Cherie Townsend is a leadership development consultant and professional coach who works with individuals and leadership teams to assist them in fulfilling their goals, engaging in purposeful change and achieving results that matter to them. She currently divides her time between Side by Side, an independent coaching and consulting practice, and working as a senior consultant with The Moss Group, Inc. (TMG). Cherie’s work with TMG focuses on juvenile justice, training and technical assistance, leadership and executive coaching.
Ms. Townsend has nearly 40 years experience as a juvenile justice practitioner and leader. Immediately prior to her retirement from public service, she served as the executive director of the newly created Texas Department of Juvenile Justice and as the executive director or executive commissioner of the Texas Youth Commission. In these positions she oversaw the state-operated juvenile corrections system. Ms. Townsend is recognized for successfully leading staff in a reform effort while closing six secure facilities and eliminating 2,000 staff positions at the same time. The reform effort resulted in sexually safe facilities, American Correctional Association (ACA) accreditation, inmproved engagement of families, expanded specialized treatment and an investment in prevention and reentry. Previously, she served as director of juvenile justice services in Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas), which was a Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative replication site and as director of juvenile court services in Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix).
She is the 2012 recipient of the George M. Keiser Award for Exceptional Leadership. In 2010, Cherie was recognized for her leadership in juvenile justice by the Texas Corrections Association and by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators. In 2003, she received the Juvenile Court Administrator Award from the National Juvenile Court Services Association, and, in 2001, the Sam Houston State University Award as the Outstanding Probation Executive. She has an Master’s of Public Administration from Southern Methodist University and an Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Texas. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (The Coaches Training Institute) and an Associate Certified Coach (International Coach Federation). Cherie engages in meaningful participation in her community, her church, and professional organizations.
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.
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.
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.
Immediate Past Chair
Mr. Rodgers is a respected political voice within the next generation of heartland leaders seeking to define a new image of Omaha and Douglas County where he serves as county commissioner. Sworn into office on Jan. 4, 2005, and re-elected to a third term in November of 2012, Mr. Rodgers is focused on improving the local public health system, strengthening community corrections programs, reforming the juvenile justice system and wisely spending taxpayer’s dollars. He served as the president of the National Association of Counties (NACo) from 2012 to 2013. In that role, Mr. Rodgers brought national attention to two important issues: smart justice and cybersecurity. His Smart Justice Initiative continues to build knowledge and capacity for successful justice policies and practices among the nation’s counties. Rodgers is a past chairman of NACo’s Board of Commissioners and currently serves as chairman of its Child and Youth Services Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Douglas County Board of Health and the appointed county commissioner representative on the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Coalition. He served as an assistant to Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and as an elected member of the Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors. Mr. Rodgers graduated from Creighton University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. He later received his Master’s of Business Administration in 1999, also from Creighton. Mr. Rodgers later attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he received a Master’s of Public Administration in 2002.
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.
Anne Katherine Seymour
Ms. Seymour has 31 years of experience as a national victim advocate. She is a co-founder of and senior advisor to the Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit, Justice Solutions, and consultant to the Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project. She began her career in 1984 as the director of public affairs for the National Office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, from 1985 to 1993, as co-founder and director of communications of the National Victim Center (now National Center for Victims of Crime). Her extensive research includes co-authoring the landmark study Rape in America: A Report to the Nation in 1992; she was the principal author of the 1994 American Correctional Association's Report and Recommendations on Victims of Juvenile Offenders, as well as of the Office for Victims of Crime Special Report on Victims of Gang Violence. She has authored or contributed to over 30 curricula and texts published by the Office for Victims of Crime and Bureau of Justice Assistance since 1989, including “The Victim Role in Offender Reentry” and “Creating a Victim Focus: A Guide to Working with Victims During Offender Reentry” books. She is the co-author and editor of Legacy of Community Justice. She has appeared in virtually every news medium—including all network morning shows and evening newscasts, Nightline, Larry King Live, Crossfire, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Frontline—as an expert on crime victims' rights. Ms. Seymour is a member of the U.S. Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Advisory Group and the victim advocate representative on the National Institute of Corrections Advisory Board. She graduated from California State University, Chico with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work/Corrections and completed her coursework for a Master’s of Public Administration.
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.
Mr. Weiss served for 25 years as a trustee and treasurer of The Sentencing Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to research and advocacy regarding criminal sentencing reform. He has also served as a trustee of the Green Acres School in Rockville, MD; The National Children’s Research Center in Washington, DC; and a family charitable foundation.
Mr. Weiss has worked for 20 years as business manager in DC-area independent schools. He also is an entrepreneur, having started a successful ice cream chain in the 1970’s, and he served as Special Assistant to a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Finally, he was a staff attorney with the Greater Boston Legal Services for several years. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a Juris Doctorate from Boston University.