Earl Smith, PhD
Earl Smith, PhD, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of American Ethnic Studies and Sociology at Wake Forest University, and is currently teaching classes in Sociology, African and African American Studies, and Women & Gender Studies at the University of Delaware. Dr. Smith earned his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. His teaching and research focus on the sociology of sport, social stratification, and the intersection of race and the criminal justice system. He is the author of 12 books, including his most recent books, Gender, Power and Violence (2019), and Policing Black Bodies (2018). Currently he is finishing the book Way Down in the Hole: Race, Intimacy and the Reproduction of Racial Ideologies in Solitary Confinement (2021). The book is based on three summers of ethnographic research in a large state penitentiary system. Methodologically, we conducted over 100 face-to-face interviews with inmates and correctional officers.
Seema Gajwani is Special Counsel for Juvenile Justice Reform at the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General. Prior to this position, she ran the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program at the Public Welfare Foundation, focused on efforts to reduce incarceration rates nationally. Ms. Gajwani started her career at the DC Public Defender Services, where she represented juvenile and adult defendants at trial for six years. During her time at New York University School of Law, Ms. Gajwani served as an editor of the Moot Court Board and interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the King County Defender Association in Seattle, Washington; and at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana in New Orleans. She graduated from Northwestern University.
Steve Demuth is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University where he also serves as Director of Graduate Studies. His research focuses on the influence of race/ethnicity, social class, and citizenship status on pretrial and sentencing decisions and outcomes. His recent work examines the joint effects of race/ethnicity and class on the pretrial detention decision-making process in the federal courts and the unique disadvantages facing Latino defendants. He teaches courses on crime and punishment and quantitative research methods at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Nancy La Vigne
Nancy La Vigne is a nationally recognized criminal justice policy expert whose knowledge spans policies related to prison reform, federal corrections, reentry from prison, policing reform, and evidence-based criminal justice practices. She most recently served as vice president of justice policy at the Urban Institute (Urban), a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization based in Washington, DC. Over the course of a decade at Urban, La Vigne directed the institute’s Justice Policy Center, leading a staff of over 50 researchers and managing an annual departmental budget of ~$10 million.
Before being appointed as director of the Justice Policy Center in 2009, La Vigne served for eight years as a senior research associate at Urban, leading groundbreaking research on prison reentry. Prior to joining Urban, La Vigne was the founding director of the Crime Mapping Research Center at the National Institute of Justice, the research, technology, and evaluation arm of the US Department of Justice (DOJ). She later served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs within DOJ, leading strategic initiatives and serving as liaison to the Office of the Attorney General under Janet Reno. She previously served as research director for the Texas sentencing commission. From 2014-2016, La Vigne also served as executive director for the congressionally mandated, bipartisan Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections Reform.
La Vigne has delivered invited testimony before Congress on topics of research evidence in criminal justice practices, reentry from prison and jail, and state and federal criminal justice reform. She has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, and the nationally syndicated Diane Rehm Show, as well as Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune.
La Vigne holds a PhD in Criminal Justice from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, an MA in Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas-Austin, and a BA in Government and Economics from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Kimberly AD Roberts
Kimberly AD Roberts is a National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) trained social justice educator and facilitator with over ten years of experience leading students and professionals through anti-racism work both at home and abroad. Her passion for racial and gender justice fuels her desire to shape equitable policies through education, advocacy and philanthropic grant making. Prior to joining Philanthropy New York as a Public Policy Fellow, Kimberly was the Director for Multicultural Education at Bronx Community College and Assistant Director for Multicultural Affairs at Columbia University. Although a proud native New Yorker, she has spent time abroad as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer working as a community education coordinator and consultant to the Guyanese Ministry of Social Cohesion, where she created a curriculum for community leaders to tackle inter-group bias and discrimination. Kimberly completed her second Master’s degree in Public and Urban Policy from the Milano School of Policy, Management and Environment at the New School where she worked on issues of school segregation, the effectiveness of community schools, creating career ladders for social service workers and achieving salary parity for NYC’s early childhood educators. She also spent time in Cuba conducting qualitative research about race, racism and anti-Blackness in Cuban culture. In addition to the M.S. in Public and Urban Policy, Kimberly also holds a B.S. in Communications from NYU and a M.A. in Education from the University of Connecticut.
Traci Schlesinger is an Associate Professor of Sociology and an Affiliated Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies, American Studies, and Women & Gender Studies at DePaul University. Her teaching, research, and activism is informed by an examination of how the criminalizing and punishing systems maintain racial oppression in the contemporary United States. She teaches classes on the criminal legal system, legal theory, and racism in the post-civil rights U.S. Ms. Schlesinger received her Associate of Arts degree from Bergen Community College, her Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham College Lincoln Center, Fordham University and her PhD from Princeton University. While her research has led her to a variety of different sites—from law libraries to publicly available data to jails and prisons—all of Ms. Schlesinger’s research strives to understand the criminal legal system’s role in the maintenance of racial stratification in the post-civil rights United States. Materially, this research agenda has led her to publish numerous articles and reviews that fall into one of two branches. The first examines the racial and gendered impact of criminal laws such as mandatory terms and sentencing enhancements. The second examines racial and gendered disparities in criminal processing during every stage from pretrial diversion, to bail, to charge bargaining, to sentencing. She is currently working on a multifaceted research project that examines racial disparities in solitary confinement. Her work has been published in Justice Quarterly, Crime & Delinquency, Race & Justice, the Journal of the Institute of Justice & International Studies (JIJIS), Feminist Formations, Sage Open, Social Forces, and Law & Society Review, as well as in numerous encyclopedia and reference works.