The Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a Washington, D.C.-based activist organization promoting reduced reliance on incarceration in America, has tapped former litigator and juvenile justice agency leader Marc Schindler to serve as its new executive director.
He will join JPI in August, and succeeds Tracy Velázquez, who was fired in February after four years.
“Marc brings energy, breadth of experience and knowledge of the criminal and juvenile justice system from a number of perspectives,” said JPI Board Chairman Dr. Peter Leone.
“It’s an exciting time in juvenile and criminal justice,” said Schindler, who said his goal for JPI is to lead a “rational conversation” on “reducing the addiction we have to the use of incarceration in this country.”
Schindler was a staff attorney from 1997 to 2005 for the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, a nonprofit with a long history of suing juvenile justice and child welfare systems over poor practices and conditions.
Before that, Schindler was Baltimore’s assistant public defender in the juvenile court division from 1993 to 1997, and served as a counselor at an alternative school for adjudicated boys in Manhattan from 1988 to 1989.
He left Youth Law Center in 2005 to join Vincent Schiraldi’s “dream team” at Washington, D.C.’s juvenile justice agency. Schiraldi, a longtime justice reformer activist who founded JPI in 2002, was hired to lead the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), and quickly surrounded himself with other reform-minded advocates.
The DYRS team included Schindler, current Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellow David Brown, and Mishaela Duran, who would go on to serve as director of government affairs for the National PTA.
The agency garnered national attention, and some local criticism, for its efforts to improve a system governed by a federal consent decree and centered on a violent and run-down Oak Hill facility. DYRS closed down the juvenile prison in favor of a smaller one focused on youth development and educational advancement, and designated more of the youth in its custody to community programs and monitoring.
Schindler became the interim head of DYRS when Schiraldi left to become the probation commissioner in New York City. Former Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty decided not to make Schindler the permanent director, and replaced him in 2010 with the city’s former chief juvenile prosecutor, Robert Hildum.
Schindler then became a partner at D.C.-based Venture Philanthropy Partners, where he oversees the socialCONNECT initiative, a five-year, $40 million project funded by the federal Social Innovation Fund to connect city youths with education and job opportunities.
JPI is largely funded by foundations focused on criminal justice reform including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation and the Open Society Institute.
“JPI has always been able to take information and make it accessible to policymakers, practitioners and the public in a way that’s compelling and useful,” Schindler said.
The organization reported a $580,000 budget shortfall in fiscal 2010, but has been otherwise stable, Leone said.
“There’s a lot of ebb and flow, we have a combination of general support and project specific grants,” Leone said. “In no way is JPI in financial straits.”
–John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint