Appointed to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice for the project "Collateral Consequences: COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System in North Carolina"


ACLS Leading Edge Fellowships

PhD field of study

PhD, Ethics and Social Theory, Graduate Theological Union

Position Description

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. SCSJ’s Justice System Reform team promotes social and economic justice through its efforts to ensure police accountability, end racial profiling and mass incarceration, eliminate the unfair collateral consequences of involvement with the criminal legal system, and challenge systemic racial discrimination and inequities at all stages of the system. At the same time that COVID-19 has ravaged North Carolina’s prisons, jails, and detention centers, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the inadequacies of North Carolina’s system of supports for justice-involved individuals trying to build a successful life after reentry. In a state that incarcerates five times as many Black residents as white residents, scaling back of already limited resources and supports, and a two-week quarantine requirement are derailing an already difficult transition SCSJ has identified new concerns as well as opportunities in the areas of pre-release and reentry as a result of COVID-19. The Justice System Reform (JSR) team will be releasing two toolkits in Fall 2020: Your First 48 Hours, a community resource guide for individuals coming home from local jails as well as state and federal prisons, and the Umar Muhammad Clean Slate Toolkit, a guide to removing charges and convictions from a person’s criminal record so they may economically and socially better their lives. Building on this work, the Leading Edge Fellow will use a range of data, including personal narratives, to document the impact of COVID-19 on reentry supports and expungement efforts in North Carolina. The fellow will ground all research projects in the lived experiences of those most impacted. As a first step, the fellow will collaboratively design a research agenda with SCSJ staff and community partners, then using this foundation to elaborate research products that will help advance public awareness, support local and state-wide community efforts to make meaningful changes to support those impacted by an unjust system, and make the case for a shift in funding and legislative priorities in the context of advocating for policy reforms. Based on interest and capacity, the fellow will also have the opportunity to work with SCSJ’s Voting Rights (VR) project staff on documenting and expanding the knowledge base about the ways that COVID-19 has shifted the voter registration and elections landscape and infrastructure.