“Let’s get one thing straight… I’m a Red Sox and a Patriot fan.”
Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts
Education: BA, Communications; Minor in Faith, Peace, and Justice, Boston College
Master in Public Management, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
Known around the office for: Her love of cookies and food trucks
Recognized by: Her fierce haircut and funky earrings
As a college freshman, Jody was pretty clear about what she wanted to become upon graduation: “A Sportscaster!” She felt there were too few women sportscasters and wanted to upset that inequality. Plus, she always had a thing for sports. Need evidence? When in the office, she drinks from a plastic University of North Carolina Tarheels basketball cup, a token of her high school years spent in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The move to social justice policy began during Jody’s sophomore year, when she mentored a youth from Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far geographically from Newton where Jody grew up. Yet, the difference in access and privilege between his neighborhood and the one where she grew up was stark; Jody found herself troubled. Her awareness of the impact of race and class deepened when she studied abroad for a semester in South Africa and volunteered in a day care center for neglected youth. It was in a section of the city rarely traversed by either the local upper class or foreign visitors.
And during her service year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Los Angeles immediately following her graduation from Boston College, Jody realized she would have a career in advocacy. She began volunteering in the Los Angeles juvenile hall. She watched as children were brought into the chapel, in line, chained at the waist and led by guards. “It was a completely dehumanizing experience, but they had sweet young faces,” she remembers. “It was a completely life changing experience.”
When her service year was over, Jody went on to work for the ACLU of California; while there, she spent three years monitoring the LA county jails. She then moved on to the National Prison Project of the ACLU in Washington, D.C. as the public policy coordinator. In 2009, she became the first staff member at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.
Under Jody’s leadership, the CFSY has grown to a staff of 11 that serves as a national leader and convener and provides strategic guidance on communications, litigation and advocacy to attorneys, advocates, directly impacted individuals and others working at the state and federal levels.
Jody has coordinated the national advocacy campaign leading up to and following two U.S Supreme Court rulings that limit the use of life without parole for children. The Court ruled in 2010 that it is unconstitutional to impose such sentences in non-homicide crimes. In 2012’s Miller v. Alabama, the Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children are a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In fall 2015, the Court heard arguments in Montgomery v. Louisiana, which could determine whether Miller will be applied retroactively.
As executive director, Jody leads the engagement of a broad coalition of national organizations opposed to the use of this extreme sentence. Under her leadership, the CFSY has also raised the visibility of people directly impacted by this issue and harnessed the energy of a growing number of policy makers, editorial boards and public opinion leaders.
Jody acknowledges that advocacy work can be long and difficult. The people she has met through this work and the rest of her life experiences keep her motivated and inspired. The child whom she mentored all the way back at Boston College? His photograph is one of many on her desk.
Jody is married and is the mother of three children.