We Are All Criminals is a small organization with a team of dedicated volunteers, interns, and advisors across the United States, advocating for reason and mercy in our criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Emily Baxter is the executive director and developer of WAAC. Prior to this, Emily served as the director of advocacy and public policy at the Council on Crime and Justice in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked on successful Ban the Box and expungement expansion efforts, and as an assistant public defender at the Regional Native Public Defense Corporation representing indigent members of the Leech Lake and White Earth Bands of Ojibwe charged with crimes in Minnesota State Court. She is a former Fellow at the University of Minnesota Law School’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. She has served on the boards of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and the Minnesota Community Corrections Association. Emily began developing We Are All Criminals through an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellowship in 2012. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Emily travels across the country, meeting and collaborating with stakeholders and changemakers in criminal justice reform. She now lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Nadine Graves, Board Chair:
Nadine Graves is a Minnesota native and a graduate of Delaware State University, where she earned a BA in Sociology and Criminal Justice, and Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where she focused on public interest areas of law. In law school, Nadine was actively involved in the Black Law Students Association, Christian Legal Society, and Criminal Law Society. Throughout her educational career, she has demonstrated exemplary leadership skills: as student director of the Child Protection Clinic, she excelled in court hearings and fostered strong client relationships, earning high marks from judges. Nadine was an editor of the Journal of Public Policy and Practice and also found time for several community activities, including the Open Doors to Federal Courts program, where she educated urban students about Thurgood Marshall. Nadine is now an assistant public defender in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
Nadine has a long history of working with and advocating for people in need. A significant amount of her experience is in human services working assisting underprivileged and underrepresented people of diverse social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds predominately in Minneapolis. Nadine works primarily with people struggling with barriers caused by criminal backgrounds and dependence upon public assistance; through individual advocacy, she helps people overcome those barriers and receive opportunities to self-sufficiency through education, employment, and training.
Nadine’s advocacy isn’t limited to direct service. She is a voice for racial equity and meaningful justice reform at the Capitol, too. She has testified at Minnesota’s Second Chance Day on the Hill in support of Ban the Box, expungement reform, and voters’ rights restoration.
Nadine is a mother of two boys and actively involved in her local church.
Richard McLemore II:
Richard McLemore II is the Director of Employment & Housing at Ujamaa Place. Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ujamaa Place is an African American culturally-specific organization focused on young black men who have been involved with the criminal justice system. He is honored to be a part of such an innovative supportive team whose focus is bettering the world one mind at a time.
Richard has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Metropolitan State University, as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree in Micro-Computer Technology, from Century College. Prior to his current position, Richard was the Alternatives to Violence Project Program Coordinator with Friends for a Nonviolent World.
Richard is a firm believer in positive change, and “if you can think it – you can achieve it.”
It is natural, then that he also volunteers his time facilitating psycho-social workshops on mental and emotional healing to those incarcerated in State, Federal, and Juvenile Prisons, as well as county jails throughout the state of Minnesota, a Racial Justice Facilitator for the YWCA, and a circle group leader with juveniles incarcerated at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center. Richard founded the Community Diversion Program – an extension of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to help curve juvenile incarceration rates.
Christy Szitta, Treasurer & Secretary:
Christy Szitta is an attorney with experience in criminal expungement law, commercial real estate transactions, landlord/tenant law, and trademark law. She previously worked at Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), a small nonprofit that matches volunteer attorneys with low-income clients. Christy served as a resource attorney, supporting VLN’s housing and criminal expungement programs by mentoring volunteer attorneys, developing resources for volunteers, and working directly with clients.
Prior to her time at VLN, Christy was an associate in the real estate group at Faegre & Benson LLP (now Faegre Baker Daniels) for more than four years, where she worked on many types of commercial real estate transactions, including low-income housing tax credit deals and New Markets Tax Credit deals. While at Faegre, Christy was named a Minnesota Rising Star. Her first position after law school was with the intellectual property law firm Fish & Richardson PC.
In addition to her pro bono legal work, she served as a board member and president of the Hennepin County Bar Foundation. She participated in the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Leaders Impacting the Nonprofit Community (LINC) program, and completed the Fall 2014 Mini MBA for Nonprofit Organizations, an Executive Education program at the University of St. Thomas. Christy has presented a number of Continuing Legal Education programs in criminal expungement, real estate, and landlord/tenant law.
Christy attended the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude, and Macalester College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She lives in Saint Paul with her husband.
Barbara Nilles holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the College of Business and Public Administration at the University of North Dakota and attended the University of Minnesota majoring in accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and her areas of specialization include not-for-profit organizations, financial planning and analysis, as well as small business and individual tax.
In her role as Chief Financial Officer with the Jewish Community Center of the Greater St. Paul Area, Barbara is responsible for the financial planning and management, budget development, and supervision of the accounting staff. There, she participates in long-term strategic planning efforts, agency-wide programs, and serves as a leader among the staff and volunteers.
Barbara is native of North Dakota with more than 25 years of experience working with small, mid-size and large clients.
“WAAC,” she says, “provides common sense and reason to possibly long-held beliefs of what a criminal looks like. It brings the picture into focus.”
Dr. raj sethuraju is a recovering criminologist and survivor of sexual abuse. Dr. raj has more than two decades of community-based activism as a researcher and educator. Inspired by the resilience of the youth and the men in our prison systems, he trains probation agents, community members, and justice personnel across the nation on implicit biases and raising consciousness utilizing restorative justice practices. In his latest work, Dr. raj explores the depths of our justice system and creates a framework in which consciousness becomes the roots of our practices.
Jerome Graham is a Minnesota native, raised in North Minneapolis. He graduated from Boston University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business Marketing. Jerome has fifteen years of direct service experience working in the mental health and social services fields with underserved and vulnerable children, adults and families. He is currently working for the St Paul Public Schools as a youth mentor and circle group facilitator.
Of WAAC, Jerome says, “I love serving youth and mentoring because I didn’t have my dad in my life nor many positive adult role-models in my life growing up and I know in retrospect that I would have made some better choices had I received further guidance. There are too many negative influences that are capturing the youths attention, so it’s vital that the caring adults counter-engage them with positivity, information, and love.
I sought to be a part of WAAC, because Emily Baxter has such a big and beautiful heart and I totally support her mission and vision. In addition, I’m convinced that the criminal justice system is operating nefariously and the racial disparities make it quite evident. Change for the better is imminent and the catapult is nationwide unity on the ideas of equity and equality for all.”
Perry Moriearty is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, with expertise in clinical legal education and juvenile justice. She teaches criminal law, race and the law, and co-directs the Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic. Before joining the University of Minnesota, Perry taught at the University of Denver and the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.
Over the last several years, Perry has led her child advocacy and juvenile justice clinic in work related to Miller v. Alabama, in which the US Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional for juvenile defendants. Perry has also offered critical examinations of the 1990s preoccupation with so-called “juvenile superpredators” and the corresponding increase in racial disparities in juvenile confinement.
Perry received a B.A. with honors in English and American Literature from Brown University and a J.D. from New York University. She spent five years as an associate with Ropes & Gray in Boston, specializing in civil litigation, labor and employment, and white collar criminal defense matters, and a year with the Juvenile Defense Network, a project of the juvenile division of the public defender’s office focused on training juvenile defenders throughout Massachusetts.
Perry serves on the boards of the McKnight Foundation and the Clinical Legal Education Association. She has worked closely with legal services and grassroots organizations assisting underserved juvenile populations throughout her career and has been actively involved in the passage of several pieces of legislation.
Sara Jones is an advocate with a breadth and depth of experience in nonprofit development and management, and public service in law. She currently serves as Strategic Giving Director for Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Sara received her law degree from the University of Minnesota, and her B.S. in Communication Studies from Northwestern University.
Sara’s involvement with the cause of justice began while growing up with her father, who served as Minnesota’s State Public Defender for nearly 25 years and taught criminal and constitutional law. They had ongoing conversations about justice, mercy, opportunity, and seeing the humanity in everyone. Sara’s life also involves a loved one with a criminal record, and she has been deeply affected by that as well.
“We Are All Criminals powerfully combines advocacy and artistry that chip away at the notion of ‘them’ and ‘us’ to reveal that WE are all human. I believe the work of improving our flawed and biased system of justice must be seen through that lens. We are missing out on vast amounts of human potential and capacity for good as a result of the horrendous inequities in our society and our criminal justice system. I want to help change that.”
PAST BOARD MEMBERS
Ingrid Nuttall has worked at the University of Minnesota for nearly 20 years, currently in the Office of Information Technology. She is an active volunteer in higher ed and community organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, Amicus, and the Higher Education User Group. As the chair of WAAC’s Board of Directors, Ingrid seeks to bring together her passion for education and the arts with the goal of increasing conversations about how the legacy of a criminal record affects families, friends, and communities.
Of her participation with WAAC, Ingrid says: “Like many of you, I have been personally affected by incarceration. It has, in fact, been only recently that I have been able to feel comfortable even sharing those words with many friends, let alone with the internet. Someone I love has been incarcerated, and it continues to affect our lives to this day.
As I became more accepting of my own history, I started to look for opportunities to be engaged in a community where my experience might be productive, and I must say I had no idea where to begin. It was hard to get involved, it was hard to understand what difference I could make outside of policy or legal work. And then, I met Emily when we had an in-depth conversation in the women’s restroom in a church in Saint Paul. Of course, that is where I would find We Are All Criminals.”
Ingrid continues to volunteer with We Are All Criminals, focusing on the effects of incarceration on family members.
Jennifer Labovitz has over 30 years of experience in strategic planning, management, and fundraising for non-profits. Jennifer’s varied background stretches from construction work in the Florida Keys to fisheries in Alaska, and in Minnesota consulting for Honeywell, the Guthrie Theater and other non-profits. She is a past-president of the Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice in Minneapolis.
Rooted in helping organizations find their voice and secure funding, Jennifer has served on the boards of Theater de la Jeune Lune, Lake Country Montessori School, the Council on Crime and Justice, and the Foundation of the Cathedral of St. Mark’s.
“I was drawn to issues around criminal justice because almost everyone who goes into prison comes out; what kind of a person do we want at the end of their sentence and how do we best serve all of our communities? The innovative approach of We Are All Criminals invites people to summon empathy and become open to new ways of thinking about policy.”