The TCJC Team

Vanessa Akins

Legislative Analyst

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.

Angel Carroll

Strategic Outreach Coordinator

Angel Carroll is the Strategic Outreach Coordinator for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. She is working directly with TCJC’s Statewide Leadership Council to coordinate events, build relationships, and engage system-impacted people across the state to support local organizing. Angel previously served at Outreach Coordinator at Lone Star Justice Alliance, and in 2018 she was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to the Texas Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. She is currently Director of Advocacy at MEASURE, a board member at her childhood Boys & Girls Club in Georgetown, Texas, and the owner of a consulting group that collaborates with local and state stakeholders to promote racial equity, trauma-informed care, and other strength-based practices for youth and emerging adults who are justice system-involved. Angel’s passion for these issues stems from her lived experience in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and she is determined to serve as a positive example and create space for more people with lived experience to be heard. Angel is a proud alumna of Texas Tech University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies.

Alycia Castillo

Policy Analyst

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

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.

Elaine Hennig

Harris County Project Associate

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

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

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.

Madison Long

Harris County Project Fellow

Madison Long is a University Honors and Accelerated Pathway to Law School scholar at North Carolina A&T State University, where she is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies (Pre-Law). In her first year, she took advantage of multiple opportunities to learn about the legal profession and criminal justice. She joined the National Black Law Student Association (NBLSA) chapter, where she participated in the James Baldwin Pre-Law Debate Tournament arguing for and against the doctrine of qualified immunity. Madison also served as a case leader during the NFL/NBA Kearney Social Justice Case Competition. Additionally, she served as a judicial extern for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. As a Harris County Project [Fellow] with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Madison is focused on gaining more knowledge about how the criminal justice system functions, while simultaneously improving her critical and analytical thinking skills and abilities. 

Maggie Luna

Peer Policy Fellow

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

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.

Max Martucci

Harris County Project Fellow

Max Martucci is a rising senior at Rice University who aims to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Max first took interest in the manifold dysfunctions of the American criminal justice system in the course of his academic studies. Like many other young Houstonians, he gained an intimate familiarity with the shortcomings of Harris County’s criminal justice system during the summer of 2020. Max has since been involved in activist and advocacy efforts pertaining to the cash bail system, protesters’ rights, and more. As a Harris County Policy Fellow with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Max performs analytical work for the Justice Data Project, examining the role that Harris County’s many penal institutions play in criminalization and incarceration.

Angela Medcalf

Harris County Project Fellow

Angela Medcalf earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from North Carolina A&T State University in May 2021. Through academic research, she developed a passion for work combatting the many struggles that Black and Brown communities face. During her undergraduate career, she worked closely with the NAACP as Political Action Chairperson and President. As a Harris County Project Fellow with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Angela conducts research to inform the community of the disparities that plague the criminal justice system. She will be attending Marquette University Law School in the fall, where she will pursue a Juris Doctorate with an Estate Planning concentration.

Pierce Monroe

Harris County Project Fellow

Pierce Monroe is graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Pre-Law. During his undergraduate experience, Pierce organized campus-wide voter registration workshops and forums for local and national elections, and he served as the political outreach chair for his fraternity, The Beta Epsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Pierce also served as the Student Government Association Parliamentarian for the 2020-2021 academic school year, implementing Robert’s Rules of Order throughout administrative and campus-wide tasks. Pierce is passionate about political and civic engagement and political outreach, including educating minority communities on the importance of politics. He plans to attend law school in the fall and use his passion to create a change within the world. He lives by the quote from former President Barack Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

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

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 Analyst

Sarah Reyes is a Policy Analyst with TCJC, having first joined the organization as a Policy Associate in 2020. Sarah 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; in 2021, she graduated with 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. Sarah's passion for social justice began with her first social work class, which helped her understand how inequitable systems are; she credits social work with empowering her as an advocate. As a Policy Analyst, Sarah works on TCJC’s Adult Justice team with a focus on drug policy, and she also assists with Youth Justice work.

Taylor Roberts

Harris County Project Fellow

Taylor Roberts earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from North Carolina A&T State University and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in Law and Politics from Ohio University. Her professional experience ranges from years of operating grassroot teams, advocating for policy reform, and participating in national campaigns in Washington D.C., to working with several criminal justice reform projects. Her undergraduate and current graduate research has focused on the nexus between race and gender and the role that political power plays within the criminal justice system in modern-day America. As a Harris County Project Fellow with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Taylor works to analyze the variables that contribute to high incarceration rates, with a focus on rehabilitation opportunities and outreach programs in disadvantaged areas that can safely reduce incarcerated populations.

Lily Sethre-Brink

Harris County Project Fellow

Lily Sethre-Brink is a rising junior at Rice University studying Anthropology and Social Policy analysis with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought on the pre-law track. Lily previously worked with TCJC through the Center for Civic Leadership's HART program, producing research on justice reform in Harris County as part of an undergraduate team. A co-founder and organizer with Rice Mutual Aid, Lily also participates in the Rice Student Labor Coalition, Rice divestment efforts centering on prison abolition and climate justice, and Students for the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development Without Displacement. As a Harris County Project Fellow, Lily works on developing ethnographic research projects centering on criminal justice in Harris County; she also supports advocacy efforts around dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in the greater Houston area.

Cynthia Simons

Grant Me The Wisdom Foundation Women’s Fellow

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 coordinates 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

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.

Leon Theodore, M.S.W.

Dallas County Justice Project Advocate

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. 

Deidre Thomas

Harris County Project Fellow

Deidre Thomas received her Associate in Arts degree from Rockingham Community College in North Carolina, which set her on the path to graduating magna cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from North Carolina A&T State University. She has worked in restaurants for much of her life while also enjoying volunteer work in the Greensboro, North Carolina, District Attorney’s office and at Parkview Village summer camp. Diedre is dedicated to service and hopes to attend law school to study Constitutional Law. As a Harris County Project Fellow with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Diedre hopes to continue helping system-impacted people through her work.

Molly Totman, J.D.

Deputy Director

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.

Joey Villarreal

Finance and Operations Manager

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.