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 America's 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; a 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Public Interest Service Award from the City of New York Law School; the 2017 recipient of the Julio Medina Freedom Award from Citizens Against Recidivism; and a 2017 recipient of a New York City Council Citation. He serves as the National Vice President of the National Police Accountability Project.
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 M.A. 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 litigation director at HRDC, Sab has been lead counsel on civil rights cases in over 15 states, secured injunctions against government entities, privately run correctional facilities, and 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 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. Sab has been a frequent lecturer at universities, bar associations, and CLEs on prisoner rights and criminal justice issues, public records litigation, and First Amendment law.
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., a public defender, an activist and a writer. Sab was inducted into the Order of Barristers for excellence in trial advocacy in 2006, and received the Best Advocate Award by the Florida Public Defender Association in 2007. He is an active member of the Trial and Public Interest Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar and the National Police Accountability Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Sab currently sits on the advisory board for the Prison Ecology Project, which seeks to investigate the ways in which mass incarceration degrades the natural environment and the human health of those inside or nearby prisons and jails. He also previously served on the Board of Trustees for the Craig S. Barnard, American Inns of Court. Sab 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 Colorado; the District of New Mexico, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth and the Eleventh Circuits, 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 Tamil and has professional fluency in Japanese.
Advertising Coordinator: 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.
Office Manager: 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.
Legal 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 has obtained an associate's degree in information technology from Florida Career College.
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.
Senior Litigation 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 B.S. degree in journalism. She also earned an A.S. in paralegal studies and an A.A. from Palm Beach State College. She has worked as an office manager, legal secretary, and copy editor. Kathy has been instrumental in managing HRDC's federal cases around the country and lending assistance to attorneys from pre-suit investigation and discovery through summary judgment and trial. 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 competed in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court competition where he received a Best Oralist award and, further, 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. Furthermore, 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.
Masimba is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida and is admitted, among other federal courts, to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida. He is a Florida Bar Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates and is a member of the Florida Bar's Standing Committee on Media & Communications Law. In his local legal community, Masimba is an Executive Board member of the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association, a member of the standing Committee for Diversity and Inclusion of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Section of the Palm Beach County Bar Association.
Public Records Manager/Development Coordinator: Michelle Dillon
Michelle joined HRDC in March 2017. 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 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. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, and the U.S. District Court for New Mexico. 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.
Office Assistant: Latoria Bowers
Latoria Bowers originally grew up in Kentucky and has been living in Florida for many years. She came to the Human Rights Defense Center with a 10-year background in child care; she attended Palm Beach State College and went to Medvance for medical assisting training.
CLN Managing Editor: Richard Resch
Richard Resch is the managing editor of Criminal Legal News. Prior to joining the Human Rights Defense Center, he spent nearly a decade researching and writing about legal issues involving individual rights and liberties, free speech, and government accountability. Earlier in his professional career, he held various positions in higher education publishing with Thomson Learning and Pearson Education. Richard has a diverse legal background as well. He worked at Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as an international corporate tax attorney. Additionally, he has experience with immigration law while working at an immigration law firm located in New York City's Chinatown. He also spent time in New York City Family Court, where he worked on child-protective proceedings involving abused or neglected children. He earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from New York Law School, his LL. M. (taxation) from New York University School of Law, and his B.A. from Florida Atlantic University. He served as notes and comments editor on the New York Law School Law Review.
Staff Attorney: Deborah Golden
Deborah Golden joined HRDC in September 2017, as the first staff attorney in our Washington, D.C. office. She is a national expert in prisoner human rights litigation against the federal Bureau of Prisons. She most recently served as the Director of the D.C. Prisoners' Project of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, where she focused on litigation about mental health care, sexual assault and disability rights. She has taught courses in prisoner rights at the University of Virginia School of Law and Georgetown University.
Before her focus on prisoner human rights, Deb was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, representing survivors of domestic violence.
She received her J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, and received a B.A. with high distinction and honors in Russian and a B.S. with distinction and honors in physics from Pennsylvania State University.
Deb is the author of several legal publications, including The Federal Bureau of Prisons: Willfully Ignorant or Maliciously Unlawful?, 18 Michigan Journal of Race and Law 275 (2013); Looking Behind the Locked Door: Prison Law Reform Proposals for the New Administration, 3 Harvard Law & Policy Review Online 1 (2008); and The Prison Litigation Reform Act - A Proposal for Closing the Loophole for Rapists, 1 Advance: The Journal of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Issue Groups 95 (2007).
In 2011, the National LGBT Bar Association named her one of the 40 best LGBT lawyers under 40. She is admitted to the bars of the District of Columbia and Kentucky; the U.S. District Courts of Colorado, District of Columbia, Eastern District of Kentucky and Maryland; and the U.S. Courts of Appeals of the District of Columbia and the Third Circuit.
Office Assistant: Shauna Coolican
Shauna Coolican is a graduate of Wells College and holds a B.A. in history and public policy. A former homeschool mom, she started her career at the Human Rights Defense Center as an enthusiastic volunteer, specializing in volume mailings. Originally from Syracuse, New York, she is surprised to find she has lived in Palm Beach County, Florida for over 30 years.
Editorial Assistant: Betty Nelander
Betty joined HRDC after a career in the newspaper business, most recently as a copy editor, religion columnist and editorial writer for the Palm Beach Daily News. A longtime Palm Beach County resident, she has volunteered for The Lord's Place, which works to break the cycle of homelessness, and at group homes for adults with special needs. Betty is also secretary for her neighborhood association. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Office Assistant: Alexis Montag
Originally from Jersey City, NJ, Alexis moved to South Florida nine years ago. Her young son, Cayden, is her inspiration. Alexis has her Associates Degree in business and is on her way to completing her Bachelor of Arts. One day she will open her own business. Alexis is happy to be working at HRDC: “Here I feel I can have a positive impact on people’s lives. My brother has inspired me to want to help those who are not given their rights fairly.”
Social Media Specialist: Julia Ragsdale
Julia Ragsdale is the Human Rights Defense Center’s social media specialist. She first came to HRDC as an intern in 2018, and soon joined their staff. She is a senior at the University of Washington in Seattle studying Law, Societies, and Justice with a minor in Human Rights. Julia has long been interested in criminal justice reform and prisoners' rights, an interest sparked by an internship she completed for a prisoners' rights non-profit based in Sydney, Australia. She is also familiar with the issues faced by prisoners in the United States, having taken a class side-by-side with prisoners at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington State. While at HRDC, Julia will be managing all of the social media pages as well as assisting in fundraising efforts and outreach.