The TCJC Team

Vanessa Akins

Legislative Analyst

VAkins@TexasCJC.org

Vanessa Akins is the Legislative Analyst for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization as a Policy Associate in September 2020. In her previous role, she provided data-driven policy recommendations and research on juvenile probation reform and Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) facilities as part of TCJC’s Spend Your Values, Cut Your Losses portfolio. After working in education and corporate communications, Vanessa followed her passion for advocacy to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). As Communications Coordinator, she gained a deeper understanding of the inherent flaws of our justice system and its arbitrary use of the death penalty. As TCJC’s Legislative Analyst, Vanessa provides quality research and analysis to support the Policy Team’s advocacy, and makes legislation accessible for all individuals impacted by the justice system. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from St. Edward’s University and, in December 2020,  she graduated with a Master of Arts in Legal Studies from Texas State University.

Temi Banjo

Policy Associate

Temi Banjo is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Government with a certificate in Ethics and Leadership of Law, Politics, and Government. She hopes to matriculate into law school in the fall and eventually become a civil rights lawyer. She is passionate about treating kids like kids and creating systems to provide them with mental and emotional guidance and support, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Policy Associate, Temi assists TCJC’s Youth Justice team with research related to reducing youth decarceration, addressing the inequities facing marginalized communities, and creating brighter futures for Texas kids.

Ilana Blumstein

Policy Associate

Ilana Blumstein is a first-year graduate student at George Washington University studying Public Administration with a focus on Policy and Politics. Her interest in criminal justice reform stems from her background studying Psychology and Social Work as an undergraduate student and learning the interconnectedness of broken social institutions. Her past work experiences include advocating for reentry and mental health reform. As a Policy Associate at TCJC, Ilana is currently working on advocacy efforts geared towards implementing raise the age legislation and conducting legislative bill analyses. 

Lewis Bowden

Policy Associate

Lewis Bowden is a senior at Texas State University, majoring in Criminal Justice. As a Policy Associate, Lewis is focusing on TCJC’s Spend Your Values project, helping to advocate for changes to Texas’s costly, harmful, and ineffective criminal legal system. For more than six years, he has befriended many men and women in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, including developing close friendships with the men and women on Death Row. After graduation, Lewis plans to continue advocating for incarcerated people from the local level to the state legislature.

Alycia Castillo

Policy Analyst

acastillo@TexasCJC.org

Alycia Castillo is a Policy Analyst for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. She joined TCJC as a Policy Associate during the state’s 86th Legislative Session in 2019, and she continued to support TCJC through the remainder of that year as a Policy Consultant. Alycia received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at Texas State University, where she conducted research to find evidence-based solutions to problems facing marginalized populations. Alycia uses her social work background to provide trauma-informed perspectives to existing environments. Her background in teaching and education management also provide her a holistic view of the intersecting factors that lead to system involvement.

Devin Driver

Policy Analyst

ddriver@TexasCJC.org

Devin Driver is a Policy Analyst at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization as a Policy Associate in August 2020. Her undergraduate research focused on intersections between justice system involvement and other challenges, including mental health and substance use disorders. As a Policy Associate, Devin contributed to TCJC’s Spend Your Values, Cut Your Losses portfolio through research and legislative recommendations on probation, transitional housing, and Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) facilities. In her current role, she hopes to focus on keeping people out of the justice system at every level, but especially through pre-arrest programming and reentry supports. Devin’s interest in the justice system comes from her father, who previously worked as a prison warden and now runs halfway houses for a charity. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Texas State University in December 2020 and plans to attend graduate school in fall 2021.

Tina Fowler

Policy Associate

Tina Fowler is a Doctoral student at Prairie View A&M University majoring in Justice Studies. She is a Licensed Social Worker who has experience working with children in foster care. In her work, she saw the disproportionate rates in which foster children became involved with the juvenile justice system and recognized that children of color were the most impacted. She plans to continue advocating for children and improving outcomes for children of color. Having joined TCJC in August 2020 as part of the Youth Justice team, Tina helped distribute the District School Police Survey to collect data on school resource officers’ role in Texas schools. She continues to collect data on exclusionary discipline practices in Texas schools, focusing on disparities related to race and disability.

Elaine Hennig

Harris County Project Associate

ehennig@TexasCJC.org

Elaine Hennig is the Harris County Project Associate at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. She first joined TCJC as an undergraduate student, engaging in research projects on school policing and the cash bail system in Harris County. In her hometown of Dallas, Texas, Elaine was trained in the arts as a director, stage manager, and playwright at an arts magnet high school. Paired with her community service engagement, her interest in storytelling led her to develop a passion for analyzing society, advocating for social justice, and elevating marginalized voices. Elaine received her Bachelor of Arts from Rice University, where she studied Sociology with a minor in Politics, Law, and Social Thought and took a particular academic interest in the social impact of the justice system.

Jay Jenkins, J.D.

Harris County Project Attorney

jjenkins@TexasCJC.org

Jay Jenkins is the Harris County Project Attorney at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Since joining TCJC in 2014, he has promoted broad youth and adult justice reforms in Houston and the surrounding areas. Jay received his Juris Doctor from Northwestern University School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. While at Northwestern, he worked at the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Children and Family Justice Center, focusing on a number of youth justice issues. In his third year, Jay was the lone law student at the newly formed Juvenile Post-Dispositional Clinic, where he promoted policy reform throughout Chicago while also advocating on behalf of juvenile clients. Jay was admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois and worked as a civil litigator in the private sector for three years. At TCJC, Jay has researched and pursued reforms related to over-policing and prosecution, while also reimagining the local bail system and supporting indigent defense, and he was instrumental in the development of a first-of-its-kind data dashboard that visualizes more than one million criminal case outcomes in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis Counties. Jay additionally serves as co-founder and President of the Convict Leasing and Labor Project, which launched in 2018 to expose the history of the convict leasing system and its connection to modern prison slavery.

Madison Kaigh

Communications Manager

mkaigh@TexasCJC.org

Madison Kaigh is Communications Manager at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization in spring 2019. A Texas transplant by way of Washington, D.C., and Alaska, she brings experience from EMILY’s List, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives, and more to her communications and digital work at TCJC. She most recently served as Communications Director on a Central Texas congressional campaign, where she spearheaded written communications, press outreach, and social media. Madison’s family history of justice system involvement and justice-related work have informed her passion for elevating unique voices and representing underserved communities. She hopes to use storytelling to help TCJC and allies defeat stigmas and positively impact the narrative around system involvement. Madison received her Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University, where she studied Government and English.

Josh Kemp

Policy Associate

Josh Kemp is a senior at Texas State University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Psychology. His interest in criminal justice reform stems from his prior experience as a combat veteran and his time as federal correctional officer in Beaumont, Texas. As a Policy Associate with TCJC, Josh focuses on reforms in the Texas prison system, along with veteran services that would provide support for this vulnerable population. He hopes to eventually become a licensed clinical social worker and serve other combat veterans as they reintegrate into society.  

 

Theresa Laumann

Policy Associate

Theresa Laumann is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University studying Social Work with an emphasis on policy practice. She comes to TCJC having worked in the county jail and the juvenile detention center in her hometown of Champaign, Illinois, teaching art and GED courses. She has worked in substance use disorder residential treatment programming in a supervisory and counseling role and has also helped run two group homes for those with chronic, serious mental illness. Prior to beginning her master’s program, she worked as a grant writer and community organizer.  As a Policy Associate at TCJC, Theresa is helping to lead an IRB research project that is evaluating Texas’ in-prison treatment programming; she also contributes to advocacy around probation reform and conducts legislative bill analysis.

Maggie Luna

Peer Policy Fellow

mluna@TexasCJC.org

Maggie Luna is the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Peer Policy Fellow for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization in early 2020. In her role, she is focused on creating advocacy opportunities for system-impacted Texans. Maggie’s passion for justice policy is fueled by her own lived experience with system involvement and substance use, including incarceration at state and county levels in Texas. Just one year after her release from prison, Maggie began advocating for a host of women’s dignity bills and, throughout Texas’s 2019 legislative session, she encouraged lawmakers to support reforms including conditions of confinement. A graduate of the Smart Justice Speakers Bureau at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Maggie helps to coordinate the Statewide Leadership Council, which TCJC launched to elevate the voices of system-impacted people in local and state policy reform.

Justin Martinez

Bexar County Justice Project Advocate

jmartinez@TexasCJC.org

Justin Martinez is the Bexar County Justice Project Advocate at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization in early 2020. He previously served as a Policy Associate at TCJC, where he focused on addressing the devastating impacts of de facto life sentences on youth. Justin is pursuing his Master of Arts in Legal Studies, with a Paralegal Certification, at Texas State University. During his time in the educational field, he advocated for the arts and their importance in the overall approach to a child’s education. As the Bexar County Justice Project Advocate, Justin will work with local partners to reform practices that lead to justice system involvement and overly harsh punishments for kids and adults.

Zachary Montz

Harris County Project Fellow

Dr. Zachary Montz is a lecturer in the Department of History at Sam Houston State University who studies labor and race. He provides historical consulting and support for TCJC and is currently working on issues related to convict leasing and the Sugar Land 95. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

 

Ingrid Patino

Harris County Project Fellow

Ingrid Patino earned her Bachelor of Arts degree as a dual major in History and Spanish, and she graduated with a Master of Arts degree in History from Sam Houston State University. While completing her M.A., Ingrid worked as a graduate assistant for two years before joining the Convict Leasing and Labor Project (CLLP) as a researcher. Through her studies, she learned the importance of giving voice to the narratives of ethnic, racial, and other minorities, and this missing history drives her continued passion. In her free time, Ingrid is working towards her alternative teaching certification.

Leah Pinney

Executive Director

lpinney@TexasCJC.org

Leah Pinney is Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. She joined TCJC in 2007 as a youth justice researcher to push for stronger oversight at the Texas Youth Commission. With her help, TCJC advocated for the implementation of agency programs and procedures that would reduce staff use of force, including the indiscriminate use of pepper spray against kids in facilities. Leah later worked to advance the rights of indigent defendants, especially the right to counsel, through increased state funding and the expansion of model programs, including the Harris County Public Defender's Office. From 2008 to 2015, Leah was in charge of TCJC’s operations, overseeing its organizational development and resource management. Prior to TCJC, Leah worked with the ACLU of Texas, where she drafted a report about the problems related to the use of confidential informants, particularly by racially biased drug task forces across Texas. She graduated summa cum laude from St. Edward’s University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science. As Executive Director, Leah spearheads strategic planning based on the organizational vision and mission, and develops the parameters for achieving multi-year goals, while ensuring a process and structure to achieve success.

Sarah Reyes

Policy Associate

Sarah Reyes earned a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree in Human Development and Family Sciences as well as a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2020; she is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Social Work. Her previous field and volunteer experience includes work with Austin State Hospital, St. David’s Medical Center, and Dell Children’s Medical Center. As a Policy Associate, Sarah assists TCJC’s Adult Justice team with a focus on drug policy.

 

 

Cynthia Simons

Grant Me The Wisdom Foundation Women’s Fellow

csimons@TexasCJC.org

Cynthia Simons is the Grant Me The Wisdom Foundation (GMTW) Women's Fellow for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Her passion for civil rights and justice reform stems back to the age of 16, when she graduated from high school and attended the University of Texas at San Antonio. That passion has since been fueled by a firsthand view of the justice system: As a formerly incarcerated woman, Cynthia hopes to protect women’s rights and ensure that women have access to resources and rehabilitative services before, during, and after interactions with the justice system. This includes the critical need for strategies that promote family connection and reunification. At TCJC, Cynthia works to end mass incarceration and support women and families who have been impacted by the justice system; she collaborates with the Texas Women’s Justice Coalition in support of trauma-informed programming and gender-responsive reforms.

Douglas Smith, M.S.S.W.

Senior Policy Analyst

dsmith@TexasCJC.org

Doug Smith is the Senior Policy Analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Since joining TCJC in 2015, he has been working to end mass incarceration and expand opportunity for people upon release from jail and prison. He is the founding member of the Statewide Leadership Council, which includes leaders from across Texas who have been impacted by the criminal legal system. Doug is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Policy at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, and he trains advocates nationally on effective legislative strategy. Additionally, Doug serves on the Board of the Austin Sobering Center. He graduated magna cum laude from St. Edward’s University in 1994 and earned his M.S.S.W. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000.

Jasmine Smith

Harris County Project Intern

Jasmine Smith is a sophomore at Rice University; she plans to graduate with a degree in Psychology and attend medical school. Her interest in justice system reform comes from a desire to inspire difficult but necessary conversations about the system’s impact on society and to spark change. As a Harris County Project Intern at TCJC, Jasmine works on the Convict Leasing and Labor Project involving the Sugar Land 95, and she hopes to continue researching the history and legacy of convict leasing, including its beneficiaries.

 

Kendall Smith

Policy Associate

Kendall Smith is a junior at McCallum High School in Austin and serves as a High School Youth Justice Policy Associate at TCJC. After graduation, she aspires to study social work. Since joining the Youth Justice team in June 2020, Kendall has become incredibly passionate about advocating for the decarcaration of youth and restructuring harmful punitive practices. Through TCJC, she has worked on a variety of projects to highlight exclusionary disciplinary practices in schools and is also engaged in advocacy around education justice.

Leon Theodore, M.S.W.

Dallas County Justice Project Advocate

ltheodore@TexasCJC.org

Leon Theodore is the Dallas County Justice Project Advocate at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization in fall 2019. He has been active in the reentry field since 2006, and he has done extensive volunteer work in Orlando, Florida, where he established his own nonprofit organization after recognizing the lack of services for people struggling with sexual addiction. Leon's passion for reentry, as well as social and employment development, stems from his own experience with the justice system and the stigma attached to people returning from incarceration. He is a proponent of youth diversion programs, especially as it relates to minorities and the education system. Leon earned a Master of Social Work from Texas A&M-Commerce in 2019, and, in the future, he plans to pursue a Doctorate of Social Work, focusing specifically on students of color and the intersection of self-esteem and perceived potential. 

Molly Totman, J.D.

Deputy Director

mtotman@TexasCJC.org

Molly Totman is Deputy Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Molly has spent the bulk of her career at TCJC, which she joined in 2003, immediately after receiving her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas School of Law. Molly's first position at TCJC was as Public Safety Director. In that role, she built the sole state repository on racial profiling by Texas’ law enforcement agencies. The four reports on racial profiling that she produced for TCJC between 2004 and 2008 shed light on discriminatory law enforcement policies and resulted in changes in the state’s collection of data regarding the prevalence of traffic stops and searches. As Deputy Director, Molly remains TCJC’s senior editor and researcher, while leading its foundation fundraising.

Gabe Tugendstein

Harris County Project Intern

Gabe Tugendstein is a senior at Rice University and ultimately hopes to earn his Doctor of Philosophy. His work at TCJC began through the Law Practicum at Rice, where he researched the Sugar Land 95, including laws and cases relevant to the treatment of the remains by Fort Bend County and its school district. Gabe hopes to continue combatting injustice in a community-based setting in Houston and gain more experience in nonprofit and legal spaces.

 

 

Joey Villarreal

Finance and Operations Manager

jvillarreal@texascjc.org

Joey Villarreal is the Finance and Operations Manager at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, having joined the organization in late 2019. Joey previously worked at the Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People in Denver, Colorado, where he started as an Administrative Assistant before moving into a bilingual support role within the special education division. More recently, Joey served for 12 years as the Vice President of Operations for a Los Angeles-based entertainment production company, where he managed finance operations, vendor relations, and client contracts. An extensive traveler abroad, Joey has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and volunteered at a nearby orphanage in Moshi; he cites that volunteer work and his experiences visiting local schools as changing his perspective about how others live. Joey holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.

Giulia Walker

Policy Associate

Giulia Walker is a high school junior at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. She plans to graduate in the spring of 2022 and attend college. Her interest in justice reform stems from her desire to help change a profoundly unjust system and create awareness and action in her community. As a Youth Justice Policy Associate, she has worked on social media campaigns and several legislative bill analyses, and she hopes to write and place her first ever op-ed regarding the benefit of social workers in schools versus School Resource Officers.