequality, environmental pollution and its effects on economically disenfranchised communities, and the impact of regulations on the health status of the poor and minorities. She is an expert in qualitative and quantitative program evaluation, data analysis, contract administration, data management, quality assurance, strategic planning, and program budget oversight. Cristina is also a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County, Class of 2021. 

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Thomas Luettke

Reentry Coordinator | Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

Thomas (Tom) Luettke is the Reentry Coordinator for the Lucas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). The CJCC is a unit of local government that provides an integrated criminal justice information system, criminal history record checks, and management of federal grant dollars to Lucas County and Northwest Ohio. In 2013 the CJCC adopted a focus on reentry and hired a Reentry Coordinator. Mr. Luettke has been the Reentry Coordinator since 2015.


Prior to joining the CJCC as reentry coordinator, Mr. Luettke had a full-time law practice that focused on criminal representation for 15 years. In addition to his current CJCC responsibilities he still maintains a part-time practice. Mr. Luettke has been one of the attorneys handling the Toledo Municipal Court reentry docket since 2010.


Mr. Luettke currently serves as secretary of the Toledo Fair Housing Center Board and is president of the Ohio Association of Local Reentry Coalitions. He is also the immediate past president of both the Lucas County Bar Association and the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness board of directors. He has been active in criminal justice reform in Lucas County and currently serves on numerous criminal justice committees, including the Volunteers of America Citizen Advisory Board, Ohio-Link Advisory Board, Toledo Correctional Advisory Board, the Domestic Violence High-Risk Team, MacArthur Coordinated Probation Practices Committee, the CJCC Case Processing Task Force, the Impact Coalition, and the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio.


Mr. Luettke received a BBA in Accounting from Adrian College and his J.D. from the University of Toledo. He has two adult children who both work as engineers.

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Michael Macias

Director of Employment Services | CROP Organization

Michael Macias career has been built around actions aimed at advocating for the rights of individuals while addressing social inequity for the most vulnerable among us. Their journey is guided by their experiences as an individual who identifies as system-impacted, and their work includes advocating for the rights of individuals experiencing housing insecurity; supporting existing programming designed to provide holistic healing services; and addressing economic inequity through workforce development initiatives. Michael believes in the power of transformational relationships, and they recognize that this work is a catalyst for individual and systemic change. They believe in being in proximity to those they serve, and Michael is committed to building models that amplify the voices and uplift individuals confronting historical marginalization and oppression. Michael is a gifted public speaker and their ability to convert programmatic data into compelling narratives have led to Michael being invited to speak and offer healing practices to audiences throughout the state. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from California State University, Fresno, and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Organizational Leadership.

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Sophia Manuel

Senior Program Manager | READI Chicago Heartland Alliance

Sophia Manuel joined Heartland Alliance in July 2018 and now serves as the Senior Program Manager, Reentry for READI Chicago. In this role, she builds and manages initiatives to bring READI Chicago programming to people returning from incarceration.

After working for several years as an investigator of police misconduct for the City of New York, Sophia turned her focus toward re-entry, at both the policy and direct service levels. She spent a summer with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, where she supported the implementation of programs for people with mental illness leaving jail. She also did a clinical internship with TASC inside the Cook County Jail, where she assessed individuals who were about to be released and referred them to community-based providers.

Ms. Manuel has dual master’s degrees in social work and public policy from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in development studies from Brown University.

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Holly Matthews

Executive Director | Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

Holly Matthews is the Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC).  The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) is a unit of local government that provides an integrated criminal justice information system, criminal history record checks, and management of federal grant dollars to Lucas County and Northwest Ohio.  Ms. Matthews has worked for the CJCC since 2001. In her current role, she oversees a staff of 45 and a budget of $4.1 million.  Under her leadership, CJCC has adopted a focus on reentry and the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice.  Through her leadership, CJCC has received more than $4 million in federal funding to enhance Lucas County criminal justice reform initiatives.

In recognition for her focus on increased cross-system information sharing, Ms. Matthews was invited to participate in the data-driven justice initiative sponsored by the White House and selected as one of 25 participants to attend the Behavioral Health Criminal Justice Leadership Academy.  Along with other Lucas County leaders, she presented on “A Local Community’s Efforts to Reduce Jail Incarceration and Criminal Justice Racial Disparities” at the University of Michigan’s College of Law’s Innocent Until Proven Poor symposium.  Ms. Matthews has presented at numerous other local, state, and national conferences and webinars.

Ms. Matthews has contributed to the following reports: Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) in the Lucas County Juvenile Justice System: Assessment Report (2008); Shattered Lives: A Report pf Domestic Violence Fatalities in Lucas County Ohio: 2003-2006 (2007); The Analysis of Teen Pregnancy Issues in Lucas County (2007); The Data and Evaluation Network Report on the Family Cycle of Domestic Violence in Lucas County (2005); Sharing Justice Information: A Capability Assessment Toolkit (2005); and The Refocus Center (2001). 

She is active in local criminal justice reform committees, including: Behavioral Health/Criminal Justice Committee; the Chief’s Advisory Board - Toledo Police Department; Cross System Mapping Group (Core Planning Team Member); Grant Review Team Member (Lucas County Jobs and Family Services, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Office of Criminal Justice Services, Ohio Department of Youth Services); Justice Advisory Council, Lucas County Commissioner’s Round Table on Domestic Violence; Lucas County Domestic Violence Taskforce (Former Secretary); Lucas County DMC Workgroup; Lucas County Youth Treatment Center Advisory Board; National Association of Justice Information Systems (Board of Directors); National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (Executive Committee); Ohio DMC Subcommittee; Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio; Youth Reentry Taskforce; Safety + Justice Challenge Core Planning Group; Toledo CIRV (System Team Co-Owner); and the University of Toledo Criminal Justice Advisory Board. 

Ms. Matthews earned her J.D. from the University of Toledo, and her B.A. from The College of Wooster.  She is admitted to the Ohio Bar.  Ms. Matthews received the Toledo 20 under 40 Leadership Award in 2016.

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Nancy McConnell

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder | Rebel Recovery Florida

Nancy McConnell, MSW, MCAP, CRPS, is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rebel Recovery FL. In this role, Nancy has been on the forefront of creating hybrid organizations that combine the values of harm reduction, syringe service programs, and increasing access to peer support services through recovery community organizations. Her passion is reducing stigma and barriers for returning citizens and expanding incarceration alternative programs and is a devoted advocate for sex-workers and members of the LGBTQI community. Nancy is an MSW, Certified Master’s Level Addiction Professional, (MCAP), Certified Recovery Peer Support, (CRPS), and is currently completing her Master’s in Nonprofit Management. She also is an advanced level facilitator of evidence-based practices such as Wellness Recovery Action Plans, (WRAP), Whole Health Action Management, (WHAM), and Motivational Interviewing. Nancy is a founding board member of Fl Harm Reduction Collective and serves as president and chair, a board member of Floridians for Recovery and the Florida Certification Board Behavioral Health Advisory Board. 

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Robert S. Melgaard

Statewide Career and Technical Education Administrator | Florida Department of Corrections

Robert S. Melgaard is a results-oriented Career and Technical Education administrative professional skilled in teaching, presenting to peers and stakeholders, training other professionals, project management, and networking to build lasting, professional relationships to enhance all students’ outcomes and employability.

Mr. Melgaard serves as the Career & Technical Education Programs Administrator for the Florida Department of Corrections, responsible for the management and operation of the Department’s over 100 Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Prior to his current role, Mr. Melgaard began his career with the Florida Department of Corrections as a CTE Masonry Instructor before being promoted to Regional CTE Coordinator. Additionally, Melgaard served as an adjunct instructor at Tallahassee Community College, where he taught masonry apprenticeship classes.

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Dhiny Mercedes

Reentry Department Manager | CareerSource Palm Beach County

Dhiny Mercedes graduated From Florida A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. A few years after graduating from college, he returned to South Florida and began working in social services, first as a medication technician at an Alzheimer’s specific assisted living facility and then as a Medicaid-Medicare case manager. A few years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Behavioral Technician. After he completed Basic training and Advanced Individual training, he began his career in the field of reentry. Dhiny worked as a prerelease reentry case manager inside a Florida prison for nearly four years. He facilitated a CBT-based curriculum and developed comprehensive transition plans for individuals released from the facility. He eventually left prerelease to help build the first Reentry Employment department within a local workforce board and a correctional facility in the state of Florida in 2016. Since then, he has deployed twice to Kuwait and Iraq and has been exposed to various forms of cognitive-based treatment and behavioral health providers.


Additionally, he has been instrumental in establishing behavioral health outreach to Soldiers in need in the deployed environment. His extensive work in all mentioned areas has exposed him to numerous populations. He is a firm believer in second chances. He is now the Reentry Department manager. He leads a team that focuses solely on creating employment opportunities for the reentry population. His team has developed several transitional jobs and on-the-job training (OJT’s) options for their targeted population.

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Christina Mitchell

Care Coordinator | Rebel Recovery Florida

Christina Mitchell is the Care Coordinator for the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) at Rebel Recovery FL and is also a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist. She has been employed at Rebel Recovery FL for over 4 years. In addition to her work as a CRPS-A and Care Coordinator, she is certified to facilitate Motivational Interviewing and Mental Health First Aid trainings. Christina is currently attending Palm Beach State College and will be graduating with an Associate’s Degree in the fall. Christina has lived experience with being unhoused and living with a substance use disorder. She uses these experiences to not only inspire her participants, but to empathize and assist in overcoming the barriers they face on their recovery journey.


Faith Montoya, CRPS

COSSAP Peer Navigator  | Rebal Recovery

Faith Montoya, CRPS, has been working for Rebel Recovery for 4.5 years, since relocating from New Mexico. She is the lead Peer Navigator for the COSSAP project. Prior to this, she was the Dependency court program lead peer specialist.

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Kasey Moyer

Executive Director | Mental Health Association of Nebraska

Kasey Moyer is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Nebraska (MHA). Kasey has been instrumental in developing and implementing the largest peer-run organization in Nebraska, currently employing over 50 Peer Specialists.  Kasey has significantly expanded peer services over the past 17 years, including peers in supported employment, the mental health emergency department, respite houses, law enforcement referral and response programs, public schools, county jails, and state correctional facilities. Kasey also has extensive experience in hiring, training and maintaining peer staff retention, many of the peers having 6 to 15 years of employment with MHA. Kasey has worked with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), Nebraska Adult Parole Administration and Nebraska State Probation to develop and implement peer operated re-entry services and transitional housing. Kasey is an appointed member of the Restricted Housing Workgroup focusing on people living with behavioral health issues who are incarcerated.

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Oswald Newbold

Case Manager | The Reentry Center of Riviera Beach

Oswald Newbold is reentry case manager for The Reentry Center of Riviera Beach (formerly the Justice Service Center) and a peer mentor for The GEO Group Inc. He is also a member of Palm Beach County Reentry Task Force and a certified Reentry Peer Specialist (RPS). Before becoming a criminal justice professional for reentry services and programs, Oswald learned firsthand about running into trouble with the law. At age 19, he was arrested. At age 20, he was sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years in prison. Fortunately, Oswald later won a postconviction motion which led to the sentences being reduced. That lived experience inspires the work Oswald does today in reentry and in helping people and communities.

To help educate and empower returning residents, Oswald created the Professional Development Program for Returning Citizens. Additionally, he often speaks at colleges and universities to students whose concentrations are in criminal justice, criminology, pre-law, or law. Oswald says: “There is still so much work to be done and we must invest in our future leaders.”

Oswald is a recipient of the 2019 Abdus Salaam Logan Award for Perseverance and Commitment to Change. In 2022, he recently became a bestselling author in the anthological book, The Joseph Anointing: From Prison to Prosperity. Oswald holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Palm Beach Atlantic University where he graduated magna cum laude.

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Dr. Jim Parker

Volunteer | Prison Ministry

Dr. Jim Parker, a retired college/university administrator and graduate school professor, has been actively involved in prison ministry for the past 13 years. Currently, as a volunteer with Matthew 25 Ministries, he teaches and pastors men at Martin Correctional Institution, Florida. Jim has taught various courses, including the FL DC reentry course Communication and Anger Management, The Heart of a Father: Malachi Dads, Victims Impact, and Parenting From The Inside. He also works with sex offenders in their reentry process.

Jim is also a member of Kairos, a lay-led, interdenominational Christian ministry at Okeechobee Correctional Institution. He enjoys leading the Acceptance and Forgiveness talks and discussing forgiveness with the residents.

He also actively volunteers as a member of the board of directors at Restoration Destination, a faith-based, 24-acre prison reentry residential program in Pahokee, Florida. For the past 33 years, Restoration Destination has welcomed men and women coming out of prison – with an approximate recidivism rate of 2%.

Jim has been happily married to Diana Stanley for the past 37 years – they have 4 children and a fantastic family.

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Tyrina Pinkney

Director of Clinical Services | The Lord’s Place

Tyrina Pinkney is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is a native of Mississippi that has called Palm Beach County home for almost sixteen years. Tyrina has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Lynn University and her Master of Social Work from Barry University. Tyrina at this time is furthering her education to obtain her Doctoral of Social Work at Barry University, where her focus of study is improving well-being in the workplace. For the past eight years, Tyrina has taken pride in being able to assist those who are suffering from homelessness at The Lord’s Place. Prior to working at The Lord’s Place, Tyrina was able to serve those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse at a local Baker Act receiving facility. Tyrina loves the idea of being comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to grow and learn innovative ideas to help humankind. Tyrina’s current position at The Lord’s Place is Director of Clinical Services where she oversees the CARE Team.

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Clark Porter

Program Support Specialist | United States Probation Office Eastern District

Clark Porter is a former offender who spent most of his adult life in the federal prison system for armed robbery. At the age of 4 he was placed in the foster care system due to severe neglect, and experienced multiple placements because of his behavior problems. He later ran away from the foster care system at the age of 15 and began a life of petty crime. He was placed in the Division of Youth Services (DYS) at the age of 16 for 2nd degree assault. Upon his release from DYS, he resumed his criminal career, and began committing street robberies. He grew frustrated with the nickel and dime robberies, so at the age of 17 Clark and an accomplice robbed a downtown post office with a sawed off shotgun. He was subsequently tried and convict of the robbery and sentenced to 35 years in the Bureau of Prisons. While in the Bureau of Prison, Clark was transferred to several maximum security facilities for violent assaults on inmates. When his violent propensity became unmanageable in maximum security facilities, he was placed in a supermax facility in Marion, Illinois, and was later placed in a more secure supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.


During his time on 22 hours lockdown, Clark took the time to do a self inventory and reflect on his life. He realized he had not had any breaks in his life, and he needed to give himself one. He became a model prison during his last few years of prison and devised a plan to rebuild his life after he was released from prison. Once Clark was released from prison, he set out to become a productive member in society by working two jobs and attending St. Louis Community College. He completed his Associates of Arts in Human Services, and accepted a scholarship to attend Washington University in St. Louis. Clark obtained his Bachelor of Science in General Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and went on to get his Masters of Social Work from the University of Missouri St. Louis. Clark has worked with various nonprofit organizations since his release, and he is currently a program support specialist with the United States Probation Office Eastern District of Missouri. He work entails him developing and maintaining community resources to assist former offenders with the reintegration process, and working with the Bureau of Prisons reentry programs.

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Raqueal Pullums

Reentry Program Manager | READI Chicago Heartland Alliance

Raqueal Pullums was born in Illinois but spent majority of her adolescence years in Kentucky. She attended the University of Louisville where she received her Bachelor’s in Political Science in 2013. She later moved back to Chicago, IL where she earned her Master of Social Work with a concentration in Leadership and Development from Loyola University of Chicago. Her passion to help others with multiple barriers recognize their strengths and abilities and to become the best version of themselves led her to work with several at-risk populations. Raqueal has worked with disadvantaged youth, people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, justice system involvement, and gun violence. After almost 10 years in direct service, she now serves as the Program Manager for READI for Reentry, where she is leading a team of individuals who are dedicated to helping to change the life trajectory of individuals returning to the community from incarceration.

Raqueal joined Heartland Alliance as a Job Coach with READI Chicago in 2017 and was quickly promoted to Job Coach Supervisor. She was able to lead a team of coaches who facilitated Cognitive Behavior Interventions to men at the highest risk for gun violence who were either victims or perpetrators. She was able to lead with compassion, be trauma-informed, and strength-based with her staff, participants, and peers. Now as Program Manager for READI for Reentry, she continues to lead with compassion and advocate for men who barriers to employment, housing, and many other barriers to successful reintegration.

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Jennifer Rechichi

Assistant Bureau Chief of Program Development | Florida Department of Corrections

Jennifer Rechichi is a solutions-focused professional with an extensive background in the development of risk/needs assessment, program development and program implementation in both the fields of juvenile justice and adult corrections. 


Jennifer currently serves as the Assistant Bureau Chief of Program Development, at the Florida Department of Corrections after working nearly 13 years in numerous leadership positions for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In this role, she is responsible for the training and oversight of the implementation of the Department’s risk/needs assessment instrument, as well as the Program Clearinghouse. 


Jennifer holds an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University and an B.S. in Family, Child and Consumer Sciences, from the Florida State University.  Jennifer’s research interests include training, implementation and fidelity of evidence-based and best practices and risk assessment.

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Jynelle S. Robinson

Statewide Community Transition Administrator | Florida Department of Corrections

Jynelle S. Robinson is an innovative and accomplished program and human resources management professional with a track record of success in human capital strategies, workforce development, operational oversight, quality improvement, labor relations, coaching, and organizational development. She is a collaborative professional, experienced in small, mid, and large-scale project/program management, (including the management of multi-disciplinary teams), and is adept at identifying training and developmental needs through job analysis, appraisal schemes and partnering with leadership.

Currently, Mrs. Robinson is the Statewide Community Transition Administrator for the Florida Department of Corrections, where she is leading an effort to align best practices in reentry to improve employment and other outcomes for those returning from incarceration and reduce recidivism.


Previous work assignments have included Project Coordination for the division of workforce development at Tallahassee Community College, Board Staff at CareerSource Capital Region, Director of HR and Administration at Mainline Information Systems, Director of HR and Administration at Disability Rights Florida, and Director of HR and Administration at VISIT FLORIDA.

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Alex John Saiz

Director of Legal Services | Florida Justice Center

Alex John Saiz is the Director of Legal Services for the Florida Justice Center, where he oversees the legal representation of thousands of indigent clients with clemency, redemption, and civil rights issues. During that time the Florida Justice Center has grown to become one of the largest criminal legal aid organizations in the State of Florida. Through the growth of the organization, Alex has become one of the foremost experts on clemency and criminal rights restoration issues in the State.  

Alex has been a criminal defense attorney in Florida for over a decade where he has represented thousands of clients in matters ranging from simple traffic cases to murder. Eight of those years as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County. In 2020, he founded his own criminal defense firm based in Coral Gables, Florida.  

From 2014 to 2016, Alex served on the City of Miami Charter Reform Committee, where he analyzed and drafted changes to the charter that forms the City of Miami. 

In 2017, Mr. Saiz was awarded the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Miami Chapter’s Gregg Wenzel Outstanding Young Lawyer award for his work in the community. In 2019, Florida Trend named him one of the top government and non-profit attorneys in the State of Florida.  

Alex is a dedicated advocate for indigent defense. Beyond his work as a criminal defense attorney, he volunteers with pro bono efforts through the Cuban American Bar Association, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Camillus House Homeless Shelter, and the Public Defender’s Office Redemption Workshops.  

Alex is a graduate of Florida International University with B.A. degrees in International Relations and Political Science. He is a graduate of the American University Washington College of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate.

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Kevin Scott

Director | Just Income GNV

Kevin Scott was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Florida. Kevin is a longtime Gainesville resident with a passion for social justice and community organizing. As a 2020 Community Spring Fellow, Kevin helped found Torchlighters Reentry Support and CS Direct.


He is now the Project Director of Just Income GNV, a guaranteed income project by and for formerly incarcerated people. An outspoken advocate for criminal justice issues and prisoner rights, he has been involved with Florida Prisoner Solidarity since 2016. Kevin has been a pivotal voice in several grassroots campaigns leading to policy changes around the use of prison labor. Kevin also gratefully serves as a Guest Ambassador at GRACE Marketplace, a homeless services shelter.

Kevin has been to every state but Hawaii, practices Zen meditation, and is the proud father of one genius daughter and two dumb cats.


Allie Severino

City of West Palm Beach

Allie Severino is a behavioral and mental health professional and Peer Specialist who has been serving Palm Beach County for over a decade. Currently, Allie works for the City of West Palm Beach where she engages our unhoused neighbors with the goal of providing housing and support services.

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Dr. Risdon N. Slate

Professor | Florida Southern College

Dr. Risdon N. Slate received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, master’s degree from the University of South Carolina, and his Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California. He began teaching at Florida Southern College in 1993.  His recent books are entitled Criminalization of Mental Illness: Crisis and Opportunity for the Justice System and The Decision-Making Network: An Introduction to Criminal Justice. His research interests include the interface of the mental health and justice systems and criminal justice practitioner stress. He has served as a trainer and sought out speaker on these topics with police, probation officers, correctional officers, judges, medical doctors, and psychiatric residents.  He served as a gubernatorial appointee to Florida’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commission.  Dr. Slate has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the impact of mental illness on the criminal justice system.  Slate is a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and he has prior work experience as a United States Probation Officer and as assistant to the warden at a medium/maximum, death row, prison. Dr. Slate recently served as an appointee to the Florida Bar Special Committee on Mental Health and is a recipient of the John Howard Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences for his significant contributions to the practice of corrections through scholarship, teaching, policy, and service.  


Craig Spatara

Director of Post-Release Services | The GEO Group

Craig Spatara serves as the Director of Post-Release Services for The GEO Group where he develops and administers a national reentry program that helps thousands of individuals transition back from incarceration each year.  Craig has facilitated successful relationships between correctional facilities and community-based service providers at the federal, state and local levels.  He established a national network of providers that work collaboratively to eliminate barriers to successful reentry.  Additionally, Craig helped develop an automated reentry case management system that links correctional agencies and community organizations while tracking recidivism, employment and additional reentry outcomes.  He has recently undertaken a project to improve reentry services by developing reentry provider standards. 


Craig Spatara has examined each aspect of the criminal justice system throughout his 27 years in the field and implemented programs that improved processes, data collection and outcomes.  He strongly believes recidivism issues can be solved by focusing on prevention and reentry, the bookends of the system.  He strives to facilitate collaboration between government, the private sector, non-profits and formerly incarcerated individuals to address criminal justice reform. 


Craig earned his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic University and has advocated throughout his career for equal opportunity and second chances.

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Alia Spencer

Faculty Librarian | Palm Beach State College

Alia Spencer, MLIS, is currently a faculty librarian at Palm Beach State College.  She earned a Masters in Library and Information Sciences degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  Ms. Spencer is a member of the Medical Library Association and Palm Beach County Reentry Taskforce.  Her work explores the positive impact of academic instructions in the development and education of returning residents.

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Diana Stanley

Chief Executive Officer | The Lord’s Place

Diana Stanley has led The Lord’s Place in its mission to end the cycle of homelessness and advocate for those living on the margins of our society for fifteen years. Her enthusiasm has empowered staff to deliver superior programs and services, and her exceptional ability to inspire people to take action has created systemic reform at the local, state and national levels.


Ms. Stanley, along with her executive leadership team, have created new programs, financially stabilized and diversified the agency resources, and fostered the creation of many innovative programs, including social enterprises, supportive housing projects, job training, street engagement, and an internal strategic innovation department to lead the agency’s research, evaluation, grant, and data management functions.


Most recently, Diana led the agency in a $20 million capital campaign – “Home for Good” - to expand, increase and sustain the agency. Funds will be used to create a new 25,000 square foot facility on Australian Avenue that will be the new home for Café Joshua, Joshua Catering, Engagement Center, Job Training and Employment, Advocacy, Women Services, Reentry Services and Housing Services. The facility is slated to open in spring of 2023. In addition, funds will be used to increase the supportive housing in our community. Under Diana’s leadership, The Lord’s Place has tripled its housing inventory – including dedicated housing for women experiencing homelessness, poverty and formerly incarcerated.


Diana is a true advocate for quality of life, especially for the less fortunate, and her leadership inspires action and passion for changing lives.

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Val Stanley

Director of Women’s Services | The Lord’s Place, Inc.

Val Stanley is the Director of Women’s Services at The Lord’s Place. She leads the agency's Women's Services Initiative, which includes three housing programs for homeless and formerly incarcerated women,  gender-specific trainings and workshops for clients and staff, and community advocacy and networking to advance the rights of marginalized women. Val’s spirited determination to help our community’s most vulnerable women has led to many accomplishments, innovations and milestones throughout her tenure at The Lord’s Place. As the inaugural director of Burckle Place, which opened in 2013 to serve unsheltered women falling through the cracks of the local homeless system, Val has been instrumental in developing a gender-responsive program model that holistically empowers women to transform their lives. Val has an extensive professional and personal history of championing women’s issues in Palm Beach County. She is a former executive director of  PACE Center for Girls and the creator of a local women’s enrichment group that has more than 100 members.

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LaVon Stennis-Williams

Facility and Community Reentry Program Development Consultant

LaVon Stennis-Williams is the Founder and Executive Director of ReConnect, Inc. ReConnect was founded by Stennis-Williams as a “Second-Chance” opportunity after being convicted and sentenced to federal prison.  Stennis-Williams used her prison experiences and the experiences she gained as a former attorney to develop a program she wished had been in existence when she was navigating her return to the community. ReConnect’s main focus is growing the capacity of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women to address and overcome barriers that impact their life including self-imposed barriers.

Intent on making her mess her message, Stennis-Williams shares her story as an example and a way to connect to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women. Highly regarded as a subject matter professional on developing effective reentry programs, Stennis-Williams is frequently invited to consult with communities in developing reentry and second chance programs infrastructures based on the success of her programs.

Stennis-Williams is a committed advocate of prison and community reform to support reentry and has helped introduce and get passed both policy and law changes impacting incarceration and second chance opportunities.

ReConnect, Inc. has been a grantee under the Nebraska Department of Corrections, Vocational and Life-Skills grant since 2016.  ReConnect’s life-skills and reentry planning classes developed by Stennis-Williams are taught in 7 of the 9 Nebraska correctional facilities. She also developed a series of life-skills and reentry planning independent learning modules during the pandemic.


Stennis-Williams is an award-winning author, motivational speaker and life coach. She is married and the mother of 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren.

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Dr. Sandra Stone

Professor | University of South Florida

Dr. Sandra S. Stone is a professor in the Department of Criminology at USF on the Sarasota-Manatee Campus and also serves as the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies.  She earned her BA in Sociology and Psychology and MA in Psychology from the University of West GA and her PhD in Sociology from Emory University.  Dr. Stone has 45 years' experience in direct services, teaching, research, administration, and consulting.  Her main areas of interest are juvenile delinquency/juvenile justice, family violence, women and crime, public policy and program evaluation, and she has a number of publications and presentations in those areas.   

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Hannah Studer

Deputy Director | Bridges to Change

Hannah Studer is a licensed clinical social worker currently working in organizational leadership within the nonprofit sector as the Deputy Director at Bridges to Change. She is currently working towards a Doctorate of Social Work degree. She began her career in 2014 working in prison reentry services as a co-occurring therapist and moved into organizational leadership as one way to change and challenge structural racism within behavioral health and nonprofit sectors. Hannah utilizes an anti-racist framework, power-sharing approaches to leadership, and supportive accountability within the context of partnering with staff and organizations as we navigate system and individual change. She is passionate about providing, understanding, and evaluating behavioral health and wrap around services for populations who experience barriers to accessing care and social determinants of health impacts. 

Hannah also works an Adjunct Faculty for a Master of Social Work program, teaching and supporting students around effective engage with at-risk populations. Hannah enjoys supporting students in the field, listening to podcasts, running, and making art in her free time

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Dr. Katelynn Towne

Research Coordinator | Nebraska Center for Justice Research, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Dr. Katelynn Towne is a social researcher and program evaluator. She has been evaluating the Vocational and Life Skills Reentry Initiative in Nebraska for four years. She is a first-generation college graduate from Iowa. She received her undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology from the University of Nebraska and went on to receive her doctoral degree in sociology with concentrations in social inequality and criminology from the University of Missouri. She is interested in program interventions and strategies that reduce social inequities within and beyond our justice systems. Her published work has focused on reentry, policing, and victimization. 

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Dr. Noel Vest

Research Scientist | Stanford University

Dr. Noel Vest is an instructor and research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. As a formerly incarcerated scholar, Dr. Vest is an advocate for social justice issues and public policy concerning substance use disorder recovery and prison reentry. His research interests include mental health, substance use disorders, poverty, social justice, addiction recovery, and pain. He was recently awarded a K01 early investigator award through the National Institute of Drug Abuse. He received his PhD and Master’s degrees in Experimental Psychology from Washington State University.

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Craig Watson

Peer Support Specialist | Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Craig Watson is the Peer Support Specialist at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a Washington DC based nonprofit that assists incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth and adults using the literary arts, trauma healing, workforce development and violence prevention outreach. Free Minds is a community of support for members to achieve their education and career goals and become powerful change agents. Craig first became involved with Free Minds as a member of the organization while he was incarcerated. At 17 years old, he was convicted as an adult and sentenced to 35 years to life. Craig was released in 2019 after serving 22 years through a DC law offering young people with extreme sentences an opportunity for resentencing. Craig is passionate about mentoring youth and offering them the guidance and support he did not have when he was young. He is a member of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network, a network of leaders who were formerly incarcerated as children. In 2021, Craig was selected as the sixth recipient of the Congressman John Lewis Fellowship for Free Minds. Following the completion of the fellowship, Craig helped develop the Free Minds Peer Support Program, and currently serves as Peer Support Specialist. Craig continues to write poetry and serve as a role model for youth, in addition to providing essential peer support for fellow Free Minds members.

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Lisa White

United States Probation Office Eastern District

Lisa White became a U.S. Probation Officer in May 2005. In June 2010, she developed Project Redirect, The Eastern District of Missouri’s intensive supervision program, which became a national model of direct reentry services to high risk offenders. This program was developed for offenders who have consistent violations for illicit drug use, minor new law violations and technical violations.  The program serves to reduce program participant’s rate of violations and address the barriers that are impeding their ability to become engaged with programming and successful reintegration back into the community. This led to development of programing for Crack releases, 782 cases and Johnson cases.  More recently, she coordinated with the Federal Public Defenders to develop reentry plans for the potential reentry of those who were seeking clemency.  Of the 20 reentry plans that were written, 15 were subsequently released. 

In 2015, she proposed the Reentry Unit when promoted to Supervising U.S. Probation Officer.  This unit is focused on the reentry needs of current inmates and special offender populations that historically have had difficulty in readjusting to life outside of prison. During her tenure as supervisor her unit has organized several family day events where children of inmates were transported to BOP institutions at no expense to the families. She developed a prerelease service model to provide inmates with resources two years to six months from release, which has also been espoused as a national model in reentry planning.  In addition she implemented cognitive based programing available at federal prison facilities and a strategic 90 day plan within the Residential Reentry Center geared toward accelerated and thorough reintegration of inmates into the community. All programing is evidence-based in accordance with addressing criminogenic needs.

As a Probation Officer she has extensive knowledgeable in the criminal justice system; federal probation and parole legal requirements, policies and procedures; sentencing statutes/guidelines and applicable case law; investigative and supervision techniques; and the roles, responsibilities and relationships among the federal courts, Parole Commission and Bureau of Prisons.  In addition she is skilled in using technology tools—including PACTS and DSS—to support and design best-practice reentry initiatives that positively affect how offenders are supervised. In her capacity of as a Supervising United States Probation officer, she always functions within the mission of the organization and encourages a diversity of ideas among her line officers.


Lisa M. White received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and African American History from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1995. She received a Graduate Degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003. She worked with the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole from 1999 to 2004, specializing in Dangerous Felons. She was appointed as a U.S. Probation Officer, Eastern District of Missouri, May 2005. She developed the Supervision Phase of the Family Support Community Connections Program in April, 2009, which focuses on assisting ex-offenders with reintegrating within the family unit. In May, 2012, she was promoted to Senior United States Probation Officer. In June, 2015 she was promoted to Supervising United States Probation Officer. 

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John Wise

Executive Director | Education Access Partnership

John Wise is the Executive Director of the Education Access Partnership, a nonprofit which works to increase access to quality higher education opportunities for those incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections. A formerly incarcerated student himself, he now studies Data Science at Indiana University East. John is a member of the Community Education Project at Stetson University, which brings quality Liberal Arts education to Florida prisoners. He also works on the Prison Mathematics Project, serving as an academic mentor for incarcerated students of mathematics all over the United States.

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