Our Staff Team
Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, Director
Aleah was a member of the Quill and Dagger Honor Society and Recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award from Cornell University, where she was a leader in the Student Divestment Coalition. She went on to become the Program Director then Interim Executive Director at the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund. There she championed campaigns demanding the release of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, and divestment from companies doing business in South Africa.
She lived in South Africa in the period leading up to and immediately following the country’s historic first democratic elections. There she worked for the South African Council of Churches on a team devoted to decreasing the violence in the East Rand, one of the bloodiest regions during that time; on the Independent Electoral Commission where she helped educate communities about registering and voting in the country’s historic elections; for the World Council on Religion and Peace, which first called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and for the Women’s Development Foundation, which championed and supported the election of women to national government positions.
Upon her return to the United States, she worked on the Jubilee campaign promoting cancellation of African debt to rich nations and demanding medication for African nations in the devastating fight against HIV/AIDS. She then worked as the Director of Social Justice Ministries for the historic Riverside Church, guiding 13 social justice ministries, including a fund for the Prison Ministry and the creation of Sojourners, a ministry for people detained in U.S. facilities. During a demonstration that she helped organize, she was illegally arrested, detained and strip-searched by NYPD. The action was intended to highlight Columbia Presbyterian’s testing of serotonin levels in black and Latino boys, using fenfluramine, a dangerous substance later withdrawn by the FDA due to its association with heart failure. She subsequently sued and won a case against the NYPD. Aleah is the granddaughter of Irene Morgan, of the Morgan v. Virginia Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate travel, which enforcement of the Freedom Rides were organized to ensure. She is the fierce mother of two black boys. She has been a member of the CJI Circle since 2003.
Bridgette Butler, Deputy Director
Bridgette brings over a decade of professional experience working on juvenile/criminal justice issues. Bridgette began her career working as a counselor of probation-involved youth, a case manager for youth returning from secure confinement and as a youth advocate at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a non-profit legal and advocacy organization in New Orleans, Louisiana.
At JJPL, Bridgette monitored conditions of confinement, engaged youth in state and local policy development, provided individual representation for youth being suspended and expelled from school and participated in Orleans Parish’s local Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) as a collaborative member. Afterwards, Bridgette worked as the Orleans Parish’s JDAI Coordinator where she facilitated a collaborative process with various stakeholders to reduce the number of youth detained in New Orleans. Thereafter, Bridgette was a Site Manager at the W. Haywood Burns Institute where she provided technical assistance to system and community stakeholders to address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the juvenile justice system. Most recently, Bridgette was a National Survivor Specialist at Common Justice where she provided technical and advocacy support to non-traditional grassroots organizations to address racial and gender disparities in Victim Services.
Lizan Highland, Operations Manager
Lizan was born in Barbados and moved to New York, where she currently resides in Brooklyn. She is an active volunteer for New York Cares, where she dedicates her time and efforts to ending hunger and providing meals to those in need. Her dream is to start an organization for young immigrants to guide them to better opportunities and ultimately naturalization. A former graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Lizan is passionate about improving the justice system, including ending discriminatory practices like stop and frisk. Her ultimate life goal is to design a communal atmosphere where justice is fair for all.