Meet Our Staff & Board
sharis [at] ejusa [dot] org
As the longest-running employee of EJUSA, Shari is the vision behind EJUSA’s overall direction and within the broader national movement. She served as a key member of the teams that repealed the death penalty in New Jersey in 2007, ended New York’s death penalty in 2005, and gutted Maryland’s death penalty in 2009. Prior to joining EJUSA in 2000, Shari was Program Director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center and volunteered with a number of other organizations. She graduated from New York University and has a Master’s Degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She worked as an independent filmmaker in New York City in the mid-90s. She also swing dances and plays the bass.
laurap [at] ejusa [dot] org
When it comes to running and winning campaigns, Laura is the master. She once visited her child's preschool to give an impromptu lesson in civic action, and she helped the students organize a protest complete with picket signs, drums, tambourines, and chanting to get snack time reinstated. (The kids won, of course.) Laura brought that same spirit to EJUSA’s state partners and field program when she joined our team in 2008. Before that, as Deputy Director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, Laura and her grassroots team defeated the death penalty in 2005 and have kept the state death penalty-free ever since. Laura has also assisted campaigns for the League of Women Voters and New Yorkers for Verified Voting. She was a Public Defender with the Legal Aid Society for twelve years and even worked as a legal correspondent for MTV!
fatimahm [at] ejusa [dot] org
Fatimah is a psychotherapist with a specialization in trauma among adults, adolescents, and communities of color. She received her Master Degree in Counseling Psychology and Global Mental Health from William James College and has worked as a graduate researcher at one of Harvard's centers focused on trauma in communities of color. Prior to her graduate work, she spent time as a Director at Mothers In Charge, an organization that supports families of murder victims; an Associate Director of an intercultural center at the University of Pennsylvania, in which she designed and led trainings on social justice; and a Manager of a community development center in which she focused on entrepreneurship and intercultural organizing.
Fatimah has a knack for building bridges among communities that don't typically work together. In 2010, she was awarded the Social Transformation Award in Philadelphia for her work organizing and using art to ease ethnic tensions and divides between African American and immigrant communities. She has also been invited to speak internationally about human rights.
celestef [at] ejusa [dot] org
Celeste returned to EJUSA in 2015 to lead our fundraising efforts. She started her death penalty repeal career as EJUSA’s first field organizer in 2001, when she created the “on the ground” field organizing model that helped lay the initial groundwork for repeal in New York and New Jersey. From 2004-2007, as Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Celeste led the nation by securing the first state legislative repeal in the country. She has received numerous state and national honors for her death penalty work, including the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Center on Race, Crime, and Justice “Power of One” Racial Justice Award, a special recognition award from the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, and a special bipartisan resolution from the New Jersey Senate that honored her “meritorious record of service and leadership.” She was also included in the PolitickerNJ.com “Power List” of the 100 most politically influential New Jerseyans, where her name was alongside top political aides, strategists, and New Jersey celebrities like Donald Trump and Stephen Colbert. Celeste lives in Northern New Jersey, where she raised two now-adult children with her husband, Kelly. Her favorite pastimes include traveling, reading, and anything involving her family
jasonz [at] ejusa [dot] org
Jason is EJUSA’s people and systems guru, keeping the trains running so that our amazing staff can do what they do best. Jason comes to EJUSA having been a member of the planning team for the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Busan, South Korea and a Consultant for the International Crisis Group in Northeast Asia. Most recently, he focused on technology and communications strategy with The Tobin Project in Cambridge, MA. Jason also has substantial experience consulting with nonprofits to develop their budgeting processes and strengthen their board governance. He has a BA from UC Berkeley, an SM from MIT and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. Less administratively, Jason has co-written a Lonely Planet guidebook and sings with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York.
heatherb [at] ejusa [dot] org
Heather is based just outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Talk to her to if you are a member of a conservative faith group or if you have contacts in the conservative community.
Heather joined EJUSA after three years of working for the Montana Abolition Coalition. There Heather did outreach and public education amongst Evangelicals, political conservatives and members of law enforcement. As a result of Heather’s tremendous success engaging these communities, repeal legislation is closer to passage in Montana than ever before.
Previously, Heather worked for the Helena Pregnancy Resource Center, the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington DC, and for the Michigan Republican Senate Majority Leader, Ken Sikkema.
Heather graduated with a political science degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her favorite things are dancing, coffee and going to rodeos. Heather’s dad actually won a rodeo the day she was born and she’s been a similarly lucky asset to every person or organization that’s had the pleasure of her company since!
andreab [at] ejusa [dot] org
Andrea Bichan manages direct mail and email campaigns, oversees the EJUSA Associate Board, assists in researching and writing grant proposals, and maintains all donor tracking and data. She came to EJUSA from Housing Works, where she built and managed the in-kind donations and corporate partnership program for its landmark bookstore cafe. She has BAs in Philosophy and Journalism from Ithaca College. In her spare time, Andrea is a storyteller and comic.
alishab [at] ejusa [dot] org
Alisha loves making order out of chaos. It is her calling. She previously worked in the financial services industry but found EJUSA after deciding she wanted to channel her energy towards more mission-driven work. When she's not keeping our filing systems and accounts in tip-top shape, she works alongside an organization run by her family doing outreach and support for communities living in poverty in and around South Jersey. Alisha has a BA in Corporate Communications with a minor in Black and Latino Studies from Bernard Baruch College and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.
monac [at] ejusa [dot] org
Since joining EJUSA in 2009, Mona has provided training, strategic guidance, and hands-on assistance to over a dozen state death penalty campaigns. In 2013, she lead EJUSA’s repeal efforts in Maryland with our state partners at Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. Following the victory, Mona successfully worked to secure funding for murder victims’ family members in the state budget. Mona came to EJUSA after 10 years of human rights campaigning and organizing with Amnesty International, where she coordinated teams winning legislative policy victories in six different states. She has a BA in Political Science/Policy Studies from the CU Boulder and a Masters Certificate in International Relations/Human Trafficking and Migration from Trinity College in Washington, DC. Mona is a bona fide member of the Barrow, Alaska Polar Bear Club and a certified neighborhood responder in case of natural disaster, with a specialty in ham radio.
sarahc [at] ejusa [dot] org
We often call Sarah “the Dad” at EJUSA, because she fixes things. Anything. Whether it’s a broken computer or an obscure piece of information that only a dad would know, Sarah is the one to plug that hole. And that’s exactly what she does for all of our communications! Sarah became Communications Strategist in 2014 after nine years on EJUSA's state campaign team. In the late aughts, she brought her campaign skills and expertise to states west of the Mississippi, opening a Western Field Office in Seattle. Now she is back in the DMV - the greater District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia area. Before her start at EJUSA, Sarah managed get-out-the-vote and poll monitoring campaigns in the 2004 elections for the Unitarian Universalist Association. Sarah has also worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), covering national policy issues, criminal justice, and the death penalty in Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Sarah is originally from Indiana and a graduate of Haverford College in Pennsylvania. She is a Quaker, a professionally trained singer, and a competitive rower.
colleenc [at] ejusa [dot] org
Colleen has worked with EJUSA since 2009 and has been a lead strategist on the successful death penalty repeal campaigns in Illinois, Connecticut, and Nebraska. In Connecticut, she helped coordinate the nearly 200-strong coalition of murder victims' family members, who were central to repeal. Colleen previously served as the first Statewide Coordinator and Executive Director for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP). Before joining the movement to end the death penalty, she studied philosophy and political science at Millikin University, where she founded the school’s Amnesty International Chapter and served in several leadership roles for the organization. Colleen currently lives in St. Louis, where she divides her down time between singing to her dog, Penelope, trying new recipes, and organizing her life with spreadsheets.
march [at] ejusa [dot] org
Marc Hyden joined EJUSA from the National Rifle Association (NRA) where he served as a Campaign Field Representative in the State of Florida. Prior to his service with the NRA, he was the Campaign Manager of a Congressional race in Western North Carolina. Marc has additionally served as the Legislative Liaison/Public Affairs Specialist with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and as the Legislative Aide to the Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore.
benj [at] ejusa [dot] org
Ben joined EJUSA in 2012 just a few months after leading the campaign that ended the death penalty in Connecticut as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty (CNADP). Ben started as a volunteer with CNADP before running its lobbying, media, and organizing activities, over three legislative sessions. Ben is originally from Columbus, Ohio and a proud buckeye. He received his bachelor’s from the Ohio State University and his master’s from Yale University, where he is also finishing his Ph.D. He currently lives with his wife and their “critters” (a dog and two cats) in Lawrence, Kansas.
latrinakj [at] ejusa [dot] org
Latrina comes to EJUSA with over 10 years of experience empowering community-based non-profit organizations. With that experience – including expertise in fundraising, program development, and community organizing – she will work directly with groups that provide services to crime survivors in communities of color, helping them build capacity, eliminate barriers to funding opportunities, and enhance their impact.
At age 13, Latrina helped organize a letter-writing campaign against the local newspaper for running pictures of young murdered black boys in coffins on its front page, purely for their shock value. Who knew that her advocacy for victims of color, and their families, would come full circle?
Before joining EJUSA, Latrina was Deputy Director of Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven, CT where she helped lead the creation of a statewide immigrant rights coalition and coordinated direct actions, including the delivery of 500 tacos to the Mayor of East Haven after he made racially insensitive comments about Latinos.
Latrina is originally from Connecticut, has written a book of poetry, and makes a mean rum raisin cheesecake.
lexs [at] ejusa [dot] org
Lex joined EJUSA in 2011 to work with communities hardest hit by the criminal justice system, namely communities of color. Lex works out of his home in Los Angeles, where he has been a community organizer since his teenage years when he worked with the National Conference For Community and Justice's L.A. Office. Lex went on to become a public health advocate and youth HIV counselor at the Los Angeles Free Clinic's cutting edge "Project ABLE" and then the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles' Division of Adolescent Medicine's High Risk Youth Program. Lex uses creative and interactive ways to engage people, talents which he honed as a participant in the "Hollywood Teen Community Project, a coordinator of "Compassion Plays" at ENCOMPASS, and a founding member of Pacifica Radio's "Soul Rebel Radio."
eunice [dot] tim [at] gmail [dot] com
Eunice Timoney Ravenna is a Development Associate at St. Joseph Home in Cincinnati, Ohio, an intermediate care facility serving individuals with severe profound developmental disabilities. From 2006 to 2009, Eunice was the Midwest Field Organizer for EUSA, providing support to state campaigns working for a moratorium on executions in Ohio, Missouri, and Indiana. Before and after her time with EJUSA, Eunice spent over a decade with the local Cincinnati organization, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), doing organizational development programs, public education, community organizing, and advocacy on social justice issues. She is a co-founder of Families That Matter, an organizing committee for families who have loved ones on Ohio’s death row. Eunice served as the Director of St. Francis Soup Kitchen, taught adjunct at Xavier University in the theology department, served on the Board of the Sarah Women’s Center, and worked/volunteered with many other social justice advocacy groups and direct service centers. Eunice is a graduate of Immaculata College and has a Master’s of Arts from Xavier University. She currently serves on the executive committee of the Cincinnati Catholic Social Action Commission, the fundraising committee of Power Inspires Progress, and the Board of Trustees of Visions Community Services.
janehenderson [at] mdcase [dot] org
Jane Henderson is the Executive Director at Communities United, an organization with the mission to empower low- and moderate-income residents of Maryland and DC through organizing to achieve transformative change on issues of justice. From 2006 to 2013, Jane served as the Executive Director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MDCASE), where she led the campaign that won repeal of the state’s death penalty statute. Jane has been active in the movement for criminal justice reform for over two decades, beginning in 1990 when she founded Equal Justice USA as a program of the Quixote Center. Her leadership securing a moratorium on executions in Maryland won her the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's "Abolitionist of the Year" Award in 2002. Jane is the embodiment of the old saying that "all politics is local," - she can often be found chatting up prosecutors, legislators, and other political leaders at the county pool, the grocery store, or at her kids' soccer matches.
msjesseb [at] verizon [dot] net
Jesselyn McCurdy is a Senior Legislative Counsel in the Washington Legislative Office (WLO) of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and is responsible for defending civil liberties in Congress and in the Executive Branch in the areas of criminal justice. Prior, she was a Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and a Legislative Counsel in the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union working on criminal justice issues federally. Jesselyn was also the Co-Director of the Children's Defense Fund’s Education and Youth Development Division, where she co-chaired a consortium of over 80 national non-profit organizations working on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. Jesselyn has also worked as the Assistant Section Director of the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and was a staff attorney for the American Prosecutors Research Institute affiliated with the National District Attorney’s Association. Jesselyn received a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Rutgers University and her JD from Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.
ursula [dot] bentele [at] brooklaw [dot] edu
Ursula Bentele has spent her professional life in the area of criminal justice, with particular emphasis on the death penalty and postconviction advocacy. After eight years litigating cases at the trial and appellate level with The Legal Aid Society, she joined the Brooklyn Law School faculty in 1981. There, she taught legal writing and research, criminal law, appellate advocacy, and a seminar on capital punishment law. She directed several clinics at the law school, through which students, under her supervision, represented death row inmates seeking review in the U.S. Supreme Court as well as indigent defendants seeking to overturn their convictions. A nationally recognized expert and established author on death penalty issues, Ursula is a recipient of the New York City Bar’s Thurgood Marshall Award, which recognizes attorneys who have contributed time and expertise to represent people sentenced to death. She also participated in the Capital Jury Project funded by the National Science Foundation, in which she helped to analyze interviews of over 1,000 jurors who participated in cases where a death sentence was possible. Ursula is the lead author of Appellate Advocacy: Principles and Practice (LexisNexis, 5th Ed. 2012) and State and Federal Postconviction Remedies: Last Hopes (LexisNexis, 2014). She is currently Professor Emerita at the law school and a volunteer attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Appeals Bureau, where she assists in supervising private attorneys handling cases pro bono and works on developing the Society’s amicus practice.
urbangrief [at] aol [dot] com
Lisa Good has extensive experience working on violence reduction and with crime survivors in urban communities. She is currently the Program Director for SNUG/Ceasefire, an intervention initiative that brings together community members, faith leaders, and law enforcement to reduce violence in the city of Albany. Her experience working in communities harmed by violence, and personally having lost a family member to murder, led her to investigate what resources were readily available to people in urban communities, many of whom were living below the poverty line and predominately people of color. She discovered that the experience of crime victims in urban neighborhoods is largely ignored. She founded Urban Grief Team in 2001, a community based bereavement and crisis response team that offered support to those impacted by crisis, homicide, and death. She continues to make presentations on the crisis, trauma, and bereavement needs of victims in neighborhoods being disproportionately impacted by violence and homicide. Prior to directing the SNUG program, Lisa worked for 18 years at the Homer Perkins Center, a long-term residential drug treatment facility for adults. She is also an ordained minister and serves as an associate minister at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. She is a graduate of Maria College (AAS. in Liberal Arts) and holds a Bachelors of Science from Skidmore College. She has served in multiple board and volunteer positions and received numerous awards and recognitions, including volunteer counselor for the Albany County Crime Victims and Sexual Assault Center from 1997-2007, Cornell Cooperative Extension Volunteer HIV Educator from 1990-2000, former Vice Chair of the Capital District African American Coalition Against Aids, former board member of New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals, and 2008 Omega Chi Women of Distinction Award.
info [at] ejusa [dot] org
Jonathan E. Gradess is Executive Director of the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA), a not-for-profit, membership organization dedicated to improving the quality and scope of public legal representation in New York. The Association operates the nation's only state-funded Public Defense Backup Center, serving New York's more than 5000 public defense attorneys. Jonathan, who has worked as a criminal defense lawyer, a private investigator, and a clinical law professor at Hofstra law School, serves on the Board of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and is a member of the Restorative Justice Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
james [dot] queen [at] gmail [dot] com
James Queen is the New York General Manager of Shyp, a new service that is revolutionizing how individuals and businesses meet their shipping needs. Prior to Shyp, James was responsible for Strategy & Business Development at Spotify and was an investment banker at Rothschild. In addition to his role on the Board of Directors, Queen will also chair EJUSA’s newly created Associate Board, a volunteer group that will help EJUSA to increase visibility and outreach in support of its mission. Queen also serves on the board of the Carbon Lighthouse Association.
richard [dot] schrader [at] gmail [dot] com
Richard Schrader is the New York Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC) and a veteran leader in the public interest movement. His political commentary and analysis is regularly featured on national and local news programs including Dateline NBC, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, ABC's Good Morning America, Good Day New York, and New York 1's Inside City Hall. Richard’s past includes involvement with numerous, high visibility litigation efforts, including the fight to free Darryl King, a wrongfully imprisoned New York inmate who was eventually released. He was a lead lobbyist in the creation of the New York State Capital Defender office that represented people facing the death penalty before New York ended the death penalty. Other former positions include political and media strategist for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ in New York and New Jersey, Commissioner of Consumer Affairs in New York City (where he led the first law enforcement action against merchants selling tobacco products to minors), and Public Affairs Director of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
sshah [at] ciis [dot] edu
Sonya Shah serves as the Justice Program Director for Insight Prison Project, whose mission is to work with those impacted by incarceration through programs grounded in a restorative justice philosophy. Shah also serves on the leadership team for California Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, where she is working to build a statewide network to elevate the voices of crime survivors in policymaking and to address the needs of survivors within their communities. Sonya first began working with EJUSA as a participant in a collaborative project led by the Ford Foundation, the Fund for Nonviolence, EJUSA, and the Partnership for Safety and Justice. The project brought together leaders from the criminal justice reform field and the victims’ advocacy field to break down the barriers that often keep the two fields from collaborating, despite their shared stake in building safe and healthy communities. Sonya is also an Associate Professor at California Institute of Integral Studies.