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Marsha Weissman

Keynote Speaker
Executive Director, Center for Community Alternatives 

Marsha Weissman is the executive director of the Center for Community Alternatives, which provides sentencing mitigation services and alternative sentencing programs in New York City and Syracuse, New York. A graduate of Syracuse University, Ms. Weissman holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse University and is completing her Ph.D. in Social Science. She is the author or co-author of several publications including "The School Yard or the Prison Yard: Improving Outcomes for Marginalized Youth", "Inspiring Hope, Envisioning Alternatives: The Importance of Peer Role Models for Treatment Engagement in a Women's Program for Felony Offenders"; "Women's Choices: Case Management for Women Leaving Jails and Prison. The Source Spring 2003, Volume 12, No1 "Earning trust from youths with none to spare" CHILD WELFARE: Special Issue, Children with Parents in Prison; and "On the Front Line: Defense Attorneys and Sentencing Advocacy" The Defender, July 1997. In 2000, Ms. Weissman was awarded the National Association of Sentencing Advocates, Outstanding Contribution to the Field Award.

Ms. Weissman first began working on criminal justice issues in the early 1970s as part of the Attica Legal Defense Team where she assisted the legal team in change of venue motions and jury selection. This experience led her to what has become a life of working to reduce the use of incarceration. She brings to this work a commitment and understanding of broader social justice issues and a recognition that the criminal justice system in the United States is in large part a reflection of its failures in other social policy domains.

Through her work at the Center for Community Alternatives, Ms. Weissman has spent much of her time educating the public and policy makers regarding needs for a more effective criminal justice system, including the need to abolish the death penalty, decrease the unnecessary imprisonment offenders, the need to expand alternatives to incarceration and the need to ameliorate conditions in prisons and jails. In 2002, Ms. Weissman was invited to appear before the U.S. Senate Health where she testified on the problem of the "school to prison pipeline" and ways to reduce school suspension and expulsions. In 2004, Ms. Weissman was a presenter at a Congressional briefing on Incarcerated People and the Census. Ms. Weissman has participated on state and national Boards and advisory committees the Sentencing Project, Syracuse University Center on Human Policy Advisory Board, the U.S. Department of Justice, Advisory Committee on Defense-based Sentencing, and the New York State Defenders Association.

Anita Earls

Director of Advocacy, Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Anita Earls is Director of Advocacy at the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of civil rights and social justice, especially in the American south. The Center's work focuses on education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development, and voting rights.

From April 1998 to August 2000, Ms. Earls served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she had responsibility for the Division's Voting, Educational Opportunities, Disability Rights and Coordination and Review sections. Anita also worked for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., as Director of the Voting Rights Project and Coordinator of the Police Misconduct Initiative.

For ten years, Anita litigated civil rights cases as a partner with Ferguson, Stein, Wallas, Adkins, Gresham & Sumter in Charlotte, North Carolina. In private practice, her work involved voting rights, police misconduct, school desegregation, employment discrimination, public accommodations, disability rights and first amendment cases.

Ms. Earls is a 1988 graduate of Yale Law School, where she was a Senior Editor for the Yale Law Journal and published a student note entitled Petitioning and the Empowerment Theory of Practice. She graduated from Williams College, and was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study cooperative work organizations and the role of women in Tanzania, Italy and England.

Joseph "Jazz" Hayden

Director, New York "Right to Vote" Campaign

Joseph "Jazz" Hayden is founder and former director of the NY State Unlock the Block: Release the Vote Campaign, a coalition which through his efforts, grew to over 85 organizations which is seeking to extend the right to vote to individuals with felony convictions. Mr. Hayden is also the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit challenging felon disenfranchisement in New York State, Hayden v. Pataki, that he filed pro se and which is now being represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Community Service Society, and The Center for Law and Justice at Medgar Evers College.

He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts from SUNY New Paltz, and a Master's Degree in Professional Studies from the New York Theological Seminary; he is also an alumnus of the Harvard Divinity School's Summer Leadership Institute. Mr. Hayden travels extensively around the country speaking on the issue of felon disenfranchisement. His work has been covered on CSPAN, on BCAT (Brooklyn Community Access Television), KPRV radio in Los Angeles, Queen's Public Television, Reuters Link TV, National Public Radio, the Al Franken show on Air America, Fox News, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, and on WBAI, a New York radio station where for twenty months, he produced and commentated on "On the Count," a weekly program which he co-founded. National Public Radio also profiled Mr. Hayden for "Whose Vote Counts," a piece on felon disenfranchisement. He is an authentic spokesperson for the voiceless populations of prisoners, parolees, and the disenfranchised of this country. Mr. Hayden was born and raised in Harlem.

Dr. Andrew Kaplan

Associate Professor of Medicine and Microbiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Andrew Kaplan, M.D. is a member of the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology at the UNC School of Medicine. He is also one of the founders of the UNC Prison Working Group. The goal of the studies conducted by this group is to understand and ameliorate the impact of incarceration on vulnerable communities in the Southeastern US.

Dr. Kaplan joined the faculty at UNC in 1998 and since then, together with other members of the Prison Working Group, has conducted several NIH- and CDC-sponsored trials. These include evaluations of interventions designed to improve the efficacy of anti-HIV medications in prison, promote the successful integration of released, HIV-infected prisoners into their communities, limit HIV risk behaviors among released inmates and help incarcerated mothers re-unite with their children following release.

Dr. Kaplan received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Shannon Minter

Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights, San Francisco, CA 

Shannon Minter is the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the nation's leading advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Shannon was NCLR's lead attorney on Sharon Smith's groundbreaking wrongful death suit and has litigated many other impact cases, both in California and across the country. In 2003, he was awarded the prestigious Anderson Prize Foundation Creating Change Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In 2002, he received the distinguished national service award from GAYLAW, the bar association for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lawyers, law students, and legal professionals in Washinton, D.C. Minter serves on the boards of Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, and the Transgender Law & Policy Institute. 

Debbie Mukamal

Director, Prisoner Reentry Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice 

Debbie A. Mukamal joined John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City in February 2005 to develop and direct its Prisoner Reentry Institute within the Office of Continuing and Professional Studies. The purpose of the Institute is to strengthen and improve prisoner reentry practice as a coherent professional discipline by (1) training reentry practitioners and public administrators and providing them with a core set of skills to improve and enhance practice and service delivery; (2) fostering academic interest and advancing knowledge about prisoner reentry that can be beneficial to and utilized by reentry practitioners in their service delivery; and (3) disseminating and facilitating the exchange of prisoner reentry research and information between and among practitioners, policymakers and researchers from a wide array of disciplines.

Until January 2005, Ms. Mukamal served as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Action Center where she conducted trainings, provided technical assistance, and wrote articles and other reports on a range of issues affecting individuals with criminal histories. Ms. Mukamal founded and directed the Center's National H.I.R.E. Network, a national clearinghouse for information and related to the employment of people with criminal records. In addition, Ms. Mukamal co-authored "After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, A Report on State Legal Barriers Facing People with Criminal Records," the first-ever comprehensive study of the legal barriers in all 50 states that people with criminal records must overcome in order to lead productive, law-abiding lives and successfully rejoin society.

Ms. Mukamal graduated from New York University School of Law and has a bachelors degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

Jumana Musa

Advocacy Director for Domestic Human Rights and International Justice for Amnesty International, USA

Jumana Musa is a human rights attorney and activist. She is currently the Advocacy Director for Domestic Human Rights and International Justice at Amnesty International, where she addresses the domestic and international impact of the Bush administration's "war on terror" on human rights. She has also served as Amnesty International's legal observer at military commission proceedings at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Formerly, she worked as a police attorney for the National Network to End Domestic Violence and handled international relations and immigration issues as a fellow in the office of Congressman Jesse L. Jackson. Ms. Musa holds a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. 

Silky Shah

Not with Our Money

Silky Shah was born and raised in Houston, Texas to immigrant parents from India. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was active in ethnic studies on-campus by helping build the new Center for Asian American Studies. She also worked on a range of issues from anti-war activism to immigrant rights as an undergrad. Through her post-9/11 organizing on immigrants rights issues, she began to focus more on immigrant detention, and subsequently the prison industrial complex.

She currently works as a student/youth organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a southern regional non-profit focused on abolishing the for-profit private prison industry. Through her work as an organizer Shah has focused on stopping the expansion of immigrant detention facilities in South Texas, where the US Marshals have solicited a 2800-bed private immigrant detention center. The so-called "Laredo Superjail" would be one of the largest private prisons ever to be built in the US.

Shah is also the co-coordinator of the Not With Our Money! campaign, a national network of student and community activists working to end the use of prisons for profit. Not With Our Money! has focused on corporate accountability campaigns at the university level, working against companies such as, Sodexho Marriott, Lehman Brothers, and more recently the hedgefund, Farallon Capital Management.

Professor Earl Smith

Rubin Distinguished Professor, Wake Forest University

Dr. Earl Smith is Professor and former Chair (1997-2005) of the Department of Sociology at Wake Forest University. He also serves as the Director of the American Ethnic Studies Program and as Rubin Professor of American Ethnic Studies. He has held previous faculty and administrative positions at Washington State University and at Pacific Lutheran University, where he also served as Dean of the Division of Social Sciences. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of social stratification, professions, urban sociology, criminology and the sociology of sport. He is the author of numerous book chapters, research articles, and books including African American Families: Issues of Health Wealth and Violence (Sage, forthcoming, with Angela Hattery), Race, Sport and the American Dream (SUNY Press, forthcoming) and Women and Minorities in American Professions (SUNY Press, 1996- Editor and contributor with Dr. Joyce Tang). Currently Professor Smith is conducting empirical research on the U.S. Prison Industrial Complex. He is also engaged in a project on women in prison and the impact this has on their dependent children. Professor Smith has been active in various professional organizations (American Sociological Association; Society for the Study of Social Problems) and was elected and served as President in 2002 of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS).

Peter Wagner

Executive Director, Prison Policy Initiative

Peter Wagner, J.D., co-founder and executive director of the Prison Policu Initiative, teaches, lectures, and writes about the negative impact and mass incarceration in the United States. His current focus is on working to demonstrate-- through graphics, legal research, and state-by-state analyses-- the distortion of the democratic process that results from the U.S. Census Bureau's practice of counting the nation's mostly urban prisoners as residents of the often remote communities in which they are incarcerated. The New York Times editorial board has twice supported his efforts to change the way prisoners are counted, and the Boston Globe identified him as the "leading public critic" of the prisoner miscount. He has presented his research at national and international conferences and meetings, including a Census Bureau Symposium, a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, and a keynote address to a conference at Harvard University. Mr. Wagner's publications include Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York (2002); The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (2003); and, with Eric Lotke, Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From, 24 Pace L. Rev. 587 (2004).

Steven Watt

Human Rights Working Group, American Civil Liberties Union

Steven Watt is a senior staff attorney with the newly formed Human Rights Working Group, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Legal Department. He is one of a team of ACLU laywers litigating Ali v. Rumsfeld, a suit challenging U.S. interrogation and detention practices in Afghanistan and Iraq and lead counsel in El Masri v. Tenet, a challenge to the CIA extraordinary rendition program. Prior to joining the ACLU in November, 2004, Steven worked to expand the use of international human rights in the U.S. at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, focusing on the rights of the persons detained by the U.S. in the so-called "war on terror." Among other post 9/11 legal challenges, Steven was one of the lawyers who successfully litigated the U.S. Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush, securing rights for men detained at the U.S. run detention facility at Guantanamo as well as Arar v. Ashcroft, the first legal challenge to the "extraordinary rendition" program. While at CCR, Steven also brought the case of the Guantanamo detainees before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and co-authored America's Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees and the War on Terror. Before coming to the United States, Steven worked for three years as a public defender in the Solomon Islands, managed refugee camps in Tanzania, was manager of a community-based development program in Uganda aimed at addressing the socio-economic consequences of HIV/AIDS, and provided humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons in Liberia. Originally from Scotland, Steven received his law degrees from the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. He also holds an LL.M. in international human rights from the University of Notre Dame.

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