Pretrial Justice Institute
200 East Pratt Street, Suite 4100
Baltimore, MD 21202

(667) 281-9141

Misdemeanors: Driving Pretrial Injustice

Event Information

For the launch of PJI's newest issue brief, we hosted a robust discussion with folks working at the forefront of pretrial change.

The vast majority of people awaiting trial in the U.S. are charged with misdemeanors, which comprise 80% of court dockets around the country. Many of these charges can trace their roots to the racist history of the criminal legal system, and the growing number of misdemeanors in criminal code still clog the pretrial process without improving public safety.

During this roundtable, we explored alternate ways to address criminalized behaviors, reduce the flow of misdemeanor cases into the pretrial process, and support people safely in their communities.


As the Senior Associate for Partnerships & Engagement, Kevin supports efforts that extend the voice and influence of PJI and other system stakeholders and community organizations working at the forefront of equitable pretrial change. He is co-founder of The Hustlers Guild, a nonprofit that uses hip-hop to expand access and opportunity to Black and Latinx youth from low-income households in partnership with violence prevention organizations, detention centers, celebrities, pro-athletes, and Fortune 500 companies.  He previously worked as an advisor to Secretary Julian Castro at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Portfolio Lead within the White House Presidential Correspondence Office, and as a high school and middle school history teacher in Philadelphia.

As a former foster youth and child of a formerly incarcerated parent, Shavonte has spent over a decade of her career using her life experiences to support her work in advancing systemic solutions to the distinct challenges and barriers that system-involved youth and their families face. At PJI, Shavonte develops and implements the organization’s change work and curriculum.

Alexandra Natapoff is an award-winning legal scholar and criminal justice expert. She writes about criminal courts, public defense, plea bargaining, wrongful convictions, and race and inequality in the criminal system. Professor Natapoff is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the American Law Institute, and a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School. Prior to joining the academy, she served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Baltimore, Maryland.

Rosemary (“Ruby”) Nidiry is a Senior Counsel in the Justice Program where she manages the program’s Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration project, a coalition of nearly 200 police chiefs, correctional officials and federal and state prosecutors from around the country committed to laws and practices that more effectively fight crime while reducing unnecessary imprisonment. Before joining the Brennan Center, from 2017–2022, Ruby served as the Deputy Director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national organization that brings together elected local prosecutors as part of a network committed to furthering a new vision for prosecution. Ruby holds a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law and a B.A. from Princeton University.

Manohar Raju is the elected San Francisco Public Defender. As the only elected Public Defender in California and an elected member, Manohar continues to uphold the Office’s reputation not only as a formidable group of lawyers, paralegals, social workers, investigators and support staff, but also as a catalyst for criminal legal system change in local and state-wide arenas. A son of immigrants from India, his pursuit of justice is rooted in his acute awareness of the ramifications of social inequalities. Manohar completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and holds a Master’s degree in South Asian Studies from U.C. Berkeley, where he also earned his law degree.

Anton Robinson joined the Innocence Project’s Strategic Litigation Department as a staff attorney in January 2021, focusing on mistaken identifications. Before joining the Innocence Project, Anton was a Senior Planner at the Vera Institute of Justice, where he launched and managed the New York City Bail Assessment Project to mitigate the harms of money bail and drive progressive bail reform in New York. Anton also worked as an assistant public defender at the New York County Defender Services, representing persons facing criminal charges in Manhattan Criminal and Supreme courts. Anton graduated from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law, in 2006, and Florida State University in 2003.

Kayla Vinson is the inaugural Executive Director of the Law and Racial Justice Center, and she co-teaches the Access to Law School courses. Before joining the YLS community, she worked as an attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, where her docket included appellate and post-conviction legal representation, reentry support, memory work on the legacy of racial injustice in the United States, curriculum development for middle and high schools, and research and writing about the function of white supremacy in the criminal legal system. She holds degrees in African American Studies and Sociology from Yale College, Secondary Education from the University of Pennsylvania (M.S.Ed), and Policy Affairs from Princeton University (M.P.A.), and she is a graduate of New York University School of Law.