About / About CAPPSMI

Mission

The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, a non-profit public policy organization, is concerned about Michigan’s excessive use of punitive strategies rather than preventive ones to deal with crime and its impact on our quality of life. Because policy choices, not crime rates, determine corrections spending, CAPPS advocates re-examining those policies and shifting our resources to services that prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders, address the needs of underserved crime survivors.

To achieve these goals, CAPPS develops data-driven proposals for reducing the prison population while ensuring public safety. It informs policymakers, advocacy groups, affected communities and the general public about these issues through numerous means, including a website, a newsletter, research reports, legislative testimony and speaking appearances.

Staff

Laura M. Sager, Executive Director

SagerLaura Sager has led a number of Michigan and national criminal justice reform efforts. Before becoming CAPPS’s executive director, she served as associate director. From 2007-2011, she was the executive director of the Campaign for Justice (CFJ), and worked to reform Michigan’s public defense delivery system.

Between 1996-2007, she served as the Michigan project director, national campaign director and executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national non-profit sentencing reform organization. Sager led broad-based bipartisan campaigns that won legislation rolling back Michigan’s harshest-in-the-nation mandatory minimum drug laws. The reforms created new sentencing guidelines for drug offenses and permitted earlier parole consideration for hundreds of prisoners serving harsh mandatory prison terms.

Her work as the head of FAMM’s reform campaigns gained national media attention. In Virginia, she won enactment of a “safety valve” for non-violent, first-time offenders facing draconian mandatory sentences under the Substance Abuse Reduction Effort. During her tenure with FAMM, she provided technical assistance to state officials and advocates seeking sentencing reforms.

Sager has been interviewed hundreds of times on a wide range of criminal justice issues by national and state media and film makers; including 60 Minutes II and conservative talk shows, the O’Reilly Factor and From the Heartland.

She also held a variety of other positions in local union and community development organizations. She attended Michigan State University and is a long-term resident of Lansing, Michigan.

Barbara R. Levine, Associate Director for Policy & Research

Barbara Photo CroppedBarbara Levine was the founder and executive director of CAPPS from 2000-2013 and is the architect of its policy recommendations.  She opted to serve as associate director to focus entirely on research and policy development.

Levine received her Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Michigan.  She has been a member of the Michigan Bar since 1974. She began her career as a staff attorney at the State Appellate Defender Office, representing indigent felony defendants on appeal of their convictions.  From 1979-1983, she taught law school, first at Wayne State University, then at the University of Toledo.  She served as a Commissioner for the Michigan Supreme Court until 1985, when she became the first administrator of the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System (MAACS).  In that capacity, she trained lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants on appeal, oversaw the appointment process, enforced minimum performance standards, and worked to obtain improved funding for indigent defense services. Ms. Levine left MAACS in 1999 to focus exclusively on issues affecting prisoners and the constant expansion of the prison system.

Ms. Levine was a founding member of the Prisons and Corrections Section of the State Bar of Michigan and served as its first chairperson.  She has been a member of the State Bar Standing Committee on Character and Fitness for more than a decade. She also served for many years on the board of Prison Legal Services of Michigan and was formerly the chair.

In addition to her organizational work, Ms. Levine has litigated prison conditions and parole board decisions.  She was co-counsel on Overton v Bazzetta, a case regarding prisoners’ visitation rights decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2003.  She was also counsel on Morales v Parole Board, in which the issue was whether Michigan prisoners have any right to appeal parole board decisions.

Aayat Ali, Housing Consultant

Aayat's Headshot

Aayat Ali has extensive experience working on housing issues in Michigan. Most recently her research focused on homeless formerly incarcerated individuals at the Homeless Action Network of Detroit.

Aayat obtained two Master’s degrees in social work and urban planning from the University of Michigan. During her educational career, she performed research and policy analysis at the Center for the Education of Women and Workforce Intelligence Network. She will conduct a research and planning project on the housing and criminal justice issues.

Dena Anderson, Research Assistant

DenaDena has been a long-time activist for various organizations including Head Start, the Hunger Project and the Lansing Urban League.  She was a founding volunteer for the Lansing Council Against Domestic Assault and has been an administrative assistant for various Michigan legislators.

A former English teacher, Dena worked as executive secretary to the president of the Lansing Urban League. In the mid-1980s she went inside the former state prison of southern Michigan at Jackson as a volunteer in programs to help prisoners rethink their lives.

Dena first joined CAPPS in 2003, researching and writing profiles of prisoners who were not being paroled even though their institutional records, parole guidelines scores and other information indicated they could be safely released.

Elaine Flowers, Community Outreach/VOCA Specialist

Elaine PhotoElaine grew up in Port Huron. She attended Michigan State University, majoring in Criminal Justice. She earned a Masters in Guidance & Counseling and a Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University.

She worked for the Detroit Police Dept. as a sex crimes investigator before transitioning into the social work profession. She worked for the Michigan Dept. Of Social Services from 1976-2003 in various positions including protection, adoption, and foster care services, licensing consultation, and skill training.

Elaine is a long-time grassroots community activist, developing and implementing various programs: parenting classes, food & clothing distributions and youth programs, such as TEEN, Inc. She served as the educational chair for the local NAACP and for  Women of Purpose, a Christian women’s empowerment group. Elaine spearheaded the first chapter of the NAACP for the eastern suburban area of Detroit named the Grosse Pointe(s).  The chapter was launched in November 2015.

Elaine’s passion is serving the disenfranchised in our community: children, returning citizens and the victims of human sex trafficking. She has been a CAPPS member for some time and has attended several CAPPS events, including our last legislative day. She has recently expanded her role by joining the team as a community organizer and VOCA specialist.

Elsie Kettunen, Financial/Research Specialist

Elsie_BioPicElsie has over 30 years of experience in research and data analysis. Over the span of her career she has worked as a data/research analyst for the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan State University, and Texas A&M University. Elsie has a master’s degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls with a minor in Computer Science.

Elsie initially assisted CAPPS on a volunteer basis in managing the membership lists and other technical issues. After retiring from the State of Michigan in 2011, Elsie worked on a contractual basis to assist CAPPS in managing their membership database, finances, and research. She has now joined the CAPPS team as a part-time employee. Elsie grew up in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan but has resided in Lansing for the past twenty-five years.

John Cooper, Policy Director

John Cooper_April 2017John Cooper has extensive experience working on complex criminal justice policy issues in Michigan – both as the founder of the Coalition of Justice Voters and as special counsel for criminal justice policy for Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids).

Prior to joining Rep. LaGrand’s office, John spent seven years as a litigator in the Washington, D.C., office of a large international law firm. He served as a law clerk to Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. John obtained his juris doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law and has an M.A. in legal history from the University of Virginia. John is working to advance our legislative priorities.

Kate McCracken, Communications Director

Kate relocated to her hometown of Mt. Pleasant in late 2016 after a decade of work on public safety issues in California. Most recently, she was deputy director of San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee’s Office of Violence Prevention Services. In this role, she implemented the Mayor’s violence prevention initiative, engaging individuals most affected by the justice system, including survivors of violent crime. Previously, she served as the director of policy and development at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), a nonpartisan nonprofit striving to reduce society’s reliance on incarceration. In this role, she implemented the organization’s legislative policies through research and data-driven policy work. Kate guided key aspects of the communications work at both the Mayor’s Office and CJCJ. Her experience and expertise on a range of issues will be invaluable to our reform efforts.

Judith Martus Miller, Office Manager

20160129_095906Judith spent her career working for Michigan State University in both the Office of the Registrar and the Department of Mathematics. From 1991 to 2015 she worked with the Connected Mathematics Project where she managed a wide range of responsibilities including accounting, event planning, office organization, and administrative tasks.

After her retirement, Judith found that she wanted to spend her time giving back and became involved with CAPPS. She joined in 2016 as an office manager to handle administrative and organizational responsibilities.

 

Mary Lynn Stevens, Development Director

Mary-Lynn-Stevens-CEW-Director-of-DevelopmentMary Lynn Stevens comes to CAPPS with 17 years of fundraising experience and nearly 10 years of volunteer work with incarcerated women.

Professionally, Mary Lynn served most recently (2011-2016) as the Director of Development at the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan (CEW). At CEW she headed the Center’s “Victors for Michigan” campaign, which raised more than $6 million for scholarships, operations, endowments, and programs. Prior to CEW, Mary Lynn directed Corporate and Foundation Relations at U-M Dearborn from 2001-2011, specializing in bringing resources to University programs and projects that served metro Detroit. Since 2007, Mary Lynn has been a volunteer sponsor and program consultant for the National Lifers of America, both at Scott and Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility. Her experiences with women lifers give special fuel to her citizen’s passion for wise and humane corrections policy in Michigan.

Prior to her fundraising career, Mary Lynn led curatorial and program efforts in history museums in New York, Minnesota, and Michigan. She has a B.A. from Marymount College (now part of Fordham University) and an M.A. from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. She is a mother and stepmother of four grown children, and grandmother of one. Mary Lynn and her husband, Ed Rutherford, live in Chelsea, MI.

Troy Rienstra, OrganizerTroy Rienstra Head ShotTroy Rienstra has extensive experience using workforce development strategies and restorative justice practices to promote community safety – both as the founder of the Network for Real Change and program coordinator at the Church of the Servant – Prisoners in Christ.

Prior to establishing Network for Real Change, Troy completed 22 years of a life sentence in Michigan. During this time, he obtained training in critical thinking, communication skills, conflict resolution, and cognitive thinking. He is working to advance our crime survivor program by elevating the voices of people directly harmed by violence.

CAPPS Board of Directors

Kathleen Schaefer, Professional Probation & Parole Consulting, Inc., President

Michael Vizena, Former Executive DirectorMichigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Vice President

Professor Ronald J. Bretz, Professor Emeritus, Thomas Cooley Law School, Secretary

William S. Tregea, Professor, Adrian College, Treasurer

Members:

Gary Ashby, Former Director Restorative Justice Ministry, Diocese of Lansing

Lisa Biggs, Assistant Professor in Theatre & Performance Studies, Michigan State University

Robert Brown Jr., former Director Michigan Department of Corrections

Rick Carter, Executive Director, Michigan Faith in Action

Chris Innes, Author, former Chief of Research and Information Services, Federal Bureau of Prisons

Monica Jahner, Program Director, ARRO, NorthWest Initiative

Annette Johnson, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, NYU Hospital Center and Senior Counsel, NYU School of Medicine

Anna Kohn, Workforce Development, RecoveryPark

Michael F. Reagan, Chief External Relations Officer, Cherry Street Health Services

Richard Stapleton, former Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections Office of Legal Affairs

Brad Williams, Vice President, Government Relations, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce

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