Human Rights Defense Center Staff
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, including litigation support as a paralegal. 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 privately-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 is based out of Nashville, Tennessee. His CV is available here.
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 & Litigation Director: Sabarish Neelakanta
Sabarish Neelakanta ("Sab") is an accomplished trial lawyer having litigated more than 50 jury trials and dozens of appeals in state and federal courts throughout the United States. As a former public defender and in private practice, he has represented hundreds of clients facing capital and life felonies, and has been trial counsel for several high-profile criminal cases in South Florida. Sab has lectured on countless criminal justice issues and has been invited to speak at universities, bar associations, and CLEs across the country on prison condition issues, the First Amendment, and obtaining federal court injunctions against jails, prisons and government agencies.
As General Counsel and Litigation Director at HRDC, Sab has been lead counsel on civil rights cases in federal courts in over 15 states, secured injunctions against state and privately run correctional facilities, as well as statewide departments of corrections, and has been at the frontier of litigation concerning the First Amendment rights of prisoners and their correspondents resulting in numerous published opinions. Cooperating with advocacy organizations like the ACLU, and some of the top law firms in the country, Sab and the litigation team at HRDC have been working to expose the many constitutional violations experienced by prisoners and holding both government and private actors engaged in these practices accountable.
Prior to joining HRDC, Sab was the Advocacy Director for the Inter-American Center for Human Rights, a researcher with the U.S. Committee for Refugees in Washington, D.C., an activist and a writer. He is an active member of the Trial and Public Interest Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar, the National Lawyers Guild, and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Craig S. Barnard, American Inns of Court. He is admitted to practice law in all Florida state courts, the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Northern Districts of Florida, the District of Columbia, the Eastern District of Michigan, the Central District of Illinois, the District of New Mexico, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Sab holds a B.A. from Florida Atlantic University, an M.A. from the George Washington University, a J.D. from Nova Southeastern University, and graduated from the foreign language/studies programs at the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. and Kansai University in Osaka, Japan. Sab is fluent in English and Tamil, and has professional fluency in Japanese.
Social Media Director: Monte McCoin
Monte McCoin joined HRDC in 2010 as a part-time proofreading and copy assistant in support of the print edition of Prison Legal News. She now serves as HRDC’s social media director, which includes social media management, e-newsletter editing and production, news gathering and journalism. She is a 2014 graduate of Volunteer State Community College with an A.S. in Criminal Justice, and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Tennessee State University. She supports HRDC’s Nashville office.
Advertising Coordinator/Office Manager: Judith Cohen
After graduating with a BA in English and secondary education, Judith joined the staff at MacMillan Publishing, writing the first dictionary aimed specifically at the high school level. She then moved to the editorial department at Booz, Allen, Hamilton management consultants, where she prepared top-security government reports for publication. Judith also worked at a New York law firm and spent many years in fund raising, and later in the IT field, before joining HRDC as the organization's Office Manager in June 2013.
Customer Service Assistant: Frances Sauceda
Frances Sauceda joined the Human Rights Defense Center in 2013 as an Office Assistant. She was born and raised in Lake Worth, Florida and her prior employment positions included researcher/supervisor at Bankrate.com and office manager for American Life & Health Group.
Prison Phone Justice Director: Carrie Wilkinson
Carrie Wilkinson joined the Human Rights Defense Center in January 2014 to reopen our Seattle office and start up the Washington Prison Phone Justice Campaign. Carrie was a Senior Litigation Paralegal with the civil rights firm of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, where she worked for nearly 20 years prior to joining HRDC. She was lead paralegal on several PLN censorship cases, including Prison Legal News v. Lehman, 397 F.3d 692 (9th Cir. 2005) and Prison Legal News v. Columbia County, 942 F.Supp.2d 1068 (D. Or. 2013). As HRDC’s Senior Litigation Paralegal she also participates in the development and implementation of new litigation processes and procedures as well as high-level casework.
Office Assistant: Robert Pew
Robert Pew joined the Human Rights Defense Center in June 2015 as an office assistant. Robert was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and resided much of his adult years in North Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked in retail/customer service and later joined the U.S. Army as a (92F) Petroleum Supply Specialist. He's currently attending Florida Career College pursuing an Associate's Degree in Information Technology.
Special Projects Coordinator: Panagioti Tsolkas
Panagioti Tsolkas joined the Human Rights Defense Center in November 2014, coordinating community outreach efforts and volunteer involvement. He also directs HRDC's Stop Prison Profiteering campaign, aimed at addressing prison services that financially exploit prisoners and their families, as well as HRDC's Prison Ecology Project, which maps the connections between mass incarceration and environmental degredation. Prior to working at HRDC, Panagioti was an editor for the Earth First! Journal. He also served as chairperson for the City of Lake Worth's Community Relations Board (tasked primarily with oversight of police conduct), as co-chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and as an Executive Committee member of the Sierra Club's Loxahatchee Group.
Paralegal: Kathy Moses
Kathy Moses joined the Human Rights Defense Center as a paralegal in June 2016. Kathy is a graduate of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and holds a BS degree in Journalism. She also earned an A.S. Degree in Paralegal Studies from Palm Beach State College. She has worked as an office manager, legal secretary and copy editor. Originally from the Boston area, Kathy has called South Florida home for over 30 years.
Staff Attorney: Masimba Mutamba
Masimba Mutamba is HRDC's inaugural William A. Trine fellow and an HRDC staff attorney who works on civil rights matters. Masimba graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law, where he was an associate editor of the University of Miami International & Comparative Law Review. In addition, Masimba participated in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court competition where he received a Best Oralist award. He further competed on behalf of the law school in the Willem C. Vis International Arbitration competition in Vienna. Masimba obtained a Master of Laws (LLM) degree, with distinction, from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Prior to joining HRDC, Masimba litigated complex real estate cases on behalf of Fortune 500 financial institutions and a nationwide mortgage servicer. He handled matters in various state and federal courts and at both the trial and appellate level. Further, Masimba represented individuals against municipal police departments in civil rights actions and represented the rights of a student in an administrative proceeding against a school board under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More recently, he worked at a full-service immigration law firm representing clients across the country in lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its attendant immigration agencies, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In that position, Masimba handled complex family and business immigration matters consisting of administrative appeals, federal court lawsuits based on administrative immigration decisions, as well as immigration appeals before the Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida and is admitted to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court of Colorado, and the U.S. Middle and Southern District Courts of Florida. Masimba is an active member of the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association, the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion of the Palm Beach Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Section of the Palm Beach Bar Association.
Online Communications Director: Michelle Dillon
Michelle joined HRDC in March 2017 as the Director of Online Communications. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2013 with a master’s degree in library and information sciences. Her thesis was conducted with Seattle-based nonprofit Books to Prisoners and, after graduation, Michelle became Books to Prisoners’ inaugural program coordinator. This work kept her in frequent contact with prison mail rooms over book rejections and ignited a passion for facilitating and defending access to reading materials. In 2015, this work was recognized with a Human Rights Award for Books to Prisoners from the City of Seattle. Michelle additionally holds a master’s degree in anthropology (focus: evolutionary anthropology) and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.
Staff Attorney: Daniel Marshall
Daniel Marshall is an expert in criminal law, having defended over a thousand criminal cases, including dozens of jury trials. He is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law by the Florida Bar – a distinction held by only 7% of all Florida Bar members. Dan has focused his legal career advocating for criminal justice reform and its impact on prisoners, their families and the community. He has lectured on numerous issues, including Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, medical marijuana and issues concerning the elderly and criminal law, as well giving presentations in a number of schools in the community.
After earning his J.D. degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, Dan worked at the Office of the Public Defender in West Palm Beach, Florida for nearly nine years handling felonies, misdemeanors, juvenile delinquency and appellate cases. He was the Division Chief of a felony division for several years before becoming the County Court Resource Director, in charge of training more than two dozen new attorneys in the office. After leaving the Public Defender’s Office, Dan went into private practice focusing on criminal defense and civil litigation.
Dan is admitted to practice in all Florida state courts, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He is also a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Police Accountability Project. In a prior life, Dan worked as a spacecraft engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD as part of the team that controlled one of NASA’s science satellites. He graduated cum laude from Colgate University with a B.A. in physics and astronomy.