2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Headshot of Jessica Niewohner

Jess Niewohner

  • Hosted by Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Medtronic
  • Service location Minnesota
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Legal System Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Jess (she/her/hers) facilitates access to justice for Minnesotans incarcerated since childhood who are newly eligible for sentencing review through policy advocacy, education, and outcome tracking.

In 2023, the Minnesota State Legislature passed SF 2909, abolishing life without parole for children and granting sentencing review to at least 100 Minnesotans that have been incarcerated since childhood. While SF 2909 is expansive, it will only create meaningful change in the lives of incarcerated people if it is successfully implemented. There is a need for strong policy advocacy to protect SF 2909 from reactionary pushback and tough on crime rhetoric that might frutrate its implementation and weaken its impact. Additionally, incarcerated persons eligible for sentencing review need support to prepare them for their hearings, strengthen their release plans, and track hearing outcomes.

After working alongside incarcerated folks for over six years, Jess understands the need for a justice system that works for everyone, not just those with power and privilege. This project helps build justice for Minnesotans who have been incarcerated since childhood, who deserve a chance to come back home.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jess will engage directly with Minnesotans incarcerated since childhood to educate them about SF 2909, connect them with pro bono support, and help develop their release plans. She will track hearing outcomes, advocate for reforms to strengthen SF 2909’s impact and advise the newly created Release Board to ensure that it follows State and Federal law. Additionally, she will develop a policy report on the implementation of SF 2909, sharing success stories and lessons learned to serve as a model for other states considering abolishing life without parole or other extreme sentences for children.

No child should spend their life in prison, but thousands of kids across the US have extreme sentences that keep them behind bars into adulthood. This Fellowship will give Minnesotans incarcerated since childhood the support they need to come home.

Jess Niewohner /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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