Wendy Jason, Founder/Managing Director
Wendy combines her background in restorative practices, mental health, and education with her passion for the arts to foster vibrant, inclusive, and nurturing communities that model and promote social justice. With 25 years of experience in social services, working in residential treatment, mental health centers, schools, shelters, prisons, and jails in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, Alaska, New Mexico, Maryland, and DC, she understands the myriad challenges confronted by those most impacted by mass incarceration and the root causes of the injustices they face. Wendy is committed to supporting both individual and social change through cultivating relationships grounded in collaboration, trust, authenticity, empathy, and integrity.
Wendy received her BA in Sociology and Applied Social Relations from Eastern Connecticut State University, studied Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, and completed her M.A. in Coexistence and Conflict through Brandeis University’s Alan B. Slifka Program in Intercommunal Coexistence. Her research included a focus on the intersection of the arts and peacebuilding, culminating in a field project built around creative writing, restorative practices, and peace education with incarcerated men and a thesis entitled As long as it comes from the heart: Imagining Coexistence and Nonviolence in a County Jail and Beyond. She has experience facilitating creative writing and conflict transformation workshops at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center and within schools and youth organizations. She has co-taught courses on social justice and conflict transformation through Georgetown University’s Program on Justice and Peace, researched and reported on issues related to restorative justice and the arts for Change.org. Wendy served as the manager of the Prison Arts Coalition website for nine years.
Connect with Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mya Steir, Social Media Intern
Adeena Syed, Communications Intern
Adeena Syed is a rising senior at Penn State University, majoring in journalim with a minor in sociology. As an aspiring journalist and a student of sociology, Adeena is passionate about educating and raising awareness about social issues. In addition to JAC, Adeena has interned for various organizations that work to empower minorities and create social change.
Adeena has also volunteered her time to register people to vote and has attended various conferences where she has met with state officials and discussed ways to fight racial and sexual discrimination at the state level.
Adeena can be reached at email@example.com
Emily Kombe, Communications (Workshop) Intern
Emily Kombe is a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland, majoring in Public Policy and French. She first started working at the intersection of the arts and justice five years ago, when she volunteered with Free Minds, an organization which uses education, poetry, and literature to rehabilitate and empower incarcerated individuals.
As a slam poet, Emily believes that performance and visual arts are powerful vehicles for social justice, provoking dialogue, healing and change. In addition to working at JAC, Emily is the co-director of Hear Our Voice Montgomery County, a group-created and led by youth to address racism in educational settings in the county.
Emily can be reached at emilyjusticeartscoalition@
Joslyn Lapinski, Communications (Mail) Intern
Joslyn is a rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Studio Arts and the Administration of Justice. She plans to pursue a career in Forensic Psychology, devoting her life to helping individuals involved in the criminal justice system get access to the resources and support they need. Having a passion for creative arts herself, she understands the powerful role creative expression can play in transforming a person’s life and mental health. She is very excited to be further exploring the intersection of these interests here at JAC.
On campus, Joslyn participates in clinical psychological research: currently working with
mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder and their children, and formerly working withSchizophrenic adults. She also volunteers in the child life department at the UPMC Children’s Hospital. She currently resides in Baltimore County, MD.
Joslyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Kluge, Communications Intern
Adam is a rising junior at Columbia University, majoring in Urban History and Political Science. An avid consumer of and proponent for the catharsis that can be unearthed in the creative and performance arts, Adam combines his background in theatre and social justice advocacy to foster dialogues surrounding socioeconomic inequities in our modern world. Through extensive research in the areas of criminal justice reform, public policymaking, and the impacts of racial and sexual discrimination on those in carceral settings, Adam continues to represent the voices of young people in passionate pursuits of abolition.
Beyond his work with Justice Arts Coalition, Adam is a member of the Columbia Justice-in-Education Initiative on Riker’s Island, the Eric J. Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights, and the Fund for Global Human Rights. He currently resides in Buffalo, NY. His current writings on the conditions of incarceration can be found here.
Adam can be reached at email@example.com
Board of Directors
***We are still in the process of building our founding Board. If you believe in our work and would like to be considered for a seat, please click here to learn more.***
Kimberly Nelson, Chair
Kimberly Nelson is a Transformational Coach and Facilitator who has spent her career in service to individuals and society. Her passion is people and she is committed to service through facilitating learning, growth, change, and expansion. Kimberly is the Founder of Point of Discovery Coaching and Consulting LLC, where she dedicates the bulk of her work to healing and economic empowerment for returning citizens and underserved communities. She holds a BA in Psychology from Yale University, is a graduate of the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, and holds an MA in Health and Wellness Coaching from the Maryland University of Integrative Health.
Julia Mascioli, Vice-Chair
Julia Mascioli is the Deputy Director of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a DC nonprofit organization that uses books, writing, and community engagement to awaken incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to new possibilities for their futures. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She is a writer whose short fiction has been published in several literary journals; she is the winner of the District Lit Reader’s Choice Award.
Jaren Crump, Secretary
Jaren Crump is a seasoned accounting and business administration specialist who has dedicated his professional career to improving the lives of others. He entered the workforce in healthcare/administration for the the State of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, and ultimately served as a Business Office Manager/Director for several organizations, including Genesis Healthcare. Additionally, Jaren is socially and politically active, championing numerous social justice issues facing contemporary America, such as racial and economic disparities, gender inequality, and justice reform. Jaren’s introduction to progressive initiatives came from an internship at the Entertainment Industries Council in Washington, DC. He now works with Impact Justice, a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. He has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Hofstra University.
Patrick Burns, Treasurer
Patrick Burns is a playwright, director, and composer who has performed off-Broadway, regionally and in national tours. His plays have been produced off-Broadway and regionally and his writing has been featured online in The Atlantic, The Chronicle for Social Change, and Stage Agent. Passionate about prison reform, diversity & representation, foster care and socially-conscious, entertaining storytelling, Patrick’s musical From Foster Care to Fabulous has delighted audiences across the country while raising money for the foster care community. He can be found online at http://patrickburns.me/ and on social media with the handle @CantPatThis.
Freddy Gutierrez, MFA, is an accomplished Writer, Teaching Artist, and Cultural Worker. He has facilitated writing and performance arts spaces with men in incarceration for over 10 years. He specializes in using metaphor alongside personal narrative in order to shape social commentary as catalysts for storytelling. His poetry has been widely published and is a call for positive male socialization, and overall seeks to foster agency of voice in those he creates with. Freddy’s work has been published by The Acentos Review, POOR Magazine, the Nomadic Press, and University of Houston’s Arte Publico Press; and was featured as LoWriter of the Week selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Freddy currently offers therapeutic performing arts programming at San Quentin through Acting with Compassion and Truth.
Anderson Smith, Ph.D.
Dr. Anderson P.C. Smith, received his Ph.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. He teaches creative writing in both medium and maximum-security prisons in New York. He holds a Master’s in Philosophy and Master’s in Education for the Teaching of English, and a Master’s in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications. He is currently researching the effects of literature when used in service to people with criminal conviction histories, post-incarceration. Anderson loves a good mystery novel, performing spoken word poetry, and singing embarrassing songs (as loud as possible), to his wife, three boys, and cat.
Originally form San Antonio, Texas, Brett Gonzalez is an artist currently incarcerated in a federal facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. When first imprisoned a friend encouraged expression through drawing as a coping mechanism for his new environment. Inspired by this new sense of empowerment, he enrolled in the institution’s Hobby Craft program where he received a surprisingly thorough art education from another inmate. Brett’s deep love of art, found in an unlikely environment, fuels his desire to support other system impacted artists as they discover art for themselves.
Becca Pickus is a Lecturer in the Social Theory and Practice (STP) Program in the Residential College (RC) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There, she teaches a variety of courses about prison arts; anti-carceral organizing; and/or critical pedagogy as a tool for resistance. She teaches classes in the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), in which students co-facilitate weekly creative arts workshops with incarcerated artists in Michigan prisons, and in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Becca has extensive experience working in small, justice-focused non-profit organizations; prison arts programs; and in anti-racist organizing and advocacy work.
***We are still in the process of building our Advisory Council. If you believe in our work and would like to serve as an Advisor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org***
“I’ve found my niche in life despite being in prison for 42 years. I have found that prisons are created internally and are truly found everywhere. I have also discovered that the secrets to break down prison walls are inside each person and I treasure sharing this realness with people. I keep my light glowing through expressing my inner thoughts, vibes and feelings in my poetry and prose writing.”
John R. Whitman, PhD
John is the Director and Executive Producer of Camisary, Inc., co-founded the Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC, and taught in graduate schools at American University, Babson College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. John’s photographs have been purchased byThe National Geographic Magazine and other publications. He is co-author of Understanding the Social Economy of the United States (University of Toronto, 2015) and Delivering Satisfaction and Service Quality (American Library Association, 2001), has published chapters in textbooks on entrepreneurship and law, including in Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship, and Social Justice (Elgar, 2015), and authored scholarly articles published in peer reviewed journals. He has a BA from Boston University, EdM from Harvard University, and PhD from the University of Toronto.
“Incarceration was a catalyst for change in my life. I became a self-taught artist inside, and spent my years building an art therapy program that still runs in D.C.I. today.
Since my release, I have networked relentlessly behind the principles of arts access and opportunity for those who are currently or formerly incarcerated. I am the curator for the Ohio Prison Arts Connection and I created the Returning Artists Guild in 2019. The guild is a network of 25 (and growing) currently and formerly incarcerated artists.
The Returning Artists Guild is the way that I am creating solutions for artists in re-entry with other artists in re-entry. As an artist, I have struggled internally working within the context of the system, even in the arts, because my heart belongs to prison abolitionism. However, I have chosen to continue the work and my goal is not to change everyone’s mind about prison. My goals are more practical: to provide arts access, exhibition opportunities, and a community for incarcerated artists to come home to. For the artists in re-entry, I’m providing a platform, a community, entrepreneurship, exhibition, professional development, workshops, and networking opportunities. If the resources we need exist, I’ll find them; if they don’t exist, I’ll create them.”
Matt Malyon is a writer, teacher, and jail chaplain living in Washington’s Skagit Valley. In 2015 he founded Underground Writing, a creative writing program serving migrant, incarcerated, recovery, and other at-risk communities through literary engagement and personal restoration. Matt is also the Founder of One Year Writing in the Margins, an initiative “challenging teachers and writers to spend one year facilitating creative writing workshops outside the academy, in at-risk communities, where the transforming powers of reading and writing can be a matter of life and death”.
A ceramics artist who has headed the William James Association since 2001, Laurie has facilitated Arts-in-Corrections programs for incarcerated men, women and youth since 1989. Collaborating with the California Arts Council and others during the 1990’s, she facilitated the development of programs for the California Youth Authority and Arts in Mental Health. Over the past 15 years, she has worked successfully with the National Endowment for the Arts’ Office of Accessibility to establish artist-in-residence programs with five facilities run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She has a degree in Economics and Community Studies from UC-Santa Cruz and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.
Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, is one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, race and the criminal justice system. He has directed programs on criminal justice policy reform for 40 years, and is the author of some of the most widely-cited reports and publications in the field. The Atlantic magazine has described him as a scholar who has “reframed how Americans view crime, race, and poverty in the public sphere.” His 1995 report on racial disparity and the criminal justice system led the New York Times to editorialize that the report “should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls – and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.” In 2018 Mauer was named a “Frederick Douglass 200” awardee as one of 200 individuals “who best embody the spirit and work of Frederick Douglass.” Race to Incarcerate, Mauer’s groundbreaking book on how sentencing policies led to the explosive expansion of the U.S. prison population, was a semifinalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1999. A second edition was published in 2006 and a 2013 graphic novel version was cited by the American Library Association as one of the “Great Graphic Novels” of the year. Mauer is also the co-editor of Invisible Punishment, a 2002 collection of essays by prominent criminal justice experts on the social cost of imprisonment, and co-author of The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences.
Lateef Mtima is a Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law. After graduating with honors from Amherst College, Professor Mtima received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, where he was the co-founder and later editor-in-chief of the Harvard BlackLetter Journal. Mtima is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, an accredited Non-governmental Organization Member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Carole Alden was born 1960 in Orleans, France to American parents, and grew up primarily in northern ldaho and Colorado. Her dad was a forestry professor and mother a librarian. Nature and self education were the things she was exposed to the most as a child. They continue to guide the majority of her work. Carole married young and had five children from two marriages that spanned twenty years. She has no formal education nor art training beyond high school. Drawing was something she took up in prison. Prior to that, Carole was a fiber artist with pieces in multiple museum collections. She taught herself to crochet while incarcerated and continues to create a variety of sculptures and wall hangings for venues ranging from political to natural.
Born and raised in Washington D.C, Chris grew up under extremely difficult circumstances. Poverty, drug addiction, and gun violence was the everyday norm in his community. At the age of 17, he was charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to natural life in prison. It was during times of isolation that he decided to not only to turn his life around, but to make a difference in the lives of people who currently live in poverty-stricken communities similar to his childhood surroundings. “Many years ago, I committed my life to self-improvement and helping others. I sat in a dark cell and wrote up what I now call my Master Plan. A plan to build a business empire and help others.”
Jayme Epstein, Volunteer Coordinator: email@example.com
Cat Quinlan, social media, letter writing, email support: firstname.lastname@example.org
Absa Fall, online resource library management
Deborah Bloch, letter writing/mail support
Jordi Martinez, website support
Sherry Davis, letter writing/mail support
Olayemi Oladiji, program design support
Raina Greifer, website and fundraising support
Emma Grimes, website support
The Justice Arts Coalition Steering Committee was launched at the 2015 Arts In Corrections Conference, where approximately 40 people met in two facilitated sessions to discuss the possibility of creating a national network to support the work of organizations and individuals across the field. A group of volunteers formed as the Steering Committee to investigate the needs and benefits of such an organization. Since then, the Steering Committee has surveyed the field, completed a feasibility study, and laid the groundwork for JAC, which they determined should grow out of the Prison Arts Coalition website. Over the last few years, Steering Committee members have contributed endless hours, valuable wisdom, and immense amounts of enthusiasm towards the development of JAC, and many will continue to do so as Advisors and Board members.
Alma Robinson, Executive Director of CA Lawyers for the Arts
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director of the William James Association
Kyes Stevens, Founder/Director of Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project
Curt Tofteland, Founder/Director Shakespeare Behind Bars
Victoria Sammartino, Founder of Voices UnBroken
Ella Turenne, Founder of BlacWomyn Beautiful
Freddy Gutierrez, Teaching Artist at the Artistic Ensemble
Henry Frank, Intern at the William James Association
Jane Golden, Director of Philadelphia Mural Arts
Laura Pacenco, Director of Project Paint
Beth Thielen, Teaching Artist
Lesley Currier, Founder/Director of Marin Shakespeare
Mary Cohen, Founder/Director of Oakdale Community Choir
Katherine Vockins, Founder/Director of Rehabilitation Through the Arts
Kat Kambes, Director of Operations at Jail Guitar Doors
Wendy Jason, Manager of the Prison Arts Coalition website