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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.

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Katie Barnett, MSW

Director of Operations

Katie Barnett is Director of Operations with 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:  kbarnett@ysrp.org; 267-703-8048

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Natasha Felder, Esq., MS

Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow, September 2016 – September 2017

Natasha Felder completed her fellowship term with YSRP in September 2017. Natasha has held numerous positions within Philadelphia’s Juvenile Justice System, including serving as a Philadelphia Juvenile Probation Officer, a Residential Detention and Treatment Counselor, a Client Relations Liaison, and as a Reintegration Worker. Natasha completed her law degree at Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law. During her legal studies, Natasha worked with the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation; interned at the United States Attorney’s Office; and served in certified legal intern positions in the Villanova Civil Justice Clinic, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office-Juvenile Division.  Natasha was a summer 2014 Walter E. Lucas Public Interest Fellow, served as the 2015-2016 President of the Villanova Black Law Students Association, and worked throughout law school as a residential treatment counselor at The Village Residential Treatment Program for girls. Natasha also holds a Master of Science in Criminology from Saint Joseph’s University.

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Lauren Fine, Esq.

Co-Director

Lauren Fine, Esq., is the co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP). 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, a TEDx speaker, has appeared on NPR and the Social Entrepreneur podcast, as well as national and local television programs. Along with Joanna Visser Adjoian, she is the 2018 recipient of the American Constitution Society David Carliner Public Interest Award. Lauren is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, 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:  lfine@ysrp.org; 267-703-8049

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John Pace

JLWOP Reentry Coordinator

John  Pace is the Juvenile Life Without Parole (“JLWOP”) Reentry Coordinator with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. In this role he coordinates efforts to garner the necessary resources to support former juvenile lifers returning home. 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:  jpace@ysrp.org; 267-703-8053

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Emily Robb, Esq., MSW

Supervising Attorney

Emily Robb joins YSRP 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:  erobb@ysrp.org; 267-703-8050

Annie Ruhnke

Annie Ruhnke

Mitigation Specialist

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:  aruhnke@ysrp.org; 267-703-8051

JOANNA VISSER ADJOIAN

Joanna Visser Adjoian, Esq.

Co-Director

Joanna Visser Adjoian, Esq. is co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP). 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, a 2017 recipient of the Penn Law Alan Lerner Rising Star Award, a NITA presenter, and has appeared on local radio and television news programs. Joanna is a member of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s American Inns of Court. She serves as co-chair of the Legal Rights of Children Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Public Interest Section, is a member of the Toll Public Interest Center Advisory Board, and sits on the steering committee of the Pennsylvania Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. 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:  jvisseradjoian@ysrp.org; 267-703-8047

JLWOP Work:  Additional Capacity Through Students & Volunteers

In response to the Miller and Montgomery decisions, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) and  the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation (ACCR) have partnered to coordinate mitigation services for private, pro bono and court appointed counsel representing individuals sentenced to life in prison without parole as juveniles (“JLWOP”) on resentencing. In each case that we take on, YSRP provides its intensive service delivery model, including comprehensive mitigation and reentry planning, to juvenile lifer clients and their families. To do so effectively, we have recruited, trained and are supervising a cohort of volunteers, including graduate-level law and social work students, retired professionals and others.   Each case is staffed by a team of 2-5 student and/or other volunteers, who work under the supervision of experienced mitigation specialists at either YSRP or ACCR (see below for more details on the supervisors).  Before being assigned to a case, each volunteer must complete at least one full day of training, and volunteers are expected to attend supplementary trainings throughout their time working with YSRP. Additionally, volunteer teams meet weekly and receive feedback at least weekly (if not daily) from their supervisors.  Supervisors also accompany volunteers on all of their initial client and family meetings, and provide instruction and support throughout the mitigation process.

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