Staff Biographies

Jobi Cates

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.

Selected Media and Writing:

Julie Anderson

Julie Anderson is the Outreach Director for Restore Justice and the mother of Eric, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of Parole (LWOP) in 1995 when he was 15 years old. Eric is now 39.  Due to the 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama, in 2017 Eric was resentenced to 30 years, his release date is 2025.   Julie is the founder and coordinator of Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children (CRIIC). CRIIC members are family and friends of those who are serving extreme sentences.  They offer each other support and encouragement while working to bring back second chances for young people.  Julie is a part-time staff member at both Restore Justice and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR).  PBMR is located in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and is a Restorative Justice Hub.  Restore Justice educates and works with legislators to adopt policies that recognize the difference between adults and young people, create pathways out of prison, while also addressing current prison conditions.  Julie also serves on the board of the Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI) and is on the Steering Committee for the National Family Network for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY).

Selected media and writing: 

Wendell Robinson

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.

Selected media and writing: 

Alissa Rivera

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.

Selected Media and Writing:

Alice Swan

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.

Kayla Rueda

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.

Nelson Morris

Nelson Morris is Restore Justice’s 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.

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