In our 25th year, meet 25 changemakers—the connectors, thinkers, and doers—who are transforming justice together.
Your dedication and support allow our changemakers to transform the justice system. That makes you a changemaker, too! Lawyers, social workers, community organizers, educators, advocates, researchers—these changemakers, with their diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and experience, play a crucial role in the work we do every day at the Center for Court Innovation. Their stories are different, but each of our 25 changemakers are leaving a unique mark in the world, motivated by a desire to change the status quo.
Together, we work towards an anti-racist, equitable, and fair justice system as we build community-created, community-led initiatives that put people first. We emphasize restorative healing and holistic services over punishment. We have long served as a bridge between government and communities, helping channel resources and strengthen partnerships to get things done. Our people are connectors, thinkers, and doers.
Throughout our year-long Changemakers in Action series, you will meet the individuals who are transforming justice together. Follow along here and on social media with the hashtag #transformingjustice.
Meet Sarah Reckless
What started as part-time legal work as a brand new mom over 12 years ago has transformed into the role of program director for Sarah Reckess, who is leading and growing the Upstate New York office of the Center for Court Innovation. Based in Syracuse, Sarah’s team works within the court system and alongside communities throughout the Upstate New York region, from cities like Buffalo to rural communities east of Syracuse.Meet Sarah
Meet Sean Vargas
Family Support Services Coordinator
Sean Vargas helps both parents with youth in probation and young people with court cases to get the services they need. He is the coordinator of family support services at the Queens Community Justice Center, where he has worked for 10 years. Everyday, he witnesses how kids experience going through the system, and they can be angry or worried. Sean uses fun—games, toys, jokes, to lower barriers and engage with people, bringing fun with him wherever he goes. Sean is a true changemaker who transforms communities with joy and hope.Meet Sean
Meet Carmen Alcantara
Treatment Alternatives Program Manager
Carmen Alcantara can see the impact her work has on the community. As a Treatment Alternatives Program Manager at Bronx Community Solutions, she says that providing people with support helps them see "they are capable of change. They are capable of better. It fulfills so much, not only for myself, but I see the ripple effects because I see the community and how they receive it." She started as an intern, over 7 years ago, and sees how success "transforms one person, transforms a group, transforms a community, and transforms society at large."Meet Carmen
Meet Manuel Lariño
Associate Director of Placemaking and Workforce Development
Manuel Larino was a Boy Scout growing up and explains that, “one of its many joys is community service. Those years working with the Scouts instilled in me a passion for service projects to improve my community.” As associate director of Placemaking and Workforce Development, Manuel supports the teams that operate Brownsville Community Justice Center’s placemaking and mobility-from-poverty initiatives, which maintain a strong focus on public safety, community organizing, and neighborhood revitalization. He shares his commitment to community, and what he's learned in his 18 years working at the Center.Meet Manuel
Meet Dave Lucas
Clinical Advisor, Treatment Courts
Dave Lucas works as a clinical advisor for treatment courts on the Center's technical assistance team. He works with judges, attorneys, law enforcement, and clinicians across the country to share substance use treatment best practices and foster health equity. He says, "The work we do has the potential to address two things at once: reducing harms for people in the system right now and using evidence to support system-level transformation in the long term.Meet Dave
Meet Shane Correia
Deputy Director, Government Partnerships
Shane Correia's connection to the Center goes back to high school, when he would miss as many days of school as he'd attend. At 15, Shane participated in an event hosted by our Youth Justice Board which introduced him to perspectives he didn’t know existed. He says the program taught him "that it’s okay not to know something, and there are people you can ask for help.” Shane’s participation in the Board—which is now called the Youth Action Institute—ultimately led him on a path to law school, and into his current role as deputy director of Government Partnerships where he shares knowledge and resources to help our programs grow.Meet Shane
Meet Alejandra Garcia
Senior Program Manager, Treatment Courts
Alejandra Garcia works to build strong communities, fulfilling a lifelong goal of transforming the criminal justice system. As a senior program manager with our treatment courts team, Alejandra partners with local and national justice system practitioners to improve their drug treatment courts, develop statewide plans to address substance use, and implement opioid courts. “I feel called to advocate for the dignity and health of individuals, families, and communities.Meet Alejandra
Meet Joe Barrett
Deputy Director, Manhattan Justice Opportunities
Joe Barrett is the deputy director of Manhattan Justice Opportunities, an alternative sentencing program, where he and the team provide social services and supportive resources as effective alternatives to the traditional responses to crime.
“I was drawn to the Center because I was looking to continue direct service work and have an impact in the here and now but also looking to explore what a reconfigured justice system could look like. The Center is unique in its efforts to advance reform by working for change at both the individual and systemic levels. We’re providing direct services to people who are impacted by the justice system right now, while also working to reconfigure practices that will impact tens of thousands of people in the future.”
Meet Kristina Singleton
Coordinator, Diversion and Transformative Initiatives, Midtown Community Court
Kristina Singleton works on diverting people from court into supportive or educational programming. Among the programs she works with at the Midtown Community Court are Project Reset, which offers those arrested for a low-level crime the chance to avoid court and a criminal record by completing community-based programming, and a recently launched youth gun-diversion program for young people who have been arrested on gun possession charges.
Meet Liseberde Colon-Blacknall
Senior Social Worker, Newark Community Solutions
As senior social worker at Newark Community Solutions, Liseberde Colon-Blacknall oversees services for people with specific needs such as mental health, victims of crime and violence and those who identify as veterans. Lise also provides short-term individualized therapeutic interventions as well as specialized case management, linking clients to treatment providers, helping with benefits, health insurance, and substance use treatment.Meet Lise
Meet Marisol Rivera
Community Engagement Coordinator & Violence Interrupter, Save Our Streets (S.O.S.)
Over Marisol Rivera's time working on the ground and in the communities as a violence interrupter, one thing became abundantly clear: the issue is bigger than just gun violence—what these communities need is rooted in support and love. This is especially true for at-risk youth who need to have hope for their futures in order to make good decisions. Marisol and her team gain the credibility and respect of their communities by showing up and listening to them without judgment while providing the resources and connections to help them better their circumstances. "We started out focused on gun violence but have expanded to do so much more." Read more about Marisol's work with S.O.S Bronx and how they have expanded to meet the needs of their community during the pandemic and beyond.Meet Marisol
Meet Yvette Rouget
Program Manager, Brownsville Community Justice Center
“I got you.” Three little, but powerful, words that mean the world to the community residents that Yvette Rouget serves in her role at our Housing Resource Center at the Brownsville Community Justice Center. As someone who also lives in the community in which she works, she takes her job and role as a good neighbor seriously. Often starting conversations with residents with just a simple greeting, it’s not long before she’s asking, “What do you need?” or sharing resources and support. Yvette has seen firsthand that we strengthen communities when we support families in remaining safely housed and meeting their needs. Watch Yvette’s video to hear some of her success stories and to learn more about the impact of community justice in Brownsville.
Meet Geri Neglia
Office Manager, Staten Island Justice Center
Four years ago, Geri Neglia took a chance on something new—a career shift that would forever change her and convince her that even small steps can bring about a big transformation. Originally coming from the world of investment banking, Geri decided to make the leap and accept an office management position with the Center, sparking a lasting passion for social justice and change-making work. You can read more about what inspires Geri to engage with staff and communities each day.Meet Geri
Meet Jukie Tsai
Planner, Neighborhood Safety Initiatives
A lifelong New Yorker, Jukie Tsai’s work with the Center has taken him all over the city. “I’m still surprised by how massive this city is and how many wonderful communities there are.” As a planner with our Neighborhood Safety Initiatives program, Jukie currently works with residents in public housing to co-create meaningful community change through tenant-directed projects including building community gardens, designing lighting improvements, and creating public artwork. “There’s so much expertise among residents about what is going on and needs to be addressed. People are experts in their own communities.” Learn more about Jukie’s work with the community to activate neighborhood transformation.
Meet Saadiq Newton-Boyd
Community Affairs Manager, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives
When he was young, Saadiq had dreams of becoming Batman, but as he grew into a man he realized that isn't the kind of justice that communities actually need. Instead, he became a connector between communities and the resources and solutions they identify are needed. Saadiq knows it's important to dig deeper than what is on the surface because when "we really listen to the community and recenter them, then we’re turning to them as the experts they are. When we don’t involve the community, the work is not as impactful as it can be, and we’re not reaching our full potential.” Read more about Saadiq's journey from Batman to Changemaker at the link below.Meet Saadiq
Meet Anna Pomper
Senior Program Associate, Operations Department
Anna Pomper knows from experience that having persistence can yield surprising results. Through her years running diversion programming, she believes that we can work towards healing through people-centered justice: how we treat each other and how we address harm when it’s caused. "Being consistent and clear in your messaging, precise with your reasoning, and leveraging relationships sometimes means you can win important victories you might have thought would be difficult or impossible." You can read more about Anna's victories and our early diversion programming below.Meet Anna
Meet Kiran Malpe
Clinical Director, Strong Starts Court Initiative
Kiran Malpe works with children from birth to age three who are involved in child protection proceedings in Family Court as part of our Strong Starts Court Initiative. She wants to see the whole person and have "a more holistic view of families." Her ability to look at things through a different lens sets her leadership apart for the Strong Starts coordinators who work with the judges, attorneys, and court staff to identify which programs, treatment, or resources will best benefit each individual family. You can learn more about Kiran and the Strong Starts Court Initiative below.Meet Kiran
Meet Orleny Rojas
Director, Criminal Court Operations
Orleny Rojas has been bringing people and resources together for her entire 12+ years at the Center for Court Innovation, but her passion for broad change and her ability to see the bigger picture began much earlier. In her current role as director of Criminal Court Operations, Orleny's objective is to find appropriate interventions that address the real needs of carceral-involved community members and "not keep them cycling through the system." Through her years of professional experience, she has become convinced that “the future is community-based" and that the individual work of each person does matter because you never know "how big the ripple effects of that can be." You can learn more about Orleny and the ripple effects of our Criminal Court Operations team at the link below.Meet Orleny
Meet Nida Abbasi
Associate Director, Gender and Family Justice
Nida Abassi works with communities to transform gender and family justice. "You want your community to provide the education, support, and resources necessary to keep its members safe." Meeting courts and communities where they are at, Nida and her team help them respond creatively, holistically, and effectively to gender-based violence. "What we do is offer support. We can come to communities, talk to people, offer a new perspective, propose ideas, and help them deliver." Learn more about Nida and how the Gender and Family Justice team works to create safety and accountability alongside community.Meet Nida
Meet Andree Tenemas-Chavez
Citywide Program Manager, Parent Support Program
Andree Tenemas-Chavez helps non-custodial parents address challenges paying child support, but her work uplifts whole families. “By helping the non-custodial parent, we’re helping children and families, we’re helping kids reach their full potential. We’ve learned that once the barriers are removed, parents tend to reach out to the other parent to establish a connection with their children." Andree is the citywide program manager for the Parent Support Program, which she helped launch when she joined our organization in December 2010.Meet Andree
Meet Kellsie Sayers
Director of Restorative Practices
“This job has really shown me our deep ability as human beings to be connected to one another.” Kellsie Sayers is the director of restorative practices where she oversees the design and implementation of restorative justice programming. Kellsie joined the Center for Court Innovation four years ago to lead the restorative justice in schools project, a four-year pilot looking at the impact of restorative practices on school culture. “The foundation of restorative justice is really community building.” Learn how Kellsie uses restorative practices to build stronger, healthier relationships and communities.
Meet Jennelle Ramdeen
Program Associate of the Youth Justice Board
Jennelle Ramdeen is a social justice educator, youth worker, and activist. They have been at the Center for Court Innovation since 2018 and currently serve as program associate of the Youth Justice Board. Jennelle facilitates programming to teach youth “how to think critically, make connections, [and] have the tools to analyze and be responsible researchers."
Read more about Jennelle.
Meet Hailey Nolasco
Director of Community-Based Violence Prevention
"Community has the answers to the issues. Whatever is going on, the person who lives on the block knows how to fix it.” Hailey Nolasco is the director of Community-Based Violence Prevention at the Center and leads the RISE (Reimagining Intimacy through Social Engagement) Project, which addresses the intersection between gun violence and intimate partner violence. She says her work at the Center allows her to be creative in the ways she addresses public safety and works with community.
Read more about Hailey and her work.
Meet Chidinma Ume
Deputy Director of Policy
Chidinma Ume is a connector of both people and resources as she consults with communities nationally to implement justice reforms. Based in our West Coast office, Chidinma serves as deputy director of policy, a role that allows her to provide jurisdictions advice, support, and training in the areas of jail reduction, criminal justice debt reform, and to work with government and community leaders on evidence-informed practices. Hear from Chidinma how she approaches the work of transforming justice in an effort to co-create a fairer, more human-centered system for all.
Meet the Rev. Kevin Jones
“It’s all about loving people,” says the Rev. Kevin Jones, Save Our Streets Brooklyn’s faith-based organizer. “I don’t believe in pastoring in four walls. I believe in pastoring in community.” The Rev. Jones (or “Rev,” as friends and colleagues call him) is the only faith-based organizer among all of New York City’s 26 anti-violence Crisis Management System sites, which deploy violence interrupters with first-hand knowledge of street and gang life to mediate conflicts before they escalate.