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The Justice Collaborative Engagement Project is an independent, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization devoted to holding public officials accountable for reforming the justice system and building healthier and safer communities. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(4) project of Tides Advocacy. 


Mehak Anwar, Communications Associate, has written about racial justice, criminal justice reform, gender equality, and politics for publications like The Daily Dot, Huffington Post, Bustle, and Alternet. She recently spent time working on documentary films covering the private prison industry, immigrant detention centers, and bail reform. Mehak is a graduate of Emerson College.

Kyle C. Barry, Senior Legal Counsel, previously served as Senior Policy Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where his advocacy focused on judicial nominations, voting rights, and economic equality. Formerly, Kyle served as the Director of Justice Programs at Alliance for Justice in Washington, D.C. A nationally-recognized expert on civil rights issues, Kyle’s writing has appeared in The NationPoliticoThe Hill, and the Huffington Post among other outlets, and he has provided commentary on Democracy Now! and The Roland Martin Show. Kyle also has experience litigating both civil and criminal cases, and has authored or co-authored briefs filed in federal courts around the country, including the United States Supreme Court. Kyle clerked for United States Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy and United States District Judge Christina Reiss in the District of Vermont. Kyle is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Yale Law School.

Alex Bassos, Director of Advocacy, was in public defense for 23 years before joining the Fair Punishment Project. For the last 20 years he was at Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon where, among other things, he was the Training Director, the Chief of Specialty Courts, the Interim Director of the office and a line attorney. Most recently he ran Community Law, a model he founded to make the community healthier and safer through outcomes-focused representation across the social service, community health and justice systems. He graduated from Indiana University Law School in 1995.

Jessica Brand, Legal Director, previously worked at the Texas Defender Service in the capital trial project, where she consulted with trial teams in death penalty cases across the state of Texas and conducted state-wide trainings on understanding mental health, performing capital defense investigation, and preparing a case for life. Formerly, Jessica was a staff attorney in the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She also served as a member of the forensic practice group, and she continues to train lawyers across the country on litigating the admissibility of forensic evidence. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Michael McConnell on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007, and summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004.

Burke Butler, Senior Legal Counsel, graduated from Yale Law School in 2011 and clerked for the Honorable Harris Hartz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Honorable Keith P. Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. As a Liman Fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project, Burke spearheaded a state-wide report about solitary confinement in Texas’s prisons and represented prisoners in their civil-rights litigation. Burke has also worked as a Staff Attorney at Texas Defender Service, where she represented capitally sentenced inmates in their state and federal post-conviction proceedings.

Matt Henry, Lead Technologist & Staff Attorney, previously worked as a public defender in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2015. Before attending law school, Matt worked for several years as a web developer for startups, agencies, and large internet companies in Silicon Valley, New York, and North Carolina.

Sarah Lustbader, Senior Legal Counsel, previously worked as a Senior Program Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice and as a criminal defense attorney at The Bronx Defenders. During her time as a public defender, Sarah conducted trainings on the intersection of neuroscience and criminal law, and wrote a white paper proposing a novel police body-camera policy regime. Sarah previously worked as an Antitrust Associate for the law firm Shearman & Sterling, LLP. She has testified before the New York State Assembly and has published op-ed pieces for the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Week. Her academic work has been published in Washington University Law Review (as co-author) and Fordham Urban Law Journal. She received a BA in International Relations from Stanford University and a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she served on the NYU Law Review as Notes Editor.

Diane Lucas, Senior Legal Counsel, previously served as an Assistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General’s Office in the Civil Rights Bureau. Diane handled matters in a wide range of areas, including criminal justice reform, equal access to education, immigration, consumer racial profiling, voting rights, and housing and employment discrimination. Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Diane was a public defender at the Legal Aid Society in New York, New York. Diane clerked for the Honorable Bernice Donald in the Western District of Tennessee. Diane received a B.A. from New York University and J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Crystal Maloney, Social Media Editor, previously worked as a criminal defense attorney in Oregon. Crystal is member of the Oregon Justice Resource Center Amicus Committee and volunteers with the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild’s Protester Support Project. Crystal graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2015.

John Mathews II, Senior Legal Counsel, previously worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in Puerto Rico for five years. Formerly, John was a Litigation Associate at Latham & Watkins LLP in Washington D.C. and served as a Voter Protection Outreach Coordinator for Obama For America and Regional Lead for the Generation 44 Mid-Atlantic Finance Committee during the 2012 Presidential Campaign. He was also an inaugural member of the Young Lawyers Network for the D.C. Bar Foundation, the leading private funder of civil legal services for the District’s underserved. Following law school, John clerked for Judge Raymond Jackson in the Eastern District of Virginia. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007, and from UCLA in 2003.

Jordan McEntyre, Senior Legal Counsel, previously worked as a Public Defender in New Orleans for ten years. Jordan started as a staff attorney at Orleans Public Defenders, where he practiced client-directed advocacy and team-based defense, representing indigent clients on charges ranging from misdemeanors to homicide. He then worked at Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights as a staff attorney, supervising attorney, and special projects attorney, defending juveniles who were being prosecuted in juvenile and adult court. Jordan is a graduate of Carleton College and Stanford Law School.

Dawn Milam, Staff Attorney, graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she was an editor for the North Carolina Law Review and an Honors Writing Scholar. Before her law career, Dawn was an educator in the South Carolina public schools.

Dana Rasso, Communications Manager, previously worked as the Digital Engagement Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights and as Communications and Digital Strategy Manager at Physicians for Reproductive Health. She has a degree in Art History from Savannah College of Art and Design and an MA in Graphic Communications Management and Technology from New York University.

Josie Duffy Rice, Senior Strategist, received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Jevhon Rivers, Staff Attorney, previously worked at People’s Action where she helped craft criminal justice policy for community organizations across the county. While in law school, Jevhon focused on criminal justice policy at the ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice, the Opportunity Agenda, and the Harvard Criminal Justice Policy Program. Before law school, she was a teacher. Jevhon graduated from Harvard Law School in 2017 and Amherst College in 2011.

Rob Smith, Executive Director, previously was an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he taught criminal law and evidence. Smith earned his law degree from Harvard Law School and his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Smith’s scholarship has appeared in the New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Iowa Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Washington Law Review, Alabama Law Review, Hastings Law Journal and Cardozo Law Review, among other journals, and in the online editions of the Yale Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, and Harvard Law and Policy Review. He also has published shorter works in The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Salon and Slate. His work has been cited by courts including the United States Supreme Court, as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s, Mother Jones, USA Today and the ABA Journal, among other outlets.

Jennifer Soble, Senior Legal Counsel, previously worked as a federal defender in Hammond, Indiana, where she represented indigent clients charged with serious federal crimes and specialized in forensic issues, juveniles charged as adults, and sentencing law. Prior to becoming a federal defender, Jennifer was a visiting clinical professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, focusing on juvenile and criminal justice. Formerly, Jennifer was a staff attorney in the trial division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she represented indigent clients charged with serious felonies, and served as a member of the forensic practice group. Jennifer also served as litigation fellow with Public Citizen’s Litigation Group. Following law school, she clerked for Judge R. Guy Cole on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2005, and from the University of Michigan in 2002.

Daniel Spiegel, Senior Legal Counsel, previously served as a public defender in North Carolina in urban and rural areas and at the trial and appellate level. He spearheaded special litigation to address issues such as improved representation at first appearance, unfair extensions of post-release supervision for people convicted of sex-related crimes, discrimination against the poor through pay-to-play diversion, and abuse of the civil contempt power in child support court. Daniel graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2010. Before that, he freelanced as a classical pianist, receiving his M.M. from The Juilliard School.

Trudy Strassburger, Senior Legal Counsel, spent over a decade as a public defender. She started her career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and transitioned to The Bronx Defenders where she was both a staff attorney and later a Team Leader.  Trudy later spent three and a half years as deputy director for a managed assigned counsel program in Travis County, Texas where she instituted policies and training programs to improve the quality of indigent defense. She also started The Forensic Project after the closure of Austin’s DNA Lab. Trudy obtained her B.A. from Colorado College and a J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Jake Sussman, Managing Director, graduated from New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar. He then clerked for the Honorable Ellen B. Burns of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Jake previously practiced law in North Carolina, where he handled criminal and capital cases in state and federal courts. Jake also litigated scores of civil rights cases, including the successful challenge to North Carolina’s ban against marriage equality. Jake has been an invited speaker on issues ranging from the death penalty, working with experts, litigating civil rights actions, and First Amendment issues.

Alex Thebert, Director of Operations, graduated from University of Illinois – Chicago College of Urban Planning and Public Administration, and has spent her career working on electoral and issue campaigns including a grassroots mining watchdog and for Physicians for a National Health Program. She lives in Oakland.

Amy Weber, Senior Legal Counsel, previously spent nearly a decade working as a trial and appellate attorney at the Public Defender’s office in Miami, Florida, representing clients in all phases of Florida criminal proceedings. In her legal career, Amy has also served as a law clerk for Judge Janet C. Hall in the District of Connecticut and as a Staff Attorney in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. Amy obtained a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Keli Young, Staff Attorney, graduated from New York University School of Law in 2015. While in law school, she served on the board of the Black Allied Law Students Association and as the director of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition. As a member of the Immigrant Defense Clinic, she assisted immigration attorneys in Manhattan in defense of undocumented individuals facing removal due to criminal convictions, and as a member of the Criminal Defense and Reentry Clinic, she assisted criminal public defenders in Brooklyn. Keli clerked during law school for Legal Outreach, Inc. and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Keli has also worked as a research consultant for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, where she worked on policies to reduce the population on Rikers Island and racial disparity throughout the criminal justice system. Keli graduated cum laude from Tufts University with a degree in Psychology.