Ryan P. Haygood, Esq.
President and CEO
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 23
Ryan Haygood is a nationally-respected civil rights lawyer. He became the third president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in 2015.
In this role, Ryan leverages his national legal expertise to advance the Institute’s work in empowering New Jersey’s urban communities where residents are connected to full-time, meaningful jobs, have access to affordable housing, credit, and the democratic process, and are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
Prior to leading the Institute, Ryan served as the deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. (LDF), where he worked for more than a decade. At LDF, Haygood litigated some of the most important civil rights cases of our time. In two of those cases, he defended a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as one of the nation’s greatest pieces of civil rights legislation, before the United States Supreme Court.
A passionate advocate, Ryan speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law, social justice, and democracy. He is frequently interviewed by media outlets, including: the Star Ledger, WBGO, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and the New York Times. Prior to joining LDF, Ryan was a litigation associate in the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, and was a recipient of the prestigious LDF/Fried Frank Fellowship. At Fried, Frank, Ryan represented clients in a variety of complex commercial and civil rights matters before federal courts.
Ryan received his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law and B.A. in American History and Political Science cum laude from Colorado College, where he was nominated for the Rhodes scholarship and earned academic and athletic All-American and hall of fame honors as a football player. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Colorado College in 2011.
Click here to read Ryan's work.
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 27
Teresa Brown is the Administrative Director for the Institute. Before joining the Institute, Teresa worked for various major law firms, managing legal support services, training and information technology globally in the US, European and Asian offices. Teresa has extensive legal management experience; she introduced and implemented process innovation and best practices across multiple service departments, increasing efficiency, productivity, and profitability margins. Teresa is a Leadership Newark Fellow, Class of 2016. Teresa holds an AS in Business Management & Economics from SUNY Empire State College and a BA in Business Administration & Management (Concentration in Organizational Leadership) from Pillar College. She also has certificates in Business Analysis and Project Management.
Chief Operating Officer
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 16
Demelza Baer, Esq.
Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 32
Demelza Baer is Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Demelza is the author of the groundbreaking report, Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond, which has been cited in the New York Times and The Guardian. Her writing on racial and economic justice has been published in the Star Ledger, Asbury Park Press, and Next City.
She previously worked as a Policy Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she worked on racial justice, women’s rights, disability rights, human rights, and criminal justice reform through advocacy before the U.S. Congress and Administrative Agencies. Before working at the ACLU, Demelza served as an Assistant Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where she worked both on civil rights issues for the Subcommittee on the Constitution and on oversight for the full Committee. Demelza also served as an appellate law clerk for the Honorable Maria M. Cabret of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, and before attending law school, as a researcher at the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute. She received her LL.M. from Columbia Law School, graduating as a James Kent Scholar. Demelza received a Dean’s Scholarship to attend Tulane Law School, where she graduated with her J.D. magna cum laude. During law school, Demelza served as the Chief Justice of the Moot Court Board and as a member of the Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property. She graduated from Northwestern University with her B.A., double-majoring and receiving Honors in both Political Science and Sociology.
Click here to read Demelza work.
Andrea McChristian, Esq.
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 35
Andrea McChristian is Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice ("NJISJ"). Andrea is the primary author of Bring Our Children Home: Ain't I A Child, which forms the basis of the 150 Years is Enough campaign. Andrea's writing on juvenile justice and racial justice has been published in the Star Ledger, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, and NJ Spotlight.
Before joining the Institute, Andrea served as a litigation associate at the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson ("Fried Frank"). During her time at Fried Frank, Andrea worked on complex commercial litigation and pro bono cases.
Andrea is a 2008 graduate of Yale University, graduating with distinction in the major of Political Science. At Yale, Andrea served as co-President of the Yale NAACP, co-reactivating the chapter after a years-long absence from campus. After graduation, Andrea joined Teach for America, teaching Head Start for two years in the Las Vegas Valley. Andrea then attended Columbia Law School where she participated in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, interned in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the law school's Human Rights Internship Program, and interned at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 2013 as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Andrea clerked for Chief Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Click here to read Andrea's work.
Associate Counsel and Debevoise Legal Fellow
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 30
Scott Novakowski is Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Institute’s inaugural Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow. Scott is the primary author of We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote, a report on New Jersey's disfranchisement law. Scott is leading the Institute's campaign to restore voting rights to people on parole, probation, or in prison for a felony. Scott's writing on voting rights and racial justice has been published in the Star Ledger, NJ Spotlight, and the Asbury Park Press.
Before joining the Institute, Scott was a voting rights attorney at the New York-based policy organization Demos working to eliminate barriers to civic participation faced by low-income communities and people of color. Through advocacy and litigation, his work at Demos focused primarily on enforcing the National Voter Registration Act, a federal law that requires voter registration services to be provided by state public assistance agencies and departments of motor vehicles, and protecting voters from being unlawfully removed from the registration rolls.
Prior to law school, Scott was a Policy Analyst at Demos for five years, performing data analysis and writing reports and articles on various aspects of voting rights. While in law school, Scott worked with the Innocence Project and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and served as Submissions Editor of the Cardozo Law Review. Scott holds a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a M.S.W. and B.A., both from the University of Connecticut.
Click here to read Scott's work.
Phone: (973) 624-9400 Ext. 20
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg is the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Prior to joining the Institute, she was the Communications Manager for the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. From 2007 to 2015 she worked as a Case Analyst for the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongly convicted. As a Case Analyst she was tasked with reviewing requests for assistance from those seeking representation. For cases that she determined warranted an in-depth investigation, Weill-Greenberg reviewed trial transcripts, police reports, lab reports, and corresponded extensively with the person seeking help. She then synthesized information from these disparate sources to create a new narrative of the case that had not yet been written--about how the person may be innocent, and how it could be proven with DNA testing. Weill-Greenberg’s work has been instrumental in countless people becoming clients, and several exonerations.
Over the course of her career at the Innocence Project, Weill-Greenberg trained staff and law students on the Innocence Project's screening process; mentored new Case Analysts; and instituted new systems to make the intake processes more compassionate and responsive to those seeking help.
She is a Part-Time Lecturer at Rutgers University-New Brunswick at the Program in Criminal Justice. She earned her Master’s degree at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and her Bachelor's degree at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Phone: (973) 624-9400 ext. 25
Jeanette Tindel is the Human Resources and Benefits Administrator for the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Jeanette worked for corporate organizations in Banking, Global Shipping, and Financial Services. As a member of Society for Human Resources Management, Jeanette leverages a broad and diverse knowledge base of current and topical Human Resources and Benefits issues, across multiple industries.
Retha Onitiri, PMP
Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 19
Retha Onitiri is the Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The campaign, called 150 Years is Enough, seeks to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care by closing two youth prisons -- the New Jersey Training School for Boys ("Jamesburg") and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility ("Hayes") -- and investing in community-based programs.
Retha also leads New Jersey Communities Forward (NJCF), an Initiative focused on building a coalition for change on issues of criminal justice, economic mobility, and civic engagement. NJCF is the community outreach arm of NJISJ established to develop local leadership teams in major cities across New Jersey, host community forums, and identify issues and community-based solutions.
Prior to joining NJISJ, Retha worked in the private sector and was responsible for Readiness Project Management of complex telecommunications High Leverage Networks and Services, Training and Skills Development projects for a Software Integration organization, and Supply Chain North American Operations for Internet Protocol (IP) Platform products at Alcatel-Lucent. Retha is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has a Masters of Science Degree in Management from Stevens Institute of Technology.
James Williams IV
Juvenile Justice Field Organizer
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 38
James Williams IV is the Juvenile Justice Field Organizer. James is a frequent speaker at community events throughout the state.
Before joining the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, he worked for the United States Air Force with their Family Advocacy Program at Good fellow Air Force Base and Kirtland Air Force Base. Prior to that position he worked primarily in higher education for Fayetteville State University, Troy University, Brown Mackie College and Park University. He has worked with police departments, military installations and community organizations on a variety of issues including, Community Policing, Juvenile Justice, and Police Procedures. James obtained his Bachelors of Science in Psychology and Masters of Science in Criminal Justice from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and other fraternal organizations.
Democracy and Justice Fellow
Phone: 973-624-9400 Ext. 24
Ron Pierce is the inaugural Democracy and Justice Fellow at the Institute.
The Fellowship, which is awarded to an advocate who has been formerly incarcerated, focuses on restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions. Ron is a frequent commentator and lecturer on issues related to voting rights, reentry, and the human rights of the incarcerated. His writing has been published in NJ Spotlight and Truth Out. Ron graduated from Rutgers University-Newark Summa Cum Laude in 2018 and was a recipient of the Vera Institute Scholarship.
Trustee Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow
Phone: 973-624-9400 Ext. 38
Brooke is the Trustee Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Throughout law school, Brooke gained significant experience working in public interest law, with a particular focus on areas related to criminal justice. As a certified legal intern at the Rutgers Children’s Justice Clinic, she represented New Jersey children facing delinquency charges in Camden’s juvenile court and provided post-disposition representation to youth at several of New Jersey’s secure facilities. In addition to working as a legal intern at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and in the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
As a graduate of the Rutgers B.A./J.D. Dual-Degree Program, Brooke received a B.A. in Political Science Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University—Camden, and a J.D. and Certificate in Criminal Law & Procedure Cum Laude from Rutgers Law School. Following graduation, Brooke served as a law clerk in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Patricia D. Williamson
New Jersey Counts Project Director
Phone: 973-624-9400 Ext. 26
Patricia D. Williamson is the New Jersey Counts Project Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Patricia will be leading the Institute’s work to ensure that is a complete and accurate count of New Jersey’s urban communities in the 2020 Census.
Patricia is a Diamond Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, where she is currently the New Jersey Coordinator for the Eastern Region Social Action Committee. As the State Social Action Coordinator, Patricia leads the advocacy arm of the New Jersey-based sorority chapters.
Prior to this position, Patricia worked for over 20 years as a systems engineer in the optical networking field. She is also an adjunct professor at Bloomfield College.
Patricia is a lifelong resident of Central New Jersey. She earned a BA in Mathematics from Hampton University, an MS in Computer Science from Howard University, and an MA in Education and Human Development in the Educational Technology Leadership Program at George Washington University.