Kris VandenBerg, President
Currently, Kris serves as a pro se law clerk for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, where she is responsible for prisoner civil rights and habeas corpus filings. Kris was a career law clerk for United States Judge Douglas W. Hillman from 1995 until Judge Hillman's retirement in 2002. Kris is active in numerous professional and community activities. Presently, she serves as a Trustee of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and chairs its Diversity Committee. She is the past president and board member of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Western Region. She also serves on the boards of the YWCA-Grand Rapids and the Gary Byker Memorial Library. And, for the past six years, Kris has been an active member of the Grand Rapids Prostitution Roundtable and the Michigan Public Defense Task Force.
William (Buzz) Alexander, Vice-President
William "Buzz" Alexander is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan and founder and member of the Prison Creative Arts Project. Since 1990, he has been a member of the Sisters Within Theater Troupe at the Florence Crane, Western Wayne, and Women's Huron Valley Facilities, which recently completed its 28th play. Between 1993-2000, he was a member of the Western Wayne Players at the Western Wayne Correctional Facility; and between 2001 and 2007 he was a member of the Poet's Corner at tech Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. Since 1996, he curated fifteen Annual Exhibitions of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Buzz has received numerous awards for the work he initiated with incarcerated youth and adults in collaboration with University of Michigan students. Buzz will bring not only an academic but a direct service perspective to the Board.
Ann Marston, Treasurer
Until her retirement in 2008, Ann served for 14 years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan League for Human Services, a statewide policy organization that uses data-driven advocacy to improve the lives of low-income people. Her previous experience includes service as the associate executive director of the Greater Kalamazoo United Way and the executive director of a multi-service center providing substance abuse treatment and prevention services, 24 hour/day crisis intervention, and emergency psychiatric assessment. She has been active with research and social justice advocacy efforts throughout her career. Ann holds an MSW in Policy, Planning and Administration and an MA in Counseling and Personnel from Western Michigan University, and a BA in English from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Carlynn Nichols, Secretary
Carlynn Nichols is the Director of Children's Initiatives at Detroit-Wayne County Community Health Agency. A licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in both Macro and Clinical social work, she has 18 years of experience in the field of social work, primarily working with children, youth and their families with complex needs involved in multiple fields. She received her Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University in 1994 and Bachelors of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1990. Carlynn's focus on children and youth who are at-risk, diagnosed with a Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED) and/or involvement in the juvenile justice systems will bring cross system perspective to the board.
Robert is a resident of Ann Arbor and a former resident of the Michigan prison system. Robert is interested in serving on the Board so that he can share his insights as we develop programs. Robert says, "I know the Corrections system from the inside and have direct experience with MPRI. I'm not going back! I look forward to the opportunity to share my insights and give."
Sue Hamilton-Smith retired from Wayne County Government in April 2011 as Director of Program Education and Advocacy in the Office of the County Executive. Sue began her service to the county as Deputy Director of the Department of Children and Family Services in November 2003. She was named Director of the Department in November 2005. Prior to holding these positions, Hamilton-Smith served for ten years as Executive Vice President of New Detroit, Inc. She is one of the founders of the Multicultural Immersion Program and a respected leader in cross-cultural work. Sue is a youth advocate and civil rights activist who served as an Executive Assistant to the Honorable Coleman A. Young, a Special Assistant to the Honorable William G. Milliken and as Executive Vice President of the Detroit Urban League. Hamilton is a graduate of Wayne State University with a B.A. in Sociology and a Masters in Communication.
Since 2005, Jeriel Heard has been serving as the Chief of Jails and Courts, Office of the Sheriff, Wayne County, Michigan. Previously Jeriel served as Director of Inmate Classification for the Office of Wayne County Sheriff, an Assistant Wayne County Executive and Director of the Wayne County Department of Community Justice, as the Deputy Director of the Department of Community Justice and as a deputy sheriff: at the ranks of police officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant. He has overseen the administration of over seventy million dollars in federal and state grants to deliver jail-based and community-based habilitative services, including alcohol and other drugs treatment to adult offenders in Wayne County. Jeriel is a graduate of Wayne State University and Northwestern University, School of Staff and Command. He served as a member of the Advisory Board for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Project on Effective Delinquency Programs. Jeriel is currently the Chairperson of the Governor's Committee on Juvenile Justice, and was Michigan's first appointed representative to the Federal Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.
Kathleen Schaefer is currently the President of Professional Probation & Parole Consulting, Inc. Kathleen has 26 years of experience with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). She has handled thousands of sentencing hearings and numerous parole board interviews and public hearings. She has extensive courtroom experience including Court Liaison to the Chief Judge in the court formerly known as the Detroit Recorder's Court. Kathleen was the manager of a parole Boot Camp Aftercare and Probation Violation Detention Facility in Detroit and manager of Circuit Court probation and Parole Services in Wayne and Macomb counties including: sex offender units, parole and probation boot camp supervision units, electronic monitoring and Public Act 511 units and community corrections programs.
Francisco A. Villarruel
Francisco is the Acting director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University. He also holds the positions of University Outreach and Engagement Senior Fellow and Professor of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University. He is co-author of the nation's first report that focuses on analysis of disproportionate and disparate treatment of Latino and Latina youth by the U.S. justice system. The report, entitled iDonde Estala Justicia? A Call to Action on Behalf of Latino and Latina Youth in the U.S. Justice System, was published by the Building Blocks for Youth initiative and has received national and international visibility. Villarruel also authored the book Lost Opportunities: The reality of Latinos in the US Criminal Justice System, which is available from the National Council of La Raza. His perspective on juvenile justice furthers MCCD's advocacy agenda.
Ruth retired in 2004 as the Executive Director of the Student Advocacy Center of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She was a founding member of the Center and has served in many capacities since 1975. She continues to advocate for school children on both individual and policy levels by providing written documentation of school systems' failure to serve students. Ruth also continues to push governmental agencies to exercise their mandated responsibilities to provide effective monitoring and oversight of local school districts to ensure services and supervision are provided to children who have been expelled from school under the zero-tolerance law. Her knowledge of the school system is invaluable to MCCD's advocacy efforts.