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Jobi Cates is Executive Director and Founder of Restore Justice, a statewide criminal justice reform organization focused on long-term incarceration and its impact on individuals, families, and communities. From 2008 through 2014, Jobi was the Senior Director of the Chicago and Midwest Regional Office of Human Rights Watch (HRW). In her role there, she led the legislative and communications efforts of a broad-based coalition to end the practice of sentencing children who commit serious crimes to “life without parole.” Jobi has extensive non-profit leadership experience over more than 25 years, including roles as Executive Director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and Executive Director of the Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation. She has served in government twice, leading initiatives for Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. As a consultant, Jobi has managed projects for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Fund for a Safer Future, the Asset Funders Network, the Chicago Community Trust, and Americares. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, the mother of two children, and an avid crafter. Jobi was recently confirmed as a member of the Illinois Youth Budget Commission by Governor J.B. Pritzker.
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Julie Anderson is Restore Justice’s Outreach Director. She helps guide Restore Justice’s work to reduce extreme prison sentences for young people and to improve prison conditions. Julie’s son Eric was sentenced to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) in 1995 when he was just 15 years old; Eric is now 40. Because of the US Supreme Court’s 2012 Miller v Alabama decision, Eric received a new (30-year) sentence in 2017. Julie is the founder and coordinator of CRIIC, Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children. CRIIC members have family and friends sentenced as young people to life without parole. They support each other and provide encouragement while working to eliminate juvenile life without parole sentences. Before joining the Restore Justice staff, Julie served as a founding member of the Restore Justice Illinois board. She is also on the board of the Juvenile Justice Initiative and the Steering Committee for the National Family Network for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.
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Harold Hagerman is one of the newest members of Restore Justice’s Future Leaders Apprenticeship Program.
At the age of 17, Harold received a 61-year prison sentence. While incarcerated, he earned his GED and his Associate Degree in Liberal Studies, graduating from Lake Land College with a 4.0 GPA. Harold also completed life skills and reentry programs.
Having served 28 and a half years, Harold came home in April 2020 after being awarded two years of program sentence credits (good time) for his unwavering commitment to his rehabilitation.
Upon release, Harold immediately sought gainful employment and worked in the construction and home renovation field, as well as at an assembly plant. Now, Harold is a member of the Restore Justice family.
Harold attributes his successful transition home to his determination to be a beacon of hope for the comrades he left behind and, also, to be a vehicle to assist people who are still incarcerated in their return trip back to their rightful place in society.
Nelson Morris is Restore Justice’s Project Associate. He first joined our team as the Future Leaders Apprentice. Nelson returned home in August 2020 after serving 29 years and three weeks in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a conviction at the age of 17. Originally serving life without parole, Nelson received a new sentence after the Supreme Court’s Miller decision.
As the only organization in Illinois specifically working to address issues faced by youth serving life or de-facto life sentences, Restore Justice created the Future Leaders Apprenticeship Program (FLAP). FLAP provides returning citizens who have a deep commitment to social justice with a unique opportunity to turn their skills and passions for social good into new, tangible leadership opportunities.
Outside of work, Nelson enjoys spending time with his family and friends, and he recently got engaged to his childhood sweetheart. He loves politics and is discovering what his interests as “the free Nelson” are.
Alissa Rivera is the Restore Justice Communications Manager. Alissa works on the website, media relations, social media, storytelling, messaging, and communications training for advocates. She joined Restore Justice in July 2019 from the Shriver Center on Poverty Law where she managed digital communications.
Alissa previously worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, State Journal-Register, and Tampa Tribune. She also worked for Tampa Bay area television stations. During her reporting career, Alissa worked on investigations related to homelessness and the criminal justice system. She received a Peter Lisagor Award with a reporting team from the Chicago Reporter.
Alissa is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also holds journalism master’s degrees from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the University of Illinois Springfield. She loves visiting national parks.
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Wendell Robinson is a Program Manager at Restore Justice. He initially joined us as the first Future Leaders Apprentice and he now oversees that program. (The apprenticeship aims to develop non-profit management skills among people returning to the community following extreme sentences.) His current role also involves community outreach, data management, and fundraising.
Wendell served 25 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a conviction at the age of 17. Released in January 2018, he immediately began to seek sustainable employment and to engage in advocacy to help his peers who are still incarcerated. He completed a training and certification program in trucking, and had been working as a truck driver before receiving his apprenticeship.
Having attended all of Restore Justice’s advocacy days since his release, Wendell was a strong candidate for the new apprenticeship. “I’m forever focused on being a productive member of society. I understand what it means to be a beacon of hope for all the guys I left behind,” he said.
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Kayla Rueda is a Policy Associate at Restore Justice. She conducts research and data analysis, and supports a variety of advocacy campaigns. Kayla has developed a specialty in COVID-19 policy and practice since March, 2020. Prior to becoming a full-time staff member, Kayla was an intern, and then a consultant for Restore Justice.
She graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2019. While at Lipscomb, she researched the impact of felony convictions on subsequent employment and housing opportunities. Honored as a SALT Scholar, Kayla also volunteered with International Justice Mission, Nashville Community Bail Fund, Unheard Voices Outreach, and Men of Valor. In addition to her position at Restore Justice, Kayla is working to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
As the Restore Justice Office Manager, Alice manages the organization’s record-keeping, administrative processes, bookkeeping, and human resources. She has more than 15 years of professional experience in non-profit management and education.
Alice joined Restore Justice from the Princeton Review, where she had been a consulting content developer and project manager for eight years. Prior to working for the Princeton Review, she worked in nonprofit administration for seven years. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, is the mother of two boys, and is an avid knitter.
James Swansey joined the Restore Justice team in February 2021 as a Future Leaders Apprentice. James returned home in December 2020 after serving 28 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Incarcerated in 1993 at the age of 18, James originally received a sentence of natural life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 30 years. He received a new sentence through court cases about youth sentencing.
“As time went by, I learned how to become responsible for my actions and accountable for my decisions, which in turn allowed me to show the individual that I actually was as opposed to the monster I was painted to be,” James said. “I now have the opportunity to give back to the same system that sentenced me to die, without giving me the death penalty. Working with Restore Justice is something that I look forward to because I know that I have a voice, and I want that voice to be heard! I look forward to being a difference.” James aspires to be a voice for those who can’t be heard.
Outside of work, James is an avid sports fan. He loves spending time with family and friends, laughing, and having fun. “I know that you can not get back time lost, but you can go forward making memories that can be shared and remembered!”