The NCSL criminal justice program is hosting a series of virtual meetings on the most pressing topics to meet your needs. You can view the series here.
Read speaker biographies and access resources related to each meeting. This page will be updated periodically so check back for more information.
April 29, 2020 | COVID-19: Justice Responses for Pretrial Release and Jails*
This meeting provided an overview of the current statutory framework for pretrial release and jail policy that have enabled a rapid response to COVID-19 and highlighted policies of concern to states during the pandemic. Attendees heard from criminal justice practitioners about how policy is playing out in the justice system.
Amber Widgery, program principal, NCSL Criminal Justice Program
Amber Widgery specializes in criminal justice policy issues related to law enforcement, drug crime, capital punishment, and pretrial policy including deflection, diversion, treatment courts and forensic mental health services. Her work at NCSL includes tracking and analyzing state legislation, providing research support to state legislatures, testifying for legislative committees, and publishing briefs, articles and reports on important legislative trends. Widgery also serves as NCSL’s liaison to the Montana Legislature.
Prior to joining NCSL in 2014, Widgery had legislative experience working as a fellow for both the Colorado General Assembly and the UK Parliament House of Commons. She also worked as a student district attorney in Colorado prosecuting misdemeanor, traffic and wildlife cases. Widgery earned her B.A. in political science and history from Colorado State University, holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado Law School and is a member of the Colorado Bar.
Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, Michigan Supreme Court
Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack joined the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2013 and became chief justice in January 2019. Before her election to the court in November 2012, she was a law professor and dean at the University of Michigan Law School. At Michigan Law, she taught criminal law, legal ethics and various clinical courses. Her scholarship focused on the professional benefits of clinical legal education. She also created new clinics at the law school, including a Domestic Violence Clinic and a Pediatric Health Advocacy Clinic. In 2008, she cofounded the Michigan Innocence Clinic, which has since exonerated more than 15 people. She continues to teach.
McCormack is a graduate of the New York University Law School, where she was a Root-Tilden scholar and won the Anne Petluck Poses Prize in Clinical Advocacy. She spent the first five years of her legal career in New York, first with the Legal Aid Society and then at the office of the Appellate Defender. In 1996, she became a faculty fellow at the Yale Law School. She participates with a number of professional organizations and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. As chief justice, McCormack has promoted statewide initiatives devoted to improving the court's service to the public, and in particular delivering on a promise that courts are independent, accessible, engaged with their communities and efficient. In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed her co-chair of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. She also helped launched an Elder Abuse Task Force, which is actively working on improvements to the service to seniors in courts.
Her additional successful initiatives include the Michigan Access for all Taskforce, Online Dispute Resolution throughout Michigan’s courts, the first expungement clinics in the state and Michigan’s participation in the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative.
Laurie K. Dudgeon, director, Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts
As director of the Administrative Office of the Kentucky Courts (AOC), Laurie K. Dudgeon oversees nearly 3,400 court employees and serves 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. She administers the $360 million judicial branch budget, drafts and promotes passage of legislation affecting the courts, and works with officials at the state, national and county levels.
Since being named director in 2009, Dudgeon has adapted the AOC’s organizational structure to meet the current needs of the courts. Under her leadership, the AOC has made groundbreaking changes to its pretrial release process and helped implement penal code and juvenile justice reforms. The AOC’s comprehensive KYeCourts project includes offering eFiling and CourtNet 2.0 statewide and plans for new trial and appellate case management systems.
She is involved with the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) as a member of the board, co-chair of the Government Affairs Committee, and a member of the Education Committee and Criminal Justice Committee. She’s also a member of the Joint Technology Committee for COSCA and the National Association for Court Management. She is co-chair of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices for the Conference of Chief Justices and COSCA. She is a 2012 alumna of the prestigious Toll Fellowship Program, one of the nation’s premier leadership development programs for state government officials.
Dudgeon previously served as executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and as a staff attorney in the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. She focused on constitutional law, employment law, administrative law and commercial and residential real estate law during nine years in private practice at three law firms in Kentucky and South Carolina. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in 1991 and a Juris Doctor in 1994. She is a native of Somerset, Ky., and currently resides in Frankfort, Ky.
COVID-19: Congressional Appropriations for Justice and Homeland Security Programs
Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel, NCSL
Susan Parnas Frederick is senior federal affairs counsel and staffs the NCSL Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Cybersecurity Task Force in NCSL’s Washington, D.C., office. Her areas of expertise include civil and criminal justice, elections and redistricting (federal), homeland security and cybersecurity, constitutional law, and other topics dealing with federal preemption of state law. Prior to joining NCSL, she was a senior legislative counsel with the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.
Before coming to Washington, Parnas Frederick was an attorney in private practice in Alexandria, Va., where she specialized in criminal law and served as the deputy town attorney and lead prosecutor for the Town of Herndon, Va.
Parnas Frederick received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law, the American University.
Lucia Bragg, senior policy specialist, NCSL
Lucia Bragg is a senior policy specialist covering emergency management and public safety issues for the NCSL Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Bragg also directs NCSL’s Public Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery. She previously worked for members of the United States Congress in the house and senate, and as a state legislative analyst before that. She received her undergraduate degree in political science from Middlebury College.
COVID-19: Juvenile Justice Responses*
This virtual meeting provided an overview of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting young people in the juvenile justice system and how the system itself is responding to the needs of justice involved youth and their families in the midst of this emergency. Attendees heard from speakers about what actions juvenile justice stakeholders have taken to ensure the safety and care of justice-involved youth both in and out of facilities.
Steven C. Teske, chief presiding judge, Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Georgia
Judge Steven C. Teske is the chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Ga. He was appointed juvenile court judge in 1999 and also serves as a superior court judge by designation. Teske has testified before Congress on four occasions and several state legislatures on detention reform and zero tolerance policies in schools.
The governor has appointed him to the Children and Youth Coordinating Council, Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Department of Juvenile Justice Judicial Advisory Council, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Statewide Steering Committee, Georgia Commission on Family Violence, and the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Commission. Teske is past president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the Clayton County Bar Association and has served on various national juvenile justice commissions. He has written several articles on juvenile justice reform, including his model on school justice partnerships.
He is a Toll Fellow of the Council of State Governments and received his J.D., M.A., and B.I.S. degrees from Georgia State University. He is an adjunct law professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, GA.
Dana Shoenberg, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Dana Shoenberg manages the juvenile justice portfolio within Pew’s public safety performance project, which advances data-driven, research-based, and fiscally sound policies in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. In that role, she oversees partnerships with—and assistance to—states striving to improve their juvenile justice systems, including data analysis, policy development, stakeholder engagement, and public and policymaker education. She also directs the project’s juvenile justice research, publications, and policy evaluations.
Before joining Pew, Shoenberg served as deputy director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, where she provided technical assistance to states and localities working to reduce incarceration, improve conditions of confinement, and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities. At the U.S. Department of Justice she investigated and, when necessary, litigated to resolve violations of constitutional and federal law in public institutions. Shoenberg served as a court-appointed expert on conditions of confinement and juvenile justice practices and advised the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. She has taught criminal justice, juvenile justice, and family law in the law schools of Georgetown University, American University, and the University of Baltimore.
Shoenberg holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and a Juris Doctor from Yale University.
Heidi Mueller, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
Heidi Mueller is the director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. She was previously named deputy director of programs for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice in 2014. In that role, she served as the principal policymaking official for all of the department's programs including health care, behavioral health services, vocational and recreational programming. In addition, she conceptualized and implemented the core IDJJ intervention and behavioral management programs.
Mueller earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from Macalester College. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School.
COVID-19: Federal Agency Response in Criminal Justice
Attendees will hear from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Small Business Administration officials on the federal agency responses to cybercrime, elections security, the Paycheck Protection Program, and general agency COVID-19 response activity.
Ryan Lambert, Senior Advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Congressional and Legislative Affairs office
In his current role, Ryan Lambert serves as the Senior Advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Congressional and Legislative Affairs office, working closely with congressional staff.
Lambert also handles SBA’s Intergovernmental Affairs, providing a direct contact for State and Local elected officials across the nation.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he spent years working with clients running for political office, and eventually opened up a small business consulting firm based in Baton Rouge, La.
He has been with the SBA since 2017. His various roles have allowed him to travel to different parts of the country hearing from small businesses and how the SBA can be a better resource to them.
Matthew Travis, Deputy Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Department of Homeland Security
Matthew Travis serves as the first deputy director for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Travis served as deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) before the agency became CISA on Nov. 16, 2018. As deputy director, Travis supports the CISA director in overseeing the Cybersecurity Division, the Infrastructure Security Division, the National Risk Management Center, and the Emergency Communications Division. His operational support responsibilities are to ensure a holistic approach to critical infrastructure protection across physical and cyber risks activities.
Prior to joining CISA in March 2018, Travis was vice president of homeland security for Cadmus, a security and resiliency professional services firm supporting clients throughout the homeland security enterprise. In 2010, he co-founded Obsidian Analysis, Inc., a homeland security consultancy.
Previously, Travis was president of the information security company Detica, Inc. and vice president at DFI International. From 1991 to 1998, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, including a tour as White House liaison to the secretary of the Navy and was also a White House military aide. Travis is a 1991 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a master’s in national security studies from Georgetown University.
COVID-19: Justice Responses for Community Supervision*
This virtual meeting will provide an overview of the current statutory framework for community supervision and prison release that enables a rapid response to COVID-19 and highlight policies of concern to states during the pandemic. Attendees will also hear from practitioners about how policy is playing out in the justice system and have an opportunity to ask questions.
Amanda Essex, Senior Policy Specialist, Criminal Justice Program, NCSL
Amanda Essex is a senior policy specialist in the Criminal Justice Program at NCSL. She has worked at NCSL since May 2013 as a member of both the Transportation and Criminal Justice programs. Amanda conducts research, writes, and presents on a range of topics, including sentencing and corrections, community supervision, and criminal justice data. She received her Bachelor of Arts cum laude in political science from Colorado State University. Amanda earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is admitted to practice law in Colorado.
Kelly Lyn Mitchell. Executive Director, Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
Kelly Lyn Mitchell is executive director of the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Mitchell was appointed chair of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission in 2019, and served as president of the National Association of Sentencing Commissions from 2014 to 2017.
Prior to joining the Robina Institute, Mitchell was executive director of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission from 2011 to 2014, and worked as a staff attorney and manager for the Minnesota Judicial Branch from 2001-2011, where she served as the branch’s liaison to other criminal justice agencies and was responsible for several statewide programs and services such as drug courts, the court interpreter program, and examiner services for sex offender civil commitment exams.
Mitchell also provided legal support to trial court judges and court administrators on issues ranging from criminal and juvenile delinquency law to court records access and fines and fees in the criminal justice system. She also provided legal support for several Minnesota Supreme Court rules and policy committees, and in this role led efforts to fully revise the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Minnesota Juvenile Delinquency Rules of Procedure.
Over the course of her career, Mitchell has held numerous appointments on committees and task forces on issues such as prison population control, probation supervision, sex offender management, and collateral consequences. She earned her J.D. from the University of North Dakota Law School, and has a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Kathy Waters, Director, Adult Probation Services Division
Kathy Waters has over 36 years of criminal justice experience. She has served as the division director of the Adult Probation Services Division for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Arizona Supreme Court since January 2001. She began her career with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections as a probation and parole officer and served in numerous capacities for the next 17.5 years to include district supervisor over 24 counties of Western Oklahoma and Deputy Director of Probation and Parole and Community Corrections.
Waters has led the initiative of evidence based practices in probation and pretrial in the state as outlined in the Supreme Court’s Strategic Agendas with outstanding and promising results. In 2015 she received the Supreme Court’s Strategic Agenda Award for her efforts in implementing evidence based pretrial services in Arizona. In June 2016, she was awarded the Courts Administration of Justice Award recognizing her contributions and impacts to Arizona Probation and the courts over a long period of time. In 2017 she was presented with the George M. Keiser Award from the National Association of Probation Executives for exceptional leadership. In 2018 she received the Susan M. Hunter Award from the Association of Women Executives in Corrections.
She received an associates of science degree from Tulsa Junior College, a bachelor’s degree business administration and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Okla.
*This virtual meeting is made possible through the generous support of The Pew Charitable Trusts' public safety performance project.