PJIL is led by Michele Deitch, Director, and Alycia Welch, Associate Director, who have been in the arena working on criminal justice reform initiatives for a combined 55 years, impacting policy, practice, and public perception to expand correctional oversight and improve the treatment of people in custody.
J.D., M.Sc., Distinguished Senior LecturerLBJ School of Public Affairs, UT School of LawPJIL Director
An attorney and national thought leader with more than 35 years of experience working on criminal justice and juvenile justice policy issues with state and local government officials, corrections administrators, judges, and advocates, Michele holds a joint appointment as a distinguished senior lecturer at the LBJ School and UT School of Law. Her areas of specialty include independent oversight of correctional institutions, prison and jail safety issues, the management of youth in custody, and juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. Before entering academia, she served as a federal court-appointed monitor of conditions in the Texas prison system, as General Counsel to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, as policy director for Texas’s sentencing commission, and as a consultant to justice system agencies around the country. She has won numerous teaching awards, including being named to the 2019 Texas Ten List of the most inspiring professors at the University of Texas at Austin; has been a Soros Senior Justice Fellow; and is the recipient of the 2019 Flame Award for the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) for her significant contributions to corrections oversight. She holds degrees from Amherst College, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School.
M.P.Aff., M.S.S.W.PJIL Associate Director
Alycia’s research focuses on the safe and humane treatment of people in custody, with a particular focus on women and individuals living with behavioral health challenges. She has nearly 20 years of experience managing multipartner projects reforming the justice and behavioral health systems. She directed a transitional housing program for women exiting prison or jail, developed an alternative to incarceration program for young adults, oversaw a multistate, federally funded initiative providing training and technical assistance on behavioral health and criminal justice issues, and designed multiple studies assessing the impact of community-based programs on those who are justice-involved. The recipient of several national policy research awards, Alycia served as policy analyst for two members of the Texas House of Representatives and has authored numerous reports for state and local government officials, corrections administrators, and advocates that have been selected for inclusion in several publications and featured in major national news outlets. Alycia is a proud alum of the LBJ School, where she received her Master of Public Affairs while simultaneously earning her Master of Science in Social Work at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan.
M.A.Research Analyst/Project Manager
Ana is a research analyst and project manager at PJIL. She works on several PJIL initiatives, including managing the Louisiana Jail Standards project and supporting the development of the National Resource Center for Correctional Oversight. Prior to joining PJIL, Ana worked at the Board of Correction, a civilian oversight body that monitors and regulates conditions of confinement in New York City jails. At the Board, Ana designed monitoring and evaluation systems to assess the Department of Correction’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, use of restrictive housing units, and young adult housing strategy. Before becoming an oversight practitioner, Ana worked as a program manager at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, a non- profit organization that provides free art and comedy classes to veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University.
PJIL’s team of enthusiastic and talented graduate student assistants have a strong background in and commitment to criminal justice policy reform. Graduate student assistants participate in collaborative research and help advance PJIL’s project portfolio.
Benny Hernandez III is pursuing his Master’s in Public Affairs with a focus on correctional oversight and urban and state affairs. He has substantial public policy experience on the international, national, and local levels of government, working with the Houston Mayor’s Office on gang issues and with the Texas Civil Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition on criminal justice reform.
Benny brings his mass incarceration lived-experience to PJIL. Benny’s parents cycled in and out of prison when Benny was a child, and he became homeless and dropped out of school. He developed a substance use issue, leading to his own incarceration in a youth prison in Texas, and later, in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He knew that education was the key to escaping a downward spiral, so he earned his associate and bachelor degrees, graduating summa cum laude, while serving ten years in prison.
Outside of his work with PJIL, Benny is developing a project called Street Politicking. His vision is to increase political participation in communities that have been directly impacted by mass incarceration.
Alexi is a first-year MPAff student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2017, where she volunteered as a tutor with the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education. Prior to graduate school, Alexi worked as a policy analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. While at the Prison Policy Initiative she authored national reports about the overuse of jails in the United States, the importance of not excluding people convicted of violent offenses from criminal justice reforms, the rates of correctional control in each state, and the high price of phone calls from jails. At PJIL, Alexi is working to analyze COVID-related deaths in correctional settings and is conducting research for other large-scale projects.
Josh is a first-year dual degree student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and UT School of Law. Prior to graduate school, he worked with Legal Aid of North Carolina, a civil legal services provider, filling an interim role with the Durham Eviction Diversion Program and working as a paralegal for the Disaster Relief Project. With the Disaster Relief Project, he helped low-income clients in eastern North Carolina navigate the long-term hurricane recovery process and saw how race and socioeconomic status shaped access to resources. He graduated from Kenyon College in 2019, where he completed research on North Carolina bail bond schedules and punitive trends in victims' rights amendments. Josh will provide research and produce written materials to support PJIL's portfolio of projects, including the National Resource Center for Correctional Oversight and the Louisiana Jail Standards Project.
Destiny is a second-year graduate student at the LBJ School. Her experience as a system-impacted individual guides her research interests in technology and criminal justice. At PJIL, she primarily works with data collection and analysis. She is a co-author on PJIL publications "COVID and Corrections: A Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas" and "Dead Man Waiting: A brief profile of deaths in Texas prisons among people approved for parole release." Destiny also provides graphic design and website development support for PJIL.
PJIL appreciates the generous support of Arnold Ventures and our donors.