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Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to welcome two new staff members and one visiting fellow to our growing team at YSRP. In response to the Supreme Court's January decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, a group of national funders including the Open Society Foundations, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Andrus Family Fund and Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color came together to support efforts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Louisiana - the three states with the most "Juvenile Lifers", or people who were sentenced in their youth to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and who are now eligible for re-sentencing hearings. YSRP is particularly grateful to the Public Welfare Foundation and the Andrus Family Fund for supporting our expansion to provide comprehensive mitigation and reentry resources for the 300+ individuals from Philadelphia who were unconstitutionally sentenced to mandatory life without parole as children, and will now have new sentencing hearings. This grant enabled us to hire Annie Ruhnke and Erin Fennell (read more below) as mitigation specialists to supervise volunteers and help staff these cases.

We are also thrilled to introduce you to our new Director of Operations, Katie Barnett (read more below), and Chikondi Mandala, who joins us as part of the U.S. State Department's Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a flagship program of President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, and communities, and come from all 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We are honored to have Chikondi with us for 6 weeks.

We are so excited that YSRP is expanding, thanks to the support of people like you. If you haven't done so already, we hope you will stand with us by making a tax-deductible contribution through our website or by mail with a check to: 

Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project
123 South Broad Street
24th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19109

All our best,   

Joanna Visser Adjoian & Lauren Fine
YSRP Co-Founders & Co-Directors

Chikondi Mandala

Mandela Fellow

Chikondi Mandala holds a Bachelor of Law (Honors) and has been with the Malawian judiciary for three years. Chikondi is a senior resident magistrate whose primary responsibility is adjudication. She exercises broad jurisdiction, ranging from criminal matters to civil matters including matrimonial, contractual, and land disputes. Chikondi is also a member of the Women Judges’ Association of Malawi, which promotes access to justice for women and children. She also does work with Malawian prisoners under the auspices of the Center for Human Rights, Education, Advice, and Assistance. Chikondi is passionate about women’s and children’s rights as well as sustainable development. Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Chikondi looks forward to gaining skills that will enhance access to justice, the rule of law, and sustainable development for all Malawians. She also looks forward to developing her skills in the management of resources in the public sector.

Katie Barnett

Director of Operations

Katie 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.

Erin Fennell

Mitigation Specialist

Erin Fennell joined YSRP in August of 2016. Prior to YSRP, Erin served as the Mitigation Supervisor of the Homicide Unit at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she worked as a Mitigation Specialist for the past 18 years handling a caseload of both capital and non-capital homicide clients. Erin has a Masters Degree in both Clinical Psychology and Group Psychotherapy, with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She has received extensive training in working with clients’ families as well as having been trained in Defense-Based Victim Outreach (DIVO), working with families of homicide victims. Prior to working at the Defender Association, Erin ran an adolescent unit within a dual diagnosis treatment facility, was an inpatient/outpatient therapist for court-stipulated clients, and was an Assistant Director of a detoxification unit. In addition, Erin worked as a Clinical Specialist on the medical and female units of the Montgomery County prison.

Farewell, Michael Joseph!

YSRP is deeply grateful to Michael Joseph, our Summer Program Associate who leant tremendous support to our post-Montgomery implementation work, and has bolstered the case advocacy of our young clients by preparing thorough mitigation reports that tell their life histories in rich and nuanced ways. Michael's dedication to ensuring the best possible treatment of the young people and their families with whom we work has been nothing short of inspiring. The whole YSRP crew extends our gratitude to Michael and wishes him all the very best as he enters his first year at University of Pennsylvania Law School. We know the legal field will benefit from this bright young star - adding "law student" to his already impressive roster of titles, including Major League Baseball Pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, coach, mentor and YSRP intern. Michael received his B.A. in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from Middlebury College.   


Other YSRP Staff Announcements!
  • Chikondi Mandala will be presenting on recent legal changes in the imposition of the death penalty in Malawi, and how it compares to our recent changes to the imposition of life without parole on youth. Please stay tuned to your email for a forthcoming invitation!
  • As we shared with you previously, our growing YSRP family will also be joined by Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow Natasha Felder at the beginning of September, and we cannot wait to share more with you about her incredible project working with young women and girls in the justice system in the coming months. Welcome, Natasha!
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