Staff & Board

PLSE Staff

Renee Chenault Fattah

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

After two years of service on PLSE’s Board of Directors, Renee Chenault Fattah joined the staff in June 2021 as Deputy Director, taking over as Executive Director in September 2021. Renee came to us from the SeniorLAW Center, a non-profit law firm for older Pennsylvanians, where she was the Director of Pro Bono Action for Community Impact. Renee is one of Philadelphia’s best-known broadcast journalists, having served as the news anchor for NBC10 for 25 years before leaving and producing her documentary In Our Right Mind: Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias’ Impact in Communities of Color. Following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she worked at Hughes Hubbard & Reed in New York City, then clerked for Judge Damon Keith on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, before turning to journalism and earning her Masters from the University of Missouri. In 2009, Renee was inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame. An active member of the community, she speaks at local schools, church congregations and civic organizations about health disparities, law and ethics, and the importance of education. Chenault Fattah currently serves as a member of the Penn Towne Chapter of The Links, Inc., trustee of Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the advisory council to The Hastings Center, a bioethics research center, and is a former trustee of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

Chenault@plsephilly.org

Taylor Pacheco, Esq.

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

Taylor is a 2016 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she was Senior Editor of the Journal of Law and Social Change, an Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Summer Fellow, and a volunteer with the UPenn Criminal Records Expungement Clinic run in partnership with PLSE. She also interned with Community Legal Services in the Housing Unit and the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office. Her career after law school included positions with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and the Support Center for Child Advocates. She is a member of the Barristers Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Bar Association, and Pennsylvania Bar Association, where she is a member of the Bar Leadership Institute class of 2021 and serves as the Young Lawyers Division Zone 1 co-chair. Taylor also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of local non-profit Seen Heard Connected. Fluent in Spanish, Taylor is barred in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

Pacheco@plsephilly.org

Tobey Oxholm, Esq.

DIRECTOR, PARDON PROJECT

Tobey started volunteering for PLSE in the summer of 2017, and was appointed Executive Director in January 2018, and Pardon Project Director in September 2021. A 1979 graduate of Harvard University’s Law School and Kennedy School of Government, his Philadelphia legal career includes seventeen years in private practice, five as Chief Deputy City Solicitor, and six as General Counsel of Drexel University. He has a long record of public service, including twenty years as a trustee of Community Legal Services and leadership in creating three other non-profits providing free legal services to low-income Philadelphians: Philadelphia VIP, the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. He began the Pardon Project in the fall of 2018.

Oxholm@plsephilly.org

Sarah Coyle, Esq.

MANAGING ATTORNEY

Sarah joined PLSE in September 2019 from Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP), where she had been a staff attorney for over two years and ran the Media office. After receiving her JD in 2016 from Savannah Law School, she worked in a private firm concentrating in criminal defense before joining LASP, where she developed a program assisting victims of domestic/sexual violence under a program funded by the Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA). While at law school, she had internships in the Women’s Law Project here in Philadelphia, and in both Georgia Legal Services and the Savannah Justice Law Center, where she first worked on expunging criminal records and helping clients obtain identification cards. Sarah is barred in New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania.

Coyle@plsephilly.org

Emily Satifka, Esq.

STAFF ATTORNEY

Emily graduated from the University of California, Irvine School of Law with Pro Bono High Honors. She was a Public Service Scholar, a Staff Editor of the Law Review, a finalist in the school’s Moot Court competition, and a winner of the UCI Law Legacy Award. After law school, she was selected as the 2019-2021 Zubrow Fellow at Juvenile Law Center, after which she worked at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender in the Special Hearings Unit. Prior to law school, Emily worked at the intersection in social services and public policy focusing on access to healthcare and education, and issues of immigration and child welfare. She is barred in New Jersey.

Satifka@plsephilly.org

Moriah Mendicino

EQUAL JUSTICE WORKS FELLOW ATTORNEY

After graduating from the University of Colorado, Moriah accepted a job in education and relocated to Philadelphia where she taught middle and high school while earning her Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. After teaching for four years, Moriah enrolled in Rutgers Law School – Camden where she served as a court-appointed mediator, co-lead of the Street Law student organization, University Senator and Senior Managing Editor of Rutgers Race and the Law Review. She first joined PLSE as a legal intern in 2021 and returned in the fall of 2022 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Comcast and Duane Morris LLP.

Mendicino@plsephilly.org

Robin Wynne

SENIOR PARALEGAL & OFFICE MANAGER

Robin Wynne joined PLSE in May 2019 as our first full-time paralegal. She is a graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia, receiving her Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies with Highest Honors, and a recipient of the Paralegal Studies Award. It was at CCP that she participated in an expungement clinic hosted by the Defender Association, and first learned about the difference that expungements can make in people’s lives. Before receiving her degree, she worked with Children’s Choice, Inc., as a case aid. She is an active member of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Keenly aware of the social structures that support and promote racial and income-based disparities in the law, she believes everyone is entitled to a second chance. 

wynne@plsephilly.org

Victor Sotelo

PARALEGAL

Victor joined PLSE in January 2022 as a full-time paralegal. He brings an abundance of experience working as a court clerk in both Colorado and Pennsylvania courts for over four years. During this time, he witnessed firsthand the difficulties of living with a conviction and the value of second chances. In Colorado, he served on the board for the county’s Professional Development Program and as a volunteer judge for the Colorado Bar Association High School Mock Trial Competition. As an immigrant from Mexico, he hopes to reach the Latino/a community and break down barriers to justice. Victor is currently completing his associate’s degree and plans to continue his education with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is excited to join the PLSE team to help advocate for everyone who has been negatively affected by the criminal legal system.

Sotelo@plsephilly.org

MacDonald Taylor

PARALEGAL

Mac Donald P. Taylor Jr. joined PLSE in January 2022. He is a graduate of Delaware County Community College, receiving his Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies where he was selected as one of six students internationally as an Achieving The Dream Scholars and is a Honorary member of PHI THETA KAPPA. Through his own journey through the criminal justice system, he has a passion to be a voice and to use his personal journey to be a mentor and advocate for the underserved and disenfranchised by criminal justice system.

Taylor@plsephilly.org

Patrick Jackson Keough

Patrick Jackson Keough

Program Manager

Patrick joined PLSE from Bebashi – Transition to Hope, where he managed all administrative and operational aspects of its hunger relief programs. He is a 2015 graduate of Drew University where he was a Civic Scholar. He began his career in Philadelphia as an Episcopal Service Corps Fellow, serving at St. Marks Church on Locust Street where, among other things, he introduced models of trauma-informed care and non-prerequisite service to the parish’s long established community engagement programs. Along the way, he has continuously worked with formerly incarcerated people.

Keough@plsephilly.org

Andrea Lindsay, MSW

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Andrea (she/her) is Director of Strategic Initiatives at Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). In this role, she works collaboratively with staff and community partners to develop and implement PLSE’s strategic priorities and special projects. She is the author of PLSE’s February 2021 report “Life Without Parole for Second-Degree Murder in Pennsylvania: An Objective Assessment of Sentencing” and co-author of PLSE’s April 2021 follow-up investigation into racial disparities in the same population. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Andrea previously worked as a mitigation specialist and received her Master of Social Work degree from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, where she specialized in systems-level transformation.

Lindsay@plsephilly.org

Muhammed Tarik Kose

Muhammed Tarik Kose

Pro Bono Coordinator

Tarik became a part of the PLSE team in September of 2020 as a COOP student from Drexel University. As an immigrant and long-time DACA recipient, he has firsthand seen the discrimination, inequality, and inconsistency with the justice system in the United States. Passionate about empowering communities and individuals, he wants to do everything he can to help fellow Philadelphians break the vicious criminal record cycle so they can live their best lives. He graduated from Drexel University in March of 2022 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and a minor in Legal Studies. In the future, he plans to attend law school to both be a voice and give a voice to those suffering senseless wrongs at the hand of the criminal justice system.

LaShonda Ellis

LaShonda Ellis

Business Manager

LaShonda Ellis joined PLSE in August 2022 as Business Manager. Born and raised in Philadelphia, LaShonda completed her undergraduate studies in finance from Drexel University and MBA from Saint Joseph’s University. Prior to joining PLSE LaShonda has had extensive experience leading Alternative Investments teams at SEI and account management at Alliance Bernstein in NYC. Her personal goals align with those of PLSE in “expanding opportunities to empower communities”. Serving and supporting marginalized populations have always been key drivers for her through volunteerism and philanthropic activities.

Randee Wismer

Randee Wismer

Social Media Specialist

Randee joined PLSE in the fall of 2019 through Drexel ’s co-op program and, when it ended, continued on because of her dedication to the organization and to the re-entry community. With interests in civic engagement and outreach, Randee manages the PLSE social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the goals of strengthening the organization/client/community connections, as well as increasing awareness of and access to PLSE’s resources and information. She is an English major and, after she earns her bachelor’s degree, is considering a career in the law.

Wismer@plsephilly.org

Isabella Falzone

Isabella Falzone

Legal Administrative Assistant

Izzy joined the PLSE team in the fall of 2020 as a Drexel co-op student. She fell in love with the work PLSE was doing and accepted a position at the end of her co-op program. Izzy is committed to the social justice agenda and is very passionate about advocating for those who have experienced injustice in the criminal justice system. Izzy does a little bit of everything at PLSE, including administrative work, outreach, and research. Co-majoring in legal studies and business analytics, she will graduate from Drexel University with Honors in 2023 with future plans to attend law school.

Danea Langston-Brooks

Danea Langston-Brooks

Gordon Cooney Fellow

A 2011 graduate of Temple University (BA in Communications), Danea is a small business owner with more than 14 years’ experience in the fields of social service, construction, project management and land acquisition. Today, she leads The Baring Group LLC, a residential development business which she founded in 2010, where she has successfully completed several residential development projects and mentored many subcontractors. Her energy, vision and passion to help others was demonstrated in 2000 when she created Unity Foundation Inc., a nonprofit 501c3 organization born out of the drug epidemic of the late 90’s. Her conviction from the early 1990s still makes it impossible for her to secure construction funding or loans for her real estate development business; worse yet, she is disqualified from serving as the attorney-in-fact either for her brother who requires care following a traumatic brain injury in 2020, or for her elderly mother. She has been an active member of the Pardon Project Steering Committee since 2021.

Jeffrey Eberly

Chief Financial Officer

Jeff Eberly started volunteering with PLSE in October 2017 as the Chief Financial Officer. His finance career spans over 25 years primarily working in higher education and non-profit institutions. During the last 12 years, he has led and managed numerous financial and operational functions within those institutions. Today he is the Executive Director, Fiscal Operations, for the Gene Therapy Program of the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Financial Accounting from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and his Master’s in Business Administration from Drexel University through its executive MBA program.

PLSE Staff

Tobey Oxholm, Esq.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Tobey started volunteering for PLSE in the summer of 2017, and was appointed Interim Executive Director in January 2018. A 1979 graduate of Harvard University’s Law School and Kennedy School of Government, his Philadelphia legal career includes seventeen years in private practice, five as Chief Deputy City Solicitor, and six as General Counsel of Drexel University. He has a long record of public service, including twenty years as a trustee of Community Legal Services and leadership in creating three other non-profits providing free legal services to low-income Philadelphians: Philadelphia VIP, the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. He began the Pardon Project in the fall of 2018, and became its Director in October 2019.

Oxholm@plsephilly.org

Renee Chenault Fattah

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

After two years of service on PLSE’s Board of Directors, Renee Chenault Fattah joined the staff in June 2021 as Deputy Director, with the expectation that she will become Executive Director in September. Renee comes to us from the SeniorLAW Center, a non-profit law firm for older Pennsylvanians, where she was the Director of Pro Bono Action for Community Impact.Renee is one of Philadelphia’s best-known broadcast journalists, having served as the news anchor for NBC10 for 25 years before leaving and producing her documentary In Our Right Mind: Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias’ Impact in Communities of Color. Following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she worked at Hughes Hubbard & Reed in New York City, then clerked for Judge Damon Keith on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, before turning to journalism and earning her Masters from the University of Missouri. In 2009, Renee was inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame. An active member of the community, she speaks at local schools, church congregations and civic organizations about health disparities, law and ethics, and the importance of education. Chenault Fattah currently serves as a member of the Penn Towne Chapter of The Links, Inc., trustee of Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the advisory council to The Hastings Center, a bioethics research center, and is a former trustee of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

Taylor Pacheco, Esq.

STAFF ATTORNEY

Taylor is a 2016 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she was Senior Editor of the Journal of Law and Social Change, an Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Summer Fellow, and a volunteer with the UPenn Criminal Records Expungement Clinic run in partnership with PLSE. She also interned with Community Legal Services in the Housing Unit and the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office. Her career after law school included positions with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and the Support Center for Child Advocates. She is a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Barristers Association of Philadelphia, which is partnering with PLSE in providing pardon-related services at Bebashi-Transition to Hope. Fluent in Spanish, Taylor is barred in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

Pacheco@plsephilly.org

Sarah Coyle, Esq.

STAFF ATTORNEY

Sarah joined PLSE in September 2019 from Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP), where she had been a staff attorney for over two years and ran the Media office. After receiving her JD in 2016 from Savannah Law School, she worked in a private firm concentrating in criminal defense before joining LASP, where she developed a program assisting victims of domestic/sexual violence under a program funded by the Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA). While at law school, she had internships in the Women’s Law Project here in Philadelphia, and in both Georgia Legal Services and the Savannah Justice Law Center, where she first worked on expunging criminal records and helping clients obtain identification cards. Sarah is barred in New Jersey as well as Philadelphia.

Coyle@plsephilly.org

Robin Wynne

SENIOR PARALEGAL & OFFICE MANAGER

Robin Wynne joined PLSE in May 2019 as our first full-time paralegal. She is a graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia, receiving her Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies with Highest Honors, and a recipient of the Paralegal Studies Award. It was at CCP that she participated in an expungement clinic hosted by the Defender Association, and first learned about the difference that expungements can make in people’s lives. Before receiving her degree, she worked with Children’s Choice, Inc., as a case aid. She is an active member of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Keenly aware of the social structures that support and promote racial and income-based disparities in the law, she believes everyone is entitled to a second chance.

wynne@plsephilly.org

Patrick Jackson Keough

PROGRAM MANAGER

Patrick joined PLSE from Bebashi – Transition to Hope, where he managed all administrative and operational aspects of its hunger relief programs. He is a 2015 graduate of Drew University where he was a Civic Scholar. He began his career in Philadelphia as an Episcopal Service Corps Fellow, serving at St. Marks Church on Locust Street where, among other things, he introduced models of trauma-informed care and non-prerequisite service to the parish’s long established community engagement programs. Along the way, he has continuously worked with formerly incarcerated people.

Keough@plsephilly.org

Andrea Lindsay

LEAD INVESTIGATOR AND MITIGATION SPECIALIST, LIFER PROJECT

Andrea is the Lead Investigator and Mitigation Specialist conducting PLSE’s statewide audit of the population of people serving life without parole (LWOP) for second-degree murder. She is the author of PLSE’s February 2021 report “Life Without Parole for Second-Degree Murder in Pennsylvania: An Objective Assessment of Sentencing” and co-author of PLSE’s April 2021 follow-up investigation into racial disparities in the population. Andrea received her Master of Social Work degree from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, where she specialized in macro practice and systems-level transformation. At Penn, she served as a Direct Service Fellow at the Youth Advocacy Project in addition to completing field practicums with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Domestic Violence Strategies and Community Legal Services’ Family Advocacy Unit. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Andrea was first trained in mitigation as a volunteer with the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation and has over three years of mitigation experience working with individuals sentenced to LWOP.

Lindsay@plsephilly.org

Clara Rawlings

DATA ANALYST AND PROGRAM ASSISTANT

Clara joined PLSE in the spring of 2019 through Drexel ’s co-op program, and continued on because of PLSE’s compelling mission and a personal goal of contributing to positive action in the communities around her. Throughout her time with the organization, Clara has worked on upgrading PLSE’s organizational systems, collecting and analyzing data, and managing the post-expungement process. Her current focuses include data analysis as part of PLSE’s ongoing audit of Pennsylvania’s current second degree life without parole population, as well as streamlining and building pardon work for our clients. Clara recently earned her B.S. in Psychology from Drexel University with highest honors.

Rawlings@plsephilly.org

Board of Directors

Honorable Karen Yvette Simmons

Board Chair

Judge Karen Simmons has served on the Philadelphia Municipal Court since January 2006, and was recently retained for her third term, which will end in 2023. In her career as a judge, she has held thousands of hearings in criminal matters and has firmly established her reputation as a “tough but fair” judge. Judge Simmons was recently appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to the initial Continuing Judicial Education Board of Judges, and she co-chairs the Municipal Court Judicial Education and Conference Planning Committee and serves on its Criminal Rules Committee. Judge Simmons began her legal career as an Assistant Public Defender in the office of the Defenders’ Association of Philadelphia; served as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia in the areas of labor and employment law; and was Chief Legal Counsel to the Philadelphia Police Department and Police Commissioners before her election to the bench. For her exemplary service to the legal profession and to the public, she has received many recognitions including the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia’s Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Award and Woman of Distinction Award, the Rutgers Law School Black Law Students Association’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Champion of Social Justice and Equality Award, and Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church’s Saints of Valor Judiciary Award. Her long list of service currently includes the Philadelphia Police Athletic League Education Committee, National Bar Association, National Association of Women Judges, Philadelphia Criminal Law Inn of Court, Philadelphia Bar Association, Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, and the Bright Hope Baptist Church.

Glenn D. Barnes, Esq.

Board Vice Chair

Glenn Barnes has been volunteering with PLSE in various capacities since 2017. Receiving his JD in 1985, he began his legal practice in Boston as a commercial trial attorney, then moved to Philadelphia ten years later, thereafter practicing in the areas of business and employment law, personal injury and estate law. He began teaching undergraduate legal studies as an adjunct at Peirce College in May 2003, became a member of the full-time faculty in 2005, and a full professor in 2010, and continued to teach and mentor students until his retirement in 2016. For his unstinting commitment to his students, for whom a college education would make all the difference, he was presented with the faculty’s highest honor, the Hamilton Award for Academic Excellence and Integrity. Among other accomplishments, he is an award-winning poet and was a Pew Fellowship in the Arts finalist. His passion for social equity continues to be fueled by his experiences with apartheid in South Africa while a high school exchange student in 1972-73. His support for PLSE is a part of his continuing effort to make an “outraged difference” in our too often unjust world.

Nicole Hunt

Board Secretary

Nicole Hunt is the President of UNITEHERE LOCAL 634, a union that represents over 2,000 public sector school cafeteria employees and student climate staff working for the School District of Philadelphia. Daughter of a devoted member of 1199C, Nicole began her public service in the School District in 2001 as a food service worker and volunteering in the Union’s offices where she rose to become the office manager. She was elected Secretary-Treasurer of Union 634 in 2010 and its President in 2017. In 2013, she was one of the eight protesters who fasted in front of Governor Corbett’s office seeking full funding for our public schools. Raising two sons, she has seen how easy it is for young black males to be arrested in what she has called “the school-to-prison pipeline”, and how arrests and convictions have severely limited the life choices of her sons’ friends who now, in their mid-20s, “have had all hope taken from them of being allowed to do what they are capable of doing.” She is passionate about helping people obtain expungements and pardons so that they get the second chances they have earned through their good works.

Jeffrey N. Brown

Board Treasurer

A fourth-generation grocer, Jeff Brown is the founder, President & CEO of Brown’s Super Stores, Inc., a network of 11 ShopRite and 2 Fresh Grocer Supermarkets in the greater Philadelphia area. The company estimates that it employs 500 returning citizens, often providing them with their first jobs after being released from prison. He started this practice in 2008, making him one of the very first business leaders to act on the fact that it makes sense for society to employ former inmates so they can remain crime-free and contribute to the economy. This is not his only, or even his first, “win-win” business innovation with immense benefits for impoverished communities: he was the first to open a major grocery store in a low-income underserved neighborhood, often referred to as a food desert, in Philadelphia (in 2004), and he now operates seven of them. In recognition of his leadership in solving the “food desert” crisis, he was a guest of First Lady Michele Obama at President Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2010; and he was named 2014 Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year for his innovative work of meeting the needs of impoverished communities through holistic supermarket hubs. In addition to many other public service activities, Jeff chairs the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board and the Philadelphia Youth Network, and is a member of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Corporate Council. He is also the founder and chair of Uplift Solutions, a non-profit working to create sustainable access to healthy and affordable food, nutrition education, health care and workforce development for returning citizens to obtain opportunities in the food industry, all for underserved communities nationally.

Rev. Leslie Callahan.

Rev. Callahan has been Pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church at 10th & Wallace Streets, a large and diverse congregation in North Philadelphia, since 2009. When the coronavirus hit in 2020, she was among the first to transition her church and pastoral care services from face-to-face to virtual, while, like other working parents, trying to educate her seven-year-old first grader at the kitchen table. Rev. Callahan earned her Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Harvard University/Radcliffe, her Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religion from Princeton University, and for a time, was a member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania as assistant professor of religious studies. Rev. Callahan currently serves as a Commissioner for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and is a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild).

Lisa Campbell, Esq.

Ms. Campbell worked as a public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 2004. Most recently, she was the Assistant Chief of the Juvenile unit of the Defender Association. After graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law school, M. Campbell clerked for the Honorable Mary A. McLaughlin on the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As a public defender, M. Campbell handled countless adult and juvenile cases during rotations through the various trial units. She has experience handling complex and serious juvenile cases, as well as leading and training teams of attorneys in the Juvenile Unit. M. Campbell has provided training for her office as well as attorneys across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on a variety of legal issues. She currently is researching and presenting on the issue of collateral consequences of juvenile adjudications and the need for expungement of juvenile records.

Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, Esq.

Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio is President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos and also oversees the Congreso Health Center and the programmatic relationship with the Pan American Academy Charter School. Assisting over 17,000 clients each year, Congreso is one of the nation’s and region’s Top Workplaces and is nationally-recognized for its Primary Client Model service delivery approach. Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Ms. DiGiorgio immigrated to the United States in the mid-1980’s and was raised in Southern New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University where she majored in Political Science and minored in Psychology and Spanish, and obtained her law degree at Rutgers University School of Law – Camden. Before her service at Congreso, Ms. DiGiorgio practiced law with Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, and served as Montgomery County’s Director of Commerce where she was responsible for managing all County economic development and workforce development initiatives. Among many other contributions, she serves as Board Member of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the Nelson Foundation and is an advisory board member of Citizens & Northern Bank. She is a member of The Forum for Executive Women and previously served under Govenor Wolf’s Women Commission and Governor Corbett’s Commission on Latino Affairs. Carolina has been honored with various recognitions including Most Admired CEO by the Philadelphia Business Journal and the Girl Scouts Take the Lead: Courage, Character and Confidence award.

Evan Figueroa-Vargas

Evan Figueroa-Vargas, a native of Puerto Rico, has been a Philadelphian since 1987. A Certified Recovery Specialist and a National Certified Peer Specialist, he is an Employment Systems Program Analyst with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disability Services. His personal experience with the criminal justice system resulted from having been prescribed an opioid painkiller after he was injured in a motorcycle accident, which led to addiction, crime, four convictions, and several years in prison; and he is now an applicant for a pardon. Evan has volunteered for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) and the IBX Foundation’s Someone You Know Campaign. His exemplary work in the community has been featured in news outlets including WHYY, ABC6, Billy Penn, and Philadelphia Magazine. He is a graduate of Community College of Philadelphia
and Eastern University, and is currently a graduate student at West Chester University where he is pursuing his Masters in Social Work.  He has been a leading member of PLSE’s Pardon Project Steering Committee since joining it in June 2019.

Ryan Allen Hancock, Esq.

Ryan Hancock is Of Counsel and chair of Willig, Williams & Davidson’s Employment Group where he counsels and represents clients in all matters related to their employment. Prior to joining Willig, Williams & Davidson, he served as Assistant Chief Counsel with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), the Commonwealth’s civil rights enforcement agency. While there, he successfully litigated a wide range of discrimination matters including but not limited to claims of: sexual orientation, religious accommodation, disability, race, sex and denial of employment based on a criminal record. Mr. Hancock is the author of The Double Bind: Obstacles to Employment and Resources for Survivors of the Criminal Justice System, 15 U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change 515 2011-2012 and the principal author of the PHRC policy entitled Disparate Impact Discrimination Implications Related to a Denial of Employment Based on a Criminal Record. Ryan received his law degree from Rutgers School of Law and clerked in Camden County Superior Court, Criminal Division, for the Honorable David G. Eynon. He was one of PLSE’s co-founders and has served on the Board ever since.

Ana Pujols McKee, M.D.

Ana McKee is the executive vice president and chief medical officer of The Joint Commission,
which evaluates and accredits more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Dr. McKee focuses on and develops policies and strategies for promoting patient
safety and quality improvement in health care, and, among other things, provides clinical guidance and support to the Commission’s Center for Transforming Healthcare. Before joining Commission in February 2011, Dr. McKee served as chief medical officer and associate executive director at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania Health System, and clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of
Medicine. She also served as medical director for the Philadelphia Health Department’s ambulatory network. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology fromf the State University of New York at Binghamton and her medical degree from Hahnemann Medical
College and Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. McKee was named as one of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare in both 2020 and 2014..

Josie Reed

Josie Reed is a lifelong Philadelphia resident with a deep desire to help people in need. This desire springs from her experiences rising from humble beginnings and overcoming adversity to create a better future for herself and her family. That pathway includes successfully obtaining, by herself, a pardon from Governor Tom Wolf for a crime she committed when she was a young woman. Free of the record that once haunted her, Josie has a fulfilling position with Campbell’s Soup Company and has completed her degree in Business Administration Concentration in Management from Peirce College of Philadelphia. After raising her own two children and sending them off to college, she has decided to become a foster parent to provide a loving home for kids caught in the child welfare system. She also volunteers at the South Jersey Food Bank through her employer and is a member of the Women’s Of Campbell which advocates for women of all races. She intends to use her knowledge and experience to help people facing the same barriers that she has, and to one day create her own nonprofit organization focused on helping women with the unique challenges they face when dealing with a criminal record. She hopes that her journey will serve as inspiration that if she can overcome her record, anyone can.

Akeem Sims

After personally experiencing the damaging effects of family poverty, drug addiction and incarceration, Akeem actively participates in many programs in impacted communities, including but not limited to: PRO-ACT (Prevention and Recovery Organization Achieving Community Together), a program that supports those struggling with addiction and their journey to sobriety; MENTOR (Mentors Empowering Now To Overcome Recidivism), a program established by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to reduce probation violation among black males between the ages of 18 and 30; and he is a core leader of the West Philly Participatory Defense Hub, a community collaborative with the Defender Association of Philadelphia that provides insight, perspective, and support to those being charged and their families as they navigate the justice system, for which he was honored by the Defender Association with a “Community Connector” award on February 27, 2019. The pardon he received from Gov. Wolf opened the door to the career in financial services that was his dream, and Akeem is now with AST Financial, a CPA firm in Plymouth Meeting.

 

Rev. Dr. Michelle Anne Simmons

Rev. Dr. Michelle Anne Simmons is the Founder and CEO of Why Not Prosper, a community-based organization in Germantown that supports women coming out of prison and one of PLSE’s first Pardon Hubs. She herself was formerly incarcerated and is a recovering addict. In 2008, Rev. Michelle graduated from Chestnut Hill College with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services, and since then has earned a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and a Doctorate in Ministry from Friends International Christian Academy. She is also a Certified Allied Addictions Practitioner and a Certified Domestic Violence Counselor. “The Rev” (as she is called) received a pardon from the Governor in 2017. She has been a member of PLSE’s Pardon Project Steering Committee since 2019, and has served as its Chair since January 2020.

Yvettee Sizer

Yvettee Sizer works in Philadelphia media. Ms. Sizer is also a case manager for The Montgomery County, PA Youth Aid Panel, a juvenile diversionary program that serves as an alternative to Juvenile Court or Magisterial District Court adjudication and provides the juvenile an opportunity to avoid a criminal record. She is an executive of the NAACP in Montgomery County, PA and has also served as Director for the NAACP Youth and College Division. While serving in both NAACP executive roles Yvettee has been a driving force in creating both successful youth diversionary programs and mentoring programs as well as working in areas that address civil engagement, healthcare, criminal justice, economic opportunities, and media diversity. Yvettee holds several board memberships and volunteer positions in Montgomery County, PA that serve/advocate for youth, women and minorities. Yvettee has a degree in Education.

Michael Solomonov

Michael Solomonov is the executive chef and co-owner of Philadelphia’s pioneering Israeli restaurant, Zahav. He is the 2011 James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic”, a 2016 James Beard Award winner for “Best International Cookbook” and “Book of the Year” for his and business partner/co-author Steven Cook’s first cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, and the 2017 James Beard Award’s “Outstanding Chef.” In addition to his duties at Zahav, Mike co-owns Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Goldie, NYC’s Dizengoff, and the philanthropic Rooster Soup Company, which donates 100% of its profits to Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative that provides meals and essential services to individuals experiencing homelessness and hunger in Philadelphia. Mike is passionate about Philadelphia, and about giving a second chance to people who have demonstrably turned their lives around and are now giving back to their communities. He sees PLSE’s work as an economic development strategy that attacks root causes of the persistent poverty that afflicts so many inner-city neighborhoods.

Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler

The Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler is the 52nd pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and is a native of Oakland, California. Mother Bethel has the distinction of being the birthplace of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, founded in protest to segregated pews in worship by Bishop Richard Allen in the late 1700s. Pastor Tyler maintains that spirit today, in his congregation’s involvement with the activist, faith-based organizing effort POWER Interfaith, and their commitment to social and criminal justice reform. Rev.Tyler is also a documentary filmmaker, radio host, a seminary professor, and an avid motorcyclist. He’s a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a husband and father of four children.

Hillary Weinstein, Esq.

Hillary Weinstein found her passion for social justice work while working as a paralegal with the Federal Defenders in the Southern District of New York. While at law school, she spent a semester as an extern with the prosecution team at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. After graduation, she began her career with a one-year Philadelphia Bar Association Fellowship at the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender. For six years, she was a litigation associate with Morgan Lewis where she worked pro bono on a number of social justice matters, including volunteering with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, representing a criminal defendant in federal pre-trial proceedings, and representing an incarcerated client in his (eventually successful) adult adoption proceedings. Hillary also has experience at a small firm specializing in providing advice and representation to clients in the non-profit sector. Recently, Hillary and a colleague started their own law firm, First Law Strategy Group, LLC, specializing in representing plaintiffs in state and federal class actions, insurance bad-faith cases, and in appellate advocacy. Hillary joined PLSE’s Board in 2017.

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