Keith Wattley, Founder and Executive Director, received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Indiana University and his law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law. He has been advocating for the rights of prisoners and parolees for nearly twenty years. Prior to launching UnCommon Law in 2006, Keith was a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit law firm in Berkeley. He has represented thousands of prisoners in impact litigation and individual matters involving mental health care, gang validation, religious freedom, prison infirmaries, medical care, excessive force, visitation, parole consideration and parole revocation. He has also trained hundreds of lawyers, law students and others in prisoner and parole advocacy.
Keith is co-chair of the Institutional Review Board (human subjects committee) for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. He was also a member of the Founding Board of Directors for the Prison University Project (San Quentin’s College Program) and a member of the Board of Directors for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. Keith is currently a Lecturer in Law at UCLA School of Law and UC Berkeley School of Law, where he supervises the Post-Conviction Advocacy Project. Keith was a co-recipient (with California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno) of Santa Clara University School of Law’s 2009 Social Justice and Human Rights Award, and was awarded the 2016 Kathi Pugh Award for Exceptional Mentorship from UC Berkeley School of Law.
Sara Norman, Board President, is Managing Attorney at the Prison Law Office, in Berkeley, California, a nonprofit law office that advocates for the rights of youth and adults behind bars in California. She graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School and clerked for Judge Robert Carter in the Southern District of New York. She has been with the office for twenty years and specializes in representing prisoners with disabilities and incarcerated juveniles. She is counsel for the plaintiff class in Clark v. California, a class action on behalf of thousands of California prisoners with developmental disabilities, and is plaintiff’s counsel in Farrell v. Cate, a taxpayer lawsuit that has forced sweeping reforms in California’s juvenile justice system. She was awarded a California Lawyer of the Year Award by the State Bar Foundation in 2005, as well as the Pacific Juvenile Defender of the Year Award in 2006 and a Pioneer Award from the Center for Health Justice in 2009. In 2008 and 2009, she was named one of the top women litigators in California by the San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journals. Sara was a member of the litigation team in Brown v. Plata, in which the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed a lower court order requiring California to significantly reduce its severe prison overcrowding, an accomplishment for which the team was selected as a finalist for the 2010 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award from the Public Justice Foundation.
Megan Comfort, Ph.D., Board Secretary, is Senior Research Sociologist in the Urban Health Program of RTI International’s Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Research Division. She received her Bachelor’s Degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Wellesley College and a Master’s Degree in Criminology and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Megan’s research interests and areas of expertise include families and incarceration, HIV risk and prevention, and health disparities among urban poor populations. She is the author of Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison (University of Chicago Press, 2008), an ethnographic study of women in relationships with incarcerated men. Additionally, she has published articles in Criminal Justice and Behavior, Ethnography, the Journal of Sex Research, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, PLoS ONE, and AIDS & Behavior, among other journals.
Edie DeGraff, Board Treasurer, recently retired as the Office Manager at the Prison Law Office, in Berkeley, California, a nonprofit law office that advocates for the rights of youth and adults behind bars in California. She studied anthropology at Sonoma State University. For more than 25 years, she was employed at the Prison Law Office, where she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office, including coordinating correspondence with thousands of prisoners regarding medical, mental health, disability, discipline, classification, visiting and other issues.
Amanda Berger, CPC, MSW, has an extensive background in progressive philanthropy and transformational leadership development through her work with the Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing, the Women Donors Network, Rockwood Leadership Institute, and Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER). Amanda has a special interest in the design and management of effective collaborations and networks. Amanda is skilled in issues related to youth development, public education reform criminal justice and community engagement. She consults with foundations and with social-change nonprofit organizations interested in fostering collaboration, learning communities, networks, and policy change. In addition, she is a professionally certified coach who works with nonprofit leaders who want to step into fuller leadership roles while staying connected to their values and what’s most important in their lives. She currently manages the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin State Prison, is a trained VOEG facilitator with the Insight Prison Project, and consults on a variety of criminal justice projects aimed at increasing access to high quality educational programming for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.
Frankie Guzman is a staff attorney at the National Center for Youth Law (“NCYL”), where he works to end the practice of prosecuting children in California’s criminal justice system. Raised in a poor, mostly immigrant community plagued by drugs and violence, Frankie experienced his parents’ divorce and his family’s subsequent homelessness at age 3, the life-imprisonment of his 16-year-old brother at age 5, and lost numerous friends to violence. At 15, he was arrested for armed robbery and, on his first offense, was sentenced to serve 15 years in the California Youth Authority. Released on parole after six years, Frankie attended law school and became an expert in juvenile law and policy with a focus on ending the prosecution of youth as adults.
Frankie’s work has focused on improving data collection and analysis to better understand the impact that transfer laws have on youth, working with local courts and prosecutors to reduce transfers of youth, educating the public to raise awareness about the harms of transfer, and most importantly, coalition building to create a movement for change that includes the communities most affected by adult prosecutions of children. Through partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups, Frankie has helped lead the effort to reduce the number of youth prosecuted as adults and serving time in adult prison. Recent successes include SB 260 (2013), SB 261 (2015), and SB 382 (2015). Even more recently, Frankie played a significant role in developing the youth justice portion of the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 to end direct file in California.
Raha Jorjani is the Immigration Defense Attorney for the Office of the Alameda County Public Defender and is directing California’s first public defender immigration representation project. This project recently received the 2016 “Program of the Year” award from the California Public Defender’s Association, which will be presented at CPDA’s annual convention in May 2016. Before joining the Public Defender’s Office full-time, she was a Clinical Professor at the UC Davis School of Law where she taught in the Immigration Law Clinic for 7 years. Last Fall, she taught the first course offered at the UC Berkeley School of Law dedicated to “Crimmigration” or the study of the intersection between Immigration and Criminal Law. Since 2005, Ms. Jorjani has provided pro bono representation and legal assistance to hundreds of immigrants – most of them detained – before the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals, and California state courts. Ms. Jorjani recently litigated the Israel O. case before the California Court of Appeal for the First District, which resulted in the first published opinion in California to uphold the availability of one-parent claims to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for kids in juvenile delinquency proceedings. Ms. Jorjani regularly conducts local and national trainings for immigration attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, and state court judges, on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. In 2016, Ms. Jorjani was selected as one of eight fellows for the Rosenberg Foundation’s inaugural Leading Edge Fellowship.
Olga Grinstead Reznick, Ph.D., MPH, joined the board of UnCommon Law in 2015 after attending various events and being impressed with the organization’s mission and successful work. She is Professor Emeritus, UCSF Department of Medicine, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) where she retired in 2008 after working in HIV prevention research for nearly 20 years. Prior to joining CAPS, she was a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in community mental health and consultation liaison hospital practice. Her early research at CAPS focused on the epidemiology of HIV among injection drug users, women, and in communities of color. This work led directly to a focus on HIV prevention issues for prisoners. In addition to documenting the crises of HIV among prisoners and their families, she developed and tested behavioral interventions to prevent HIV infection and transmission, and to improve health outcomes for individuals living with HIV in this population. Her work also focused on best practices for developing academic-community partnerships, and she was consistently committed to conducting intervention programs in collaboration with community agencies serving prisoners. She brings to UnCommon Law this professional experience as well as the personal experience of having a life-sentenced incarcerated family member.
Satch Slavin is a Deputy Public Defender at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, where he has worked since 2006. He majored in History at Vassar College, where he also volunteered in a literacy program at Greenhaven Prison. This experience sparked an interest in working with incarcerated populations. He has since volunteered for a family visiting facilitation program at the San Bruno County jail and at SQUIRES, which brings teens to visit lifers at San Quentin State Prison. Satch has also worked with teens in a variety of capacities, including residential and school-based drug and alcohol programs, teen leadership programs, and martial arts instruction. In law school at UC Berkeley, he volunteered for an immigration court clinic as well as a workers’ rights clinic, and interned with a superior court judge and a federal judge.
Troy Williams is a Youth Program Development Specialist and Facilitator Trainer for the Victim Offender Education Group with the Insight Prison Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing recidivism. He is a current member of the Advisory Council for the Alameda County Chief of Probation. Troy is also founder and operator of 4north22, a media production and consulting company that produces transformative stories to produce social change and promote restorative justice. He is the founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the San Quentin Prison Report (SQPR), an award-winning radio and video production program operated inside the prison. Prior to his release from San Quentin, Troy spent six years facilitating curriculum for the Victim-Offender Education Group and other restorative justice programs.
Troy’s experience includes: Co-founder of Freedman Capital, a program designed to teach prisoners in San Quentin the principles of personal finance, and to prepare them for parole and retirement; Founder of Project Emerge, a 16-week financial empowerment and emotional literacy program designed for youth with the Insight Prison Project; Mentor to at-risk youth and incarcerated teens in San Quentin; Facilitator for numerous self-help programs, victim offender education groups, mental health & wellness workshops, domestic violence violence prevention classes; Successful liaison between prisoners, volunteers, community members, prison administrators, media, underserved youth and community organizations; Filmmaker and journalist; Recipient of the Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, November 2014; Author, producer and director of the Troy Williams Journal, a documentary discussing crime, prison, parole and transformation from an experiential perspective; Media Fellow with the Game Changers Project; Columnist for the Oakland Post newspaper; Certified Paralegal.