Human Rights Defense Center Staff Members
Executive Director: Paul Wright
Paul Wright is the founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center. He is also editor of Prison Legal News (PLN), the longest-running independent prisoner rights publication in U.S. history. He has co-authored three PLN anthologies, The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry (Common Courage, 1998); Prison Nation: The Warehousing of Americas Poor (Routledge, 2003); and Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Imprisonment (New Press, 2008). His articles have appeared in over 80 publications, ranging from Counterpunch to USA Today.A former prisoner, Paul was imprisoned for 17 years in Washington state until his release in 2003. During and since his incarceration he has successfully litigated a wide variety of censorship and public records cases against prison systems around the country, both as a pro se plaintiff and on behalf of PLN. Paul is a former military policeman, a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in Soviet History, and the former National Lawyers Guild Jailhouse Lawyer co-vice president (1995-2008). He is a 2005 Petra Fellow, the Freedom Fighter of the Month for High Times magazine in July 2006, a 2007 recipient of the James Madison Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government, the 2008 inaugural recipient of the National Lawyers Guild's Arthur Kinoy award, and a 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Public Interest Service Award from the City of New York Law School.
Associate Director: Alex Friedmann
Alex Friedmann is the associate director of HRDC and managing editor of Prison Legal News. He is responsible for news research, investigative research, editing, advocacy campaigns and other tasks. He also serves in a volunteer capacity as president of the non-profit Private Corrections Institute and is a national expert on the issue of prison privatization. He has testified before a Congressional subcommittee and legislative committees in two states on criminal justice-related issues, and has spoken at numerous conferences and other events -- including Critical Resistance, the National Lawyers Guild, the Children Defense Fund's annual conference, a Congressional caucus meeting and a Congressional briefing. Alex served 10 years in prisons and jails in Tennessee, including six years at a private-operated CCA facility. While incarcerated he litigated his own cases in state and federal court; served as the resources editor of Prison Life magazine, a national publication; self-published the Private Corrections Industry News Bulletin; and founded and directed a non-profit prisoner organization called The Pledge Program. He manages HRDC's southeast office in Nashville, Tennessee and serves on the board of Reconciliation, a non-profit that advocates for prisoners' families and children.
Chief Finance Officer: Susan Schwartzkopf
Susan Schwartzkopf is HRDC's chief finance officer. She is also the advertising director for Prison Legal News and editor-in-chief for Prison Legal News Publishing. Susan is a graduate of Indiana University and holds an MA degree in English from the School of International Training. She taught English as a Second Language for 12 years to adult immigrants at the Center for New Americans in Greenfield, Massachusetts before joining HRDC in 2007.
General Counsel and Litigation Project Director: Lance Weber
Lance Weber is HRDC's general counsel and director of HRDC's Litigation Project. A 1994 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Lance attended law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1997. He was subsequently admitted to practice in the states of Kansas, New Hampshire and Vermont, and the U.S. District Courts for the Western District of Missouri, the District of Kansas, the Eastern District of Michigan and the Northern District of Florida. He has been a speaker at Continuing Legal Education seminars since 1999.
Litigation Project Staff Attorney: Alissa Hull
Alissa Hull, staff attorney for HRDC's Litigation Project, is also co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Prison Law Project and a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law. Prior to joining HRDC she was a law clerk for indigent criminal defense attorneys in New York City and interned with the Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights. She was a founding collective member of the Young Women's Empowerment Project in Chicago and currently serves on that organization's board. She is a member of the New York, New Jersey and Florida bars.
Office Manager: Dennis Curran
Dennis Curran, HRDC's office manager, was hired as a full-time employee in 2010. He previously volunteered for UVM Extension 4-H Brattleboro Branch as a computer specialist from 2005 to 2008, and has also volunteered for AmeriCorps. Dennis has over 10 years of computer experience and Certificates of Mastery in Windows 7 installing, upgrading, monitoring, maintaining and mobile computing.
Research/Assistant Editor: Julia Etter
Julia Etter is a research associate and assistant editor. She has worked for HRDC as a volunteer and staff member for over two years; she previously worked in restorative justice and obtained an undergraduate degree in International Studies from UNC Chapel Hill. Julias interests focus on the intersection of veterans and the criminal justice system, and the continued struggle of indigenous people to reclaim stolen land and culture.
Paralegal: Zach Phillips
Zach Phillips is a paralegal who assists HRDC's legal staff. He coordinates outreach mailings, manages legal correspondence and helps with the preparation of litigation. Zach began working for HRDC in 2009 as a volunteer before coming on board as a full-time employee.
Paralegal/Research Associate: Mel Motel
Mel Motel works as a paralegal and research associate, with a focus on the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice. She holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in Social Justice Teaching from Marlboro Graduate School. In addition to her work at HRDC, Mel is involved with Vermont Action for Political Prisoners and the Criminal Justice Initiative, a cross-class activist/donor circle that funds grassroots criminal justice work.