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Angela Larsen

The Project

Angela (she/her) will litigate on behalf of incarcerated individuals in Ohio’s state prisons to secure their constitutional and human rights and seek reforms.

There are over 40,000 people in Ohio’s state prisons, and Black Ohioans are incarcerated at a rate 5.5 times higher than white Ohioans (Prison Policy Institute). Many are subject to excessive force, sexual abuse, and deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. Incarcerated people are overwhelmingly indigent and lack access to counsel. Angela will represent incarcerated people in civil rights actions to address constitutional violations, and develop significant impact litigation to reform the Ohio prison system as a whole.

Angela is an alumna of the University of Cincinnati and a proud Midwesterner. Prior to law school, she learned from civil rights attorneys in Cincinnati like OJPC founder Al Gerhardstein, that litigation is one of the most effective ways to secure the rights of those who are politically powerless and as a result, chose to pursue a legal career to advocate for those affected by mass incarceration.

Fellowship Plans

Angela will file civil rights lawsuits on behalf of individual incarcerated individuals and seek systemic reforms by developing impact and/or class-action litigation. Additionally, with the Ohio Justice and Policy’s Beyond Guilt project, she will advocate for the release of over-sentenced individuals by filing motions for resentencing and helping them navigate the parole and clemency process.

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to serve people living inside Ohio’s prisons. I am honored to become a part of an organization that has spent decades fighting on behalf of people impacted by the criminal legal system and believes that no one should be written off.

Angela Larsen /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Jessica (she/her/hers) will enforce the Pretrial Fairness Act, which eliminated money bond in Illinois, through impact litigation, legal advocacy, and education to significantly reduce the number of people detained and subjected to electronic monitoring while awaiting trial in Illinois, especially those who are Black, brown, and/or low-income.

Illinois’s new Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) establishes a system of presumptive pretrial release that eliminates money bond and aims to significantly reduce pretrial detention and electronic monitoring (EM). Courts are undermining the PFA by imposing harmful alternatives to money bond, presenting an urgent opportunity to ensure pretrial freedom in Illinois.

Pretrial detention/EM devastates people’s lives, impeding their ability to maintain employment, secure housing, and preserve community ties. Jessica’s project, which aims to enforce the PFA, is especially important given Illinois’s chronically under-resourced public defense offices, which need support to challenge unlawful detention/EM orders.

As a former Illinois resident, Jessica has witnessed local organizers, supported by movement lawyers, achieve monumental wins to protect their communities from the trauma of the carceral system. Inspired by their advocacy, Jessica’s project unites her passions for working directly with criminalized individuals and supporting grassroots movements in Illinois.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jessica will draft template motions that defense attorneys can use to challenge unlawful detention/EM orders, as well as co-counsel strategic appeals of unlawful detention/EM orders alongside MacArthur’s public defense partners. Jessica will also support the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice’s (INPJ) court-watching and gather data regarding Illinois pretrial detention/EM practices. If necessary, Jessica will help build a civil lawsuit to compel a resistant jurisdiction’s PFA compliance and establish precedent benefitting all Illinoisans subject to pretrial detention/EM. Finally, with INPJ partners, Jessica will educate systemic stakeholders about their PFA obligations, conduct community know-your-rights trainings, and author a public report and/or op-eds about the PFA’s implementation.

I am excited to further the campaign for pretrial fairness, which I have admired since its inception. Returning to Chicago and enforcing historic reforms will fulfill my dream of becoming a local movement lawyer in the fight against carceral violence.

Jessica Wang /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lucy’s (she/her) project, in partnership with The Legal Revolution, will focus on mitigating the impact of collateral consequences experienced by individuals with previous criminal-justice system involvement through direct representation, community education, policy reform, and impact litigation.

Supportive reentry infrastructure is known to reduce recidivism and financial resources that states invest in confinement. Meanwhile, the absence of such infrastructure excludes certain individuals from participating in and contributing to the fabric of their communities, even after completion of a prison sentence. In Minnesota, the current system subjects justice-impacted individuals to extreme scrutiny and bars them from accessing resources that would allow them to care for themselves and their families, creating intergenerational and community-wide negative impacts. The current system is particularly damaging to Minnesotans of colors because—as in the rest of the country—Black, Latinx, and American Indian individuals are significantly overrepresented throughout the state’s criminal-legal system.

Fellowship Plans

Lucy’s project will address these issues by providing holistic civil-legal services to justice-impacted individuals, ranging from expungement and clemency petitions to family, housing, and professional licensure matters. Lucy will also work in partnership with community organizations to facilitate community education and community practice spaces to identify areas for affirmative litigation and policy advocacy. Finally, Lucy’s project will incorporate publishing reports and articles, co-authored with justice-impacted individuals, to educate Minnesotans about their rights and the changing criminal-legal system landscape across the state.

Having seen how civil rights lawyers are able to work in lockstep with community organizers and impacted individuals to effect positive social change, I am motivated to use the platform provided by EJW to reimagine a criminal-legal system that truly prioritizes inclusion and rehabilitation, making Minnesota a more equitable state for all.

Lucy Chin /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Molly’s (she/her/hers) project at FAMM will develop the first state-level clearinghouse to pair people with critical illnesses in state prisons with a network of lawyers and doctors to advocate for compassionate release, as well as seek systemic changes to compassionate release.

Mass incarceration led to the discriminatory skyrocket of both the number of people held in prison, and the length of time people are forced to spend in prison. As a result, many state prisons operate as highly dysfunctional “prison nursing homes” for the population of elderly and critically ill individuals behind bars. Though compassionate release laws exist in almost every state, these laws are rarely used and petitions are almost never granted.

Molly’s inspiration for this work is rooted in the human beings she’s worked alongside: people in prison with health needs and at the intersection of racial, gender, and disability justice. Molly hopes this project can start to transform state compassionate release from broken and underutilized into a functioning path to decarceration.

Fellowship Plans

At the individual level, Molly’s fellowship project will pair, train, and support pro bono doctors and attorneys through the state compassionate release clearinghouse. Within-state, Molly will work with administrative and legislative bodies to improve compassionate release laws and practices. Across states, Molly’s fellowship will generate data on the impacts of compassionate release and this project’s model, to demonstrate proof of concept and scale these efforts in additional states.

I am committed to this work because I’ve seen first-hand the dire circumstances people with critical illnesses face in prison, and the healing impact of compassionate release on individuals and communities made possible by this Equal Justice Works Fellowship.

Molly Crane /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Warrington’s (he/him/his) project will focus on appealing decisions where law enforcement or correctional officers are deemed immune from suit after committing unlawful acts against low-income people of color.

Throughout urban cities, communities of color, and prisons, thousands of marginalized people have been victimized by law enforcement and corrections officers. Yet all too often individuals whose rights have been violated are unable to receive justice because the individual officers are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity, in which they will not be held accountable unless there was a prior case on sufficiently close facts. The goal is to represent individuals in appeals from trial court decisions in which an officer was granted or denied qualified immunity. Warrington will work to overturn decisions where an officer was deemed immune from suit, and will also defend clients against an officer appealing their denial of immunity, so that the client’s case can proceed.

Warrington’s lived experience as a Black man in America drives his passion to eradicate the injustices of the criminal legal system.

Fellowship Plans

Warrington will represent impoverished people of color in their appeals involving the grant or denial of qualified immunity to an officer, to defend their legal rights to be free from retaliatory arrests, excessive force, and warrantless searches. He will identify prisons known for having poor conditions to appeal qualified immunity grants to correctional officers. Additionally, he will collaborate with the MacArthur Justice Center to facilitate listening sessions, host Know Your Rights programs, and develop training materials for qualified immunity appeals.

Growing up in a community that was over-policed and criminalized because we are Black, I have an urgent duty to use my legal skills to secure justice for the community that lifted me up.

Warrington Sebree /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Katy (she/her/her) supports people serving life and long-term sentences to secure early release by encouraging prosecutors to initiate resentencing and connecting clients with representation and reentry services.

Needs Addressed by Project

Mass incarceration, in addition to Washington State’s abolition of parole, has created an urgent need for free legal representation for the review of cases that were prosecuted during the height of the tough-on-crime era, but the criminal court system is not designed to address this critical need.

In 2020, Washington State passed a new prosecutor-initiated resentencing law that provides a new pathway to early release for people serving life or long sentences. The reform gives prosecutors the explicit power to look back at old sentences and move for resentencing when the interests of justice are not served by the original term of confinement imposed. This important reform tool has been underused because there is no right to counsel for this early release pathway.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Katy will supply a minimum of 25 incarcerated people per year with a pro bono attorney to represent them through a discretionary review process, while simultaneously providing pre-release and post-release reentry support. She will screen and deliver eligible candidates for release to be reviewed by prosecutors for resentencing consideration and periodically report on her decarceration work.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to amplify the stories of individuals who have been incarcerated the longest in Washington State. I am inspired by my clients’ resilience in the face of countless obstacles presented by the criminal legal system.”

Katy Daley /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Adrienne (she/her) challenges the systemic issues that disproportionately affect Southeast Asian (“SEA”) refugees by making post-conviction relief for immigration purposes and culturally sensitive legal representation more accessible.

SEA refugees are distinct from other immigrant groups because their trauma is twofold; after being displaced by war and violence, they were also forced to grapple with the challenges of navigating a new cultural environment. Their trauma manifests in various ways, including challenges with mental health, difficulty in adapting to a new culture, and, in some cases, involvement in criminal activities as a means of coping or survival. SEA refugees, consequently, are three to five times more likely to be deported on the basis of old criminal convictions compared with other refugee communities. Economic, cultural, and language barriers faced by SEA immigrants underscore the dire need for affordable and accessible legal representation in post-conviction immigration cases. In spite of this demand, pro bono post-conviction relief services in Orange County for SEA refugees are extremely limited and impacted—where resides the largest Vietnamese immigrant population outside of Vietnam.

Adrienne has observed firsthand how easy it is for immigrants to feel misunderstood and mistreated when they are met with so many barriers to residency and citizenship. She believes that understanding the cultural forces that influence her clients’ motivations and end goals enables her to amplify the voices of SEA immigrants and empower them to confidently advocate for themselves.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Adrienne will represent SEA immigrants in filing California Penal Code § 1473.7(a)(1) motions to vacate prior convictions because of prejudicial error that hurt the clients’ abilities to “meaningfully understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of a conviction or sentence.” After vacating their deportable convictions, these clients will be able to challenge their removal orders or pursue immigration benefits without fear of ICE detection. In addition, Adrienne will also collaborate with community organizers and the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to host community training workshops on post-conviction relief, empowering SEA immigrants to learn about their relief options and regain agency over their immigration journeys.

“My commitment to this project is rooted in my upbringing as a child of Vietnamese American refugees. Coming from a community that exemplifies such resilience has radically shaped my understanding of justice.”

Adrienne Pham /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Alexandra’s (she/her/hers) project will focus on balancing the unequal representation of Black and brown individuals in the jury pool in New York by bringing systemic litigation challenging unconstitutional forum-shopping, creating a juror education program, and pushing for state-wide legislative reforms to the jury system.

Alexandra’s project addresses a critical and unmet need of Legal Aid clients: the systematic exclusion of Black, brown, and low-income New Yorkers on juries. Representative juries are fairer, administer justice more effectively, and provide community members with the opportunity to participate in democracy in their community. While trial attorneys challenge juror selections on an individual basis, Alexandra’s proposal seeks to build on and expand Legal Aid’s clients’ right to a fair trial and centralize Legal Aid’s efforts in making juries fairer.

Fellowship Plans

Alexandra’s project seeks to balance the unequal representation of the jury pool in New York through a multi-prong approach of litigation, community engagement, and policy advocacy. Alexandra will develop an impact litigation lawsuit on behalf of a class of Legal Aid clients deprived of their right under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to have a jury representing a fair cross-section of the community. Alexandra will also develop an outreach strategy that will educate individuals in primarily Black and brown communities on the importance of jury service. Finally, Alexandra will collaborate with existing coalitions working to develop policy reforms to the jury system in New York.

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has allowed me to pursue my passion of using the law and working with communities to addressing systemic racism and injustices in the criminal justice system.

Alexandra Ogunsanya /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Katie’s (she/her/hers) project will work with the MacArthur Justice Center’s Supreme Court and Appellate Program to litigate federal and state appeals arising at the intersection of solitary confinement and disability, serious mental illness, or youth, as a tactic to accelerate the abolition of solitary confinement for the nation’s most vulnerable incarcerated people.

Each year, over 120,000 incarcerated men, women, and children endure solitary confinement in prisons and jails in the United States. People who are held in solitary experience 23 hours per day in cages measuring under 8×10 feet without any meaningful human contact and very few, if any, opportunities to find fulfillment elsewhere; religion, exercise, rehabilitation programs, and entertainment are strictly limited, or prohibited entirely. Often, the most vulnerable incarcerated individuals—those with mental illness or a disability and juveniles—are placed in solitary. Isolation is so psychologically damaging that solitary confinement accounts for about 50% of prison suicides even though 6.3% of the prison population is locked in solitary confinement on a given day.

Fellowship Plans

Katie will bring claims in federal and state appellate courts challenging the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable groups, under the Eighth Amendment and its state constitutional analogues. Over the past few years, several federal circuit courts have begun to recognize that the toxic combination of mental illness and solitary confinement may raise constitutional concerns. Katie will build upon these precedents to obtain favorable results in these and other circuits for a broader class of vulnerable people. Katie will also produce educational materials so that incarcerated individuals and their loved ones can be prepared to effectively bring these claims pro se.

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to serve vulnerable incarcerated people throughout the country. After spending time volunteering in prisons, I saw the horrific conditions firsthand, which catalyzed my desire to work on these issues.

Katie Pleiss /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Nina (she/her/hers) will focus on freeing wrongfully convicted people in New Hampshire, raising awareness about the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions, and effecting systemic change to reduce the likelihood of future injustices.

Of nearly 3,500 exonerations in the United States since 1989, only three have come out of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has no infrastructure in place to identify, correct, and prevent wrongful convictions, and avenues for post-conviction relief in the state are few and narrowly constricted. This not only impacts wrongfully convicted people currently incarcerated in New Hampshire—along with their families and communities—but it also affects everyone who cycles through the New Hampshire criminal legal system in the future.

Fellowship Plans

To further develop a wrongful conviction practice in New Hampshire, Nina will engage in three primary areas: litigation, education, and policy advocacy. Nina will review, investigate, and litigate wrongful conviction claims in New Hampshire, collaborating with partners that include lawyers, experts, and investigators. She will also develop resources and trainings on wrongful convictions to deliver to the New Hampshire legal community. Finally, Nina will work with policy experts to advocate for new laws in New Hampshire that expand avenues for post-conviction relief.

I am so grateful to work with a community that values and fights for freedom. I see wrongful conviction work as one piece of a broader movement towards abolition and reimagining how we prevent and respond to harm.

Nina Thacker /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow