Announcing 2021-22 Human Rights Lab Graduate Fellow and Mass Incarceration BA Thesis Mentors!

Congratulations to Orlando Mayorga, the Lab’s 2021-22 Graduate Fellow. A graduate student in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, Orlando is a justice impacted restorative justice practitioner who currently serves the Office of the Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton's Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative as the McCormick Reentry Policy Coordinator. We are excited to welcome Orlando as part of the Lab’s student team. 

This year, four doctoral students -- Daniel Epstein, David Knight, Alyssa Smith, and Durrell Washington -- are serving as mentors to students in the Lab’s BA Thesis Fellowship program. This unique fellowship supports fourth-year students whose BA theses are focused on an aspect of the carceral system. Mentors are paired with two to three fellows to support students’ research and writing processes over the course of the school year.

Human Rights Lab Graduate Fellow | Orlando Mayorga (pronouns) 
Orlando Mayorga is a justice-impacted person whose 20 years of incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections informs his passion to stop mass incarceration. He is a Restorative Justice practitioner who values the humanity in all people and works to support healing for people who carry the trauma of incarceration. His mission in life is to end mass incarceration and to dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline. 

He currently serves the Office of the Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton's Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative as the McCormick Reentry Policy Coordinator Fellow. In his previous role as Program Manager and Director of Reentry, Orlando served to build a framework for holistic reentry services that are trauma-informed and restorative at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. He is a co-founder of the People's Liberty Project, led by directly justice-impacted women and men, focused on creating spaces for healing and drafting restorative/transformative justice policy frameworks that support healing for communities and people. Orlando is a current student in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice where he continues to learn how to be a better servant to the beloved community.

Mass Incarceration BA Thesis Mentor | Daniel Epstein (he/him/his) 
Daniel Epstein is a PhD student in political science, specializing in political theory. His interests include restorative justice and prison abolition; relationships between politics, ethics, and law; 20th century social and political thought; phenomenology; and the politics of time. During the 2020-2021 academic year, Daniel completed a Master of Legal Studies degree at the University of Chicago Law School.

Mass Incarceration BA Thesis Mentor | David J. Knight (he/they) 
David J. Knight is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. At the Pozen Center, David has supported the Human Rights Lab’s mixed enrollment course, “Narrating Social Change,” as a TA, in addition to teaching the course with students at Stateville prison in the summer of 2020. As Human Rights Fellow with the Lab and Mass Incarceration Working Group, David also supported the Incarceration and Justice course and curated the teach-in series entitled “More Beautiful and More Terrible: Prison Organizing and Abolition in Unsettled Times” this past year as part of a community response to COVID-19 in carceral facilities. His current research sits at the intersection between mass incarceration, race and ethnicity, and social movements, with a focus on how imprisonment shapes Black political thought and engagement.

Mass Incarceration BA Thesis Mentor | Alyssa Smith (she/her/hers)
Alyssa Smith is a public-facing historian specializing in United States histories of violence, emotion, memory, and culture, with a strong political commitment to PIC abolition, anti-violence work, and transformative justice.  Alyssa is a doctoral candidate in History and Hanna Holborn Gray Dissertation Fellow whose research and writing explore histories of violence in popular culture.  Her dissertation project traces cases of spectacle murder in California, and the carceral responses they produced, to the formation of the modern “true crime” genre in the United States. Originally from North Carolina, she earned her BA in History from the University of Maryland.  Before graduate school, she worked as a researcher at the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C.; as a community programs fellow at Cultural Tourism DC; and as a full-time retail manager, where she first began to think critically about crime, labor, and policing.  While finishing her dissertation and pursuing a career as a freelance historian, she is also currently working for the international human rights organization Forensic Architecture to identify, map, and contextualize individual instances of police violence at the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Mass Incarceration BA Thesis Mentor | Durrell Malik Washington, Sr. (he/him/his) 
Durrell Malik Washington is a PhD candidate in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago. At the Pozen Center, Durrell supports the Lab and the Mass Incarceration Working Group. 

Originally from the Bronx N.Y., a former clinician and policy analyst, Durrell’s practice experience has involved providing direct outpatient services to formerly incarcerated men during their reintegration back into society. He has also worked in the juvenile legal policy arena, developing policy initiatives aimed at reducing the use of youth prisons around the country.  Durrell teaches courses related to Abolition: Race, Crime and Justice, the Sociology of Race and Human Behavior in the social environment.  His research interest lies at the intersections between P.I.C. Abolition, Juvenile Incarceration, Neighborhoods, and Families. His Dissertation is a multi-method study investigating the impact of juvenile incarceration on Black Families in Illinois. Durrell currently supports ongoing qualitative research evaluating the impact of violence prevention organizations on reducing violence in Chicago.  He received his M.S.W from Columbia University in 2018 with a concentration in Policy and Contemporary Social Issues.