Our approach is informed by our background in youth advocacy and our belief that justice requires that context be considered at sentencing. Through leading a coalition of families of youth sentenced as adults, YSRP co-founders Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian heard their anguish at not having been able to present mitigating information in court at sentencing and their fear of loved ones being released from prison unprepared for the challenges that come with reentering the community. Through litigating sentencing issues, they learned more about how powerful mitigation evidence can be. On a car trip across Pennsylvania for a prison visit, they discussed their mutual passion for this work and devised the idea for YSRP.
Director of Operations
Katie Barnett is Director of Operations with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. In this role, she informs development, communications and operational strategies that sustain and support the mission of Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project and its growing team. Previously, Katie was the Development Director at Spiral Q in West Philadelphia, and she has consulted for leading organizations working at the intersection of immigrant rights, criminal justice reform and worker’s rights. Prior to relocating to Philadelphia, Katie worked at the Open Society Foundations, where she supported national grantmaking related to criminal justice reform, and the role of arts and culture in advancing social change. Katie graduated from Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and received her Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College in New York City.
Contact: email@example.com; 267-703-8048
Juwan Z. Bennett is a Reentry Coordinator at the Youth Sentencing Reentry Project. In this capacity, he shapes the direction and delivery of YSRP’s client-partnership model, partners with YSRP’s team and criminal defense attorneys to support reentry planning for youth facing charges in the adult criminal justice system, and collaborates with organizations that provide reentry support services to men, women, and young people returning to the community from either adult or juvenile incarceration settings.
Juwan is an advanced PhD student in the Criminal Justice Department at Temple University. He is originally from the Philadelphia area and began his undergraduate career at the age of 15. During his undergraduate studies, he was a Ronald E. McNair Research Scholar and worked as an Athletic Mentor/Tutor in the Resnick Academic Support Center for Student-Athletes. Juwan has worked with Dr. Nicole Van Cleve, conducting ethnographic observations, and with Education Professor Dr. James Earl Davis examining how alternative education programs can be successful at preventing delinquency. As a result of his research endeavors, he was invited by Dr. Elijah Anderson to attend his Urban Ethnography Workshop at Yale University.
In addition to his research and educational experiences, Juwan has served as the deputy coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement in the Kenney Administration. Specifically, Juwan’s role as deputy coordinator included overseeing the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males and implementing the My Brother’s Keeper criminal justice initiative. He currently serves as an Inside-Out Think Tank member at the State Correctional Institute Phoenix, which is comprised of both incarcerated and trained faculty who meet regularly to create a series of projects around criminal justice reform. A fun fact about Juwan is that he is an accomplished musician, performing live for President Obama.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 267-703-8052
Lauren Fine, Esq.
Lauren Fine, Esq., is the co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP). At YSRP, she leads the mitigation/sentencing advocacy team for youth and juvenile lifers, does policy advocacy work, and works with her Co-Director and Director of Operations on fundraising, communications and other aspects of the organization’s operations.
Before YSRP, Lauren was a Zubrow Fellow in Children’s Law at Juvenile Law Center, a federal law clerk, and a research assistant/project manager at the Brookings Institution. At Juvenile Law Center, among other projects, she advanced efforts to end the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without parole, including co-authoring Amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and state supreme courts. She also aided in successfully challenging the adjudication of homicide for an 11 year old; provided legal intake services at a homeless shelter for youth, and co-authored a Model Act and reports on juvenile record expungement and on trauma and resilience.
Lauren is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2015 American Express-Ashoka Emerging Innovator, a 2016 Claneil Emerging Leader Fellow, a 2016 American Bar Association Lawyer on the Rise, a 2016 Billy Penn Who’s Next recipient, the 2017 recipient of Duke Alumni Association’s Young Alumna award. She was honored to receive the 2018 Shepherd of Peace Award from Good Shepherd Mediation Program, and along with Joanna Visser Adjoian, the 2018 American Constitution Society David Carliner Public Interest Award. In 2020, Duke Law School selected her for the Young Alumni Award.
Lauren is a published author, including op-eds in the Inquirer, articles in The Champion, For the Defense, and The Legal Intelligencer. She is a TEDx speaker, has appeared on NPR and the Social Entrepreneur podcast, as well as national and local television programs. Lauren is the past Co-Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, a member of the Duke Philadelphia regional alumni board and a the Duke Law Alumni Association Board of Directors. She is a graduate of Yale University and Duke University School of Law.
Contact: email@example.com; 267-703-8049
John Pace is a Reentry Coordinator with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. In this role he coordinates efforts to garner the necessary resources to support former Juvenile Lifers and youth client-partners returning to the community from prison, jail or placement. As a former Juvenile Lifer himself–John spent 31 years in prison, beginning at age 17–he was actively involved in numerous initiatives while incarcerated to help support his personal transition back to the community and that of other Juvenile Lifers. John is a certified paralegal and a former member of the Para Professional Law Clinic (PPLC) at Graterford prison. He was on the management team of the Prison Literacy Project (PLP); served as the Chairman of the Juvenile Lifers Committee in the Lifers organization at Graterford, and as a Think Tank member of The Temple Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program at Graterford, where he participated in the training over 600 instructors throughout the world in the Inside-Out pedagogy. In 2014, he became a certified instructor in the Inside-Out Pedagogy, which teaches the art of facilitating dialogue. While incarcerated, John earned his Associates Degree and Bachelor’s Degree from Villanova University, with minors in sociology and criminal justice. John Pace was named the first-ever recipient of the Raymond Pace Alexander Reentry Star of the Year Award in June 2018 in recognition of his tremendous accomplishments since returning home from prison.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 267-703-8053
Development & Operations Coordinator
Sophia Peake is the Development & Operations Coordinator with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. In this role, she focuses on increasing YSRP’s revenue, providing crucial support to the operations of the organization, and assists in telling YSRP’s story. Prior to joining the team, she was a fundraiser for Pathways to Housing PA, where she honed her skills in donor acquisition strategies. Sophia has a background in the nonprofit sector, working for numerous grassroots campaigns and organizations in the Philadelphia region. She is a passionate advocate for equity in the social justice, education, and public policy sectors. Sophia is a Philadelphia native and a Temple University Alum, and is currently obtaining a Masters in Public Administration from Adler University. Additionally, she currently serves as an Impact100 Founders Fellow, and is a member of the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle, where she aids in the grantmaking process.
Contact: email@example.com; 267-702-5856
Emily Robb, Esq., MSW
Emily Robb, Esq., joined the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project after a 13-year career at the public defender office in Philadelphia, where she held a number of different positions, including as an Assistant Defender in the major trial unit, Juvenile Special Defense Unit, Penn Law Criminal Defense Clinic Instructor, and as Chief of the South Zone. Prior to graduating law school from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she interned with the Innocence Project, Emily was a social worker in New York City. Emily earned her Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) from Columbia University School of Social Work, and her Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Cornell University.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 267-703-8050
Annie Ruhnke is a mitigation specialist with specialized training in trauma and mental health issues. After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at The George Washington University, Ms. Ruhnke joined the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Delaware, where she conducted life history investigations across the country. Ms. Ruhnke has worked on post conviction death penalty cases at both the state and federal level and has presented at national trainings on topics surrounding mitigation investigations in capital cases. In addition to developing social histories, Ms. Ruhnke is especially interested in restorative justice and redemption.
Contact: email@example.com; 267-703-8051
Joanna Visser Adjoian, Esq.
Joanna Visser Adjoian, Esq., is co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. At YSRP, she leads the reentry team for youth and Juvenile Lifers, does policy advocacy work, and works with her Co-Director and Director of Operations on fundraising, communications and other aspects of the organization’s operations.
Prior to co-founding YSRP, Joanna served as Associate Director and Staff Attorney of the Toll Public Interest Center at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she oversaw the Center’s 26 student pro bono projects, offered guidance to more than 100 student leaders, and directly supervised students in new and existing pro bono initiatives. Before joining the Toll Center, Joanna clerked for Judge Joel Schneider in the United States District Court of the District of New Jersey, and completed a Penn Law Postgraduate Fellowship at Juvenile Law Center, where she advanced efforts to end the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without parole, including co-authoring an Amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Miller v. Alabama.
Joanna is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2016 Claneil Emerging Leader Fellow, a 2016 recipient of the Penn Law Young Alumni Award, and a 2017 recipient of the Penn Law Alan Lerner Rising Star Award. She was honored to receive the 2018 Shepherd of Peace Award from Good Shepherd Mediation Program, the 2019 Haddon, McClellan, and Richardson Award from the Temple University Black Law Students Association, and the 2019 F. Sean Peretta Service Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division. Along with Lauren Fine, she is the 2018 recipient of the American Constitution Society David Carliner Public Interest Award.
Joanna is a published author, including articles in The Champion, Court Review Journal, For the Defense, and The Legal Intelligencer, and has been quoted extensively in The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as The Nation, The Atlantic, and The Philadelphia Citizen. She is a NITA presenter, and has appeared on local radio and television news programs.
Joanna is a member of the Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and the Toll Public Interest Center Advisory Board at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She serves as co-chair of the Legal Rights of Children Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Public Interest Section, and is a member of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia. Before law school, Joanna worked as a paralegal in the Family Law Unit of Philadelphia Legal Assistance and taught English in Ecuador. Joanna received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 267-703-8047
Advisors & Fellows
Eleanor Myers, Esq.
Eleanor Myers, Esq., is a YSRP Senior Adviser, regularly supporting YSRP’s Reentry Team, and working to advance policy to improve conditions for those on life-time parole. Eleanor previously was a tenured faculty member at Temple Law School where she taught, published and consulted in the areas of Professional Responsibility and business law. She also served as Interim Dean of Students and taught internationally in Rome, Beijing, Tokyo, and Manila. At Temple, she received a Lindback award for distinguished teaching, the Stauffer award for outstanding service to the university and a national award for developing problem-solving curriculum. She was appointed by two university Presidents as NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative and she also served as vice chair of the University Disciplinary Board.
Prior to teaching, Eleanor practiced law at Fine Kaplan and Black, Served as Associate General Counsel at Temple University and was an associate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center on Professionalism. Eleanor has been active outside the University, having served as Vice-Chair of the Division 1 NCAA Committee on Infractions and has been appointed to several NCAA working groups. She has also served on the board of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and as a member and chair of several NASDAQ/OMX hearing panels and committees. She has been a board member of the Women’s Medical Fund, Women’s Law Project, Women’s Way, and the Philadelphia chapter of the ACLU. She has won awards and recognition for community service. Eleanor graduated from University of Pennsylvania and its law school, magna cum laude. She is an elected member of the Order of the Coif, American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Eleanor is an avid sports fan, especially of Temple basketball, and loves to sing.
Contact: email@example.com; leave a voicemail for Eleanor at 267-703-8046
Kyle Offenbecher, Esq.
Temple Law Public Interest Legal Fellow
Kyle Offenbecher, Esq., is a Temple Law Public Interest Legal Fellow with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. In this capacity, he advocates on behalf of youth and Juvenile Lifer client-partners. Before joining YSRP, Kyle interned at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and he clerked with Philadelphia area civil law firms. Before moving back to Philadelphia, Kyle helped lead several political operations throughout the state of Delaware and volunteered teaching children in Ghana. Kyle is a graduate of University of Delaware and Temple University Beasley School of Law.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; leave a voicemail for Kyle at 267-703-8046
Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellows
The Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellowship program, made possible with the generous support of Board member Harper Seldin and his husband John Kuester, offers up to two full-time 10-week paid summer fellowship positions with YSRP for law and/or social work graduate students. Seldin-Kuester Fellows work on independent and collaborative projects supporting YSRP’s case advocacy model, which may include: conducting mitigation investigations and preparing reports for young people charged as adults; research to support policy advocacy efforts; and participation in YSRP team meetings and learning opportunities. Applications become available in late-November for the following summer’s positions, and will be posted on this site. YSRP is tremendously grateful to Harper and John for their commitment to expanding opportunities for emerging justice reform leaders.
2021 Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellow
Aria Plants is a rising second-year law student at Penn State Dickinson Law. Aria plans to focus her legal studies on social justice, public interest, the intersection of psychology and law, advocacy, and human rights practice areas in an effort to effect true systems change. Prior to law school, Aria completed an MA in Forensic and Legal Psychology at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. She discovered her passion for the legal field through a mitigation internship at the Fairfax County Public Defender Office, where she collaborated with mitigation specialists, public defenders, and clients themselves to unearth their backgrounds through interviews, record requests, and other avenues. Aria holds a BA in Counseling Psychology from Delaware Valley University.
2020 Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellow
Madelyn Guerra has worked on mitigation support for youth client-partners through the Youth Advocacy Project (YAP), a pro bono partnership through the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is currently obtaining her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. While earning her Bachelor’s in Science at New York University, Madelyn worked with young girls who were systems-involved through the ROSES program.
2020 Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellow
As a law student at Vanderbilt Law School, Kate Uyeda plans to focus her studies on criminal justice, environmental justice, election law, and other social justice practice areas. Before law school, Kate worked as an Account Executive at the social change communications firm Fenton, in Washington, D.C. Her work focused primarily on messaging and media relations for racial justice, human rights, environmental, and children’s advocacy organizations. Kate is from the San Francisco Bay Area and received degrees in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Grace Kim and Levi Bradford
2019 Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellows
Grace Kim (pictured left) and Levi Bradford were the inaugural Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellows in 2019. Grace was then a rising third-year law student at Villanova Law School, and Levi relocated to Philadelphia for the summer from University of Florida College of Law, where he was a rising second-year law student. Grace and Levi share interest in pursuing legal work in support of children who experience contact with the justice system. During their fellowships, they supported youth client-partners on their case advocacy, and captured valuable information from former Juvenile Lifers on their experiences with parole supervision fees.