PJIL team standing in front of LBJ



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.

  • Portrait of Michele Deitch.

    Michele Deitch

    J.D., M.Sc., Distinguished Senior Lecturer

    LBJ School of Public Affairs, UT School of Law

    PJIL 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.

  • Headshot photograph of Alycia Welch. White woman with long reddish hair wearing a black blazer.

    Alycia Welch

    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.

Our Team

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.

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    Gillian Campbell

    Gillian is a first-year dual degree student at the UT School of Law and LBJ School of Public Affairs. She graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2022, with a B.A. in politics and minors in psychology and women’s and gender studies. At Sewanee, she developed a passion for studying politics in the American South and conducted research on the criminal-legal system. Gill also competed for the Sewanee Tigers on their varsity women's soccer team. After college, Gill worked in event and campaign production for Markham in Washington, D.C. At PJIL, Gill contributes to ongoing research and maintains communications.

PJIL Affiliated Classes

Students work with the PJIL team in project based classes and conduct in-depth research to advance PJIL projects. Topics vary each semester, but have included research on deaths in custody, basic living conditions in prisons and jails, and positive innovations in corrections. Courses include both LBJ School and Texas Law students. Current courses include:

  • Prisons and the Environment 

  • Advanced Research on Criminal Justice- Correctional Oversight

PJIL Alumni

Former PJIL team members go on to do great things across the country.

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    Megha Bahl

    LL.M., M.A. Sociology

    PJIL Research Fellow

    With a decade of research and litigation in criminal law and civil rights, Megha examines the anatomy of institutions like courts, police, and prisons. She has worked as an attorney both on the prosecution and the defense side of the Indian criminal legal system. She has also litigated and written about methods to combat custodial violence and accountability for poor incarceration conditions.

    Megha’s interdisciplinary background in sociology and law equips her to locate legal issues in their specific socio-political context. Her sustained work with people’s organizations gives her a grounded perspective. In the United States, she has worked with American Gateways to defend refugees and survivors of persecution. She is also an ardent advocate for civil liberties in India through her association with the People’s Union for Democratic Rights.

    Megha earned an LL.M. from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law on a Fulbright fellowship. She holds an LL.B. from the University of Delhi and a Master’s in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics.

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    Julia Draper

    Julia is a third-year JD student at the UT School of Law. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2019, and as an undergraduate she volunteered as a mentor for incarcerated youth. Julia then worked as a paralegal for the Federal Trade Commission before coming to UT. Julia has become very interested in criminal justice work since starting law school, and is particularly interested in the role that civil rights litigation plays in decarceration. She has participated in the Law School's pro bono projects, including the Expunction Project and the Parole Project. She also interned at the Public Defender Service of D.C., where she helped clients overcome barriers to reentry and advocated for clients facing disciplinary sanctions in the D.C. jail. At PJIL, Julia conducted research and produced written materials on prison litigation and correctional oversight.


  • Headshot of Ana Gonzalez

    Ana Gonzalez

    Ana worked 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 B.A. degree from the University of Chicago and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University.

  • Image of Benny Hernandez, PJIL graduate researcher.

    Benny Hernandez III

    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 Jones headshot.

    Alexi Jones

    Alexi graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in May 2023. She received her B.A. 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 worked to analyze COVID-related deaths in correctional settings and conducted research for other large-scale projects.

  • White woman with blond hair smiling at camera on beige background in a black blazer, white shirt, and gold necklace, headshot of Crystal Kimbrough

    Crystal Kimbrough

    Crystal is a MPAff student at the LBJ School. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from St. Edward’s University. Before coming to LBJ, Crystal worked in the racial equity consulting space. She is passionate about social justice with an emphasis on equity and transparency within the criminal justice system. At PJIL, she analyzed data on serious incident reporting in jails across Texas. In 2020, she helped to co-author the Racial Inequities and Institutional Racism report for the City of Austin Equity Office and the Austin Police Department.

  • Headshot Joshua McClain.

    Joshua McClain

    Josh is a third-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. At PJIL, Josh provided research and produced written materials to support the lab's portfolio of projects, including the National Resource Center for Correctional Oversight and the Louisiana Jail Standards Project.

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    Jolie McCullough

    Jolie is an independent researcher and data analyst for PJIL, helping to gather and interpret information on prison and jail conditions and oversight. She is an award-winning criminal justice journalist whose work has exposed injustice and influenced policy debate at every stage of the criminal system, from arrest to execution. She worked for nearly a decade at The Texas Tribune, and she previously worked at the Albuquerque Journal, her hometown newspaper, and the Arizona Republic. She is a graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

  • Photo of a white man smiling.

    John Mitchell Skinner

    John is a second-year student at the LBJ School studying for a Master’s in Public Affairs. After graduating from Swansea University, Wales in 2019, John worked operationally in the criminal justice arena as a clerk to Judges in the UK on a variety of cases, ranging from murder trials, drug trafficking, and historical sexual abuse cases. While involved in the court system, John was exposed to the conditions of defendants and the experiences of prison staff across the UK, which shone a spotlight on the issues faced in prisons across the country. As an international student at the LBJ School, John is continuing to learn about correctional facilities in the United States and will be focusing his efforts on providing meaningful research to highlight cases of oversight across Texas and the US. At PJIL, John worked on an array of topics including the National Resource Center for Correctional Oversight which will provide an inventory of prison oversight structures across the 50 states.

  • Headshot of Destiny Moreno. Smiling facing the camera, dark long hair, brown eyes, and a tattoo sleeve on her left arm.

    Destiny Moreno

    Destiny received her MPAff from the LBJ School in 2022. Destiny earned her Bachelor of Arts in 2020 in Public Policy with a minor in Science, Technology & Society from the University of California at San Diego. Outside of PJIL, She worked as a researcher for the Good Systems UT Grand Challenge on a project leveraging AI to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness, and investigated the use AI-enabled surveillance in Texas as a Brumley Fellow under the Strauss Center’s Artificial Intelligence Studies program. 

    At PJIL, Destiny primarily worked with data collection and analysis, as well as website design and development. 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 is currently a JD Candidate at the University of Washington School of Law. 

  • Latino man smiling with glasses

    Danny Moreno

    Danny Moreno is a first-year MPAff student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 2020, where he studied the socio-political history of Black and Latine communities. While a student, he organized for immigrant rights in the San Francisco Bay Area and facilitated a soccer program at San Quentin State Prison. Upon graduating, he worked at the Harris County Public Defender’s office as a client advocate connecting incarcerated individuals to holistic services. Daniel will be helping us track developments on correctional oversight bodies, writing blog posts, and providing support on our projects.

  • Woman with back hair wearing a black short sleeve top with white dots, smiling facing camera with a tree in the background, headshot for Ashley Nguyen

    Ashley Nguyen

    Ashley is a second-year MPAff student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the Harris County Public Defender’s Office as a client advocate. In this role, she provided case management services and advocated for clients’ release from jail. Ashley graduated from Rice University in 2020; as an undergraduate, she worked with the Texas Center for Justice and Equity to study bail reform in Harris County. At PJIL, she conducted research and produced written materials for the National Resource Center for Correctional Oversight.

  • White woman smiling facing camera on beige background, headshot of Sabrina Page

    Sabrina Page

    Sabrina received her MPAff from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in May 2023 and her B.A. from the University of Washington in 2019. At UW, she did research related to juvenile justice and Washington state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board. Prior to LBJ, she worked in legal operations as a Client Program Specialist at Davis, Wright, Tremaine LLP and volunteered with University Beyond Bars through monthly prison book clubs. Sabrina supported the overall operational and organizational needs of PJIL during her time with the lab.

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    Tyler Sekunda

    Tyler is a second-year JD student at the UT School of Law. Prior to law school, he worked as a High School teacher. He spent the past summer at the Public Defender Service of D.C. While there, he advocated on behalf of people incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, assisted in correspondence with people incarcerated in federal prisons across the country, and helped clients overcome barriers to reentry. He has also worked with the Law School’s pro bono programs including the Expunction Project and the Texas Jail Voting Rights Project. At PJIL, Tyler conducts research and produces written materials on state laws governing conditions of confinement at correctional facilities around the country. 

Our Funders

PJIL appreciates the generous support of Arnold Ventures and our donors.