Each year, in conjunction with the Media for a Just Society Awards, NCCD recognizes one superior piece of media with the Distinguished Achievement Award. The recipient is chosen by a panel of guest judges. Read about the members of this year’s panel below.
Reginald Dwayne Betts receives many requests to speak about his journey from incarceration to Yale Law School and the role that grit, perseverance, and literature played in his success. In addition, he has lectured widely on topics ranging from mass incarceration to contemporary poetry and the intersection of literature and advocacy. Between his work in public defense, his years of advocacy, and Betts’s own experiences as a teenager in maximum security prisons, he is uniquely positioned to speak to the failures of the current criminal justice system and present encouraging ideas for change. This work led Betts to be appointed by President Barack Obama to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and more recently by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to the state’s Criminal Justice Commission. A 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and 2018 NEA Fellow, Betts is a poet whose writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, an NAACP Image Award, and a New America Fellowship. Betts has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, as well as being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air and several other national shows. Betts is currently a PhD in Law candidate at Yale University.
Raquel Hatter, EdD, is managing director of the Human Services Program at The Kresge Foundation, which supports the advancement of human services organizations to accelerate social and economic mobility for people with low incomes. She has spent the past 25 years supporting adults, children, and families through a variety of roles, including commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services—prior to joining Kresge. As commissioner, Hatter identified ways to improve outcomes for individuals and families across various support systems including child support, TANF, SNAP, and vocational rehabilitation. Under her guidance, the department adopted a two-generational approach to poverty, which addresses the needs of children and parents simultaneously. Hatter draws on her experiences as both a clinician and an administrator to be a leader and advocate for the human services field. She also brings expertise in public policy, transformational organizational change, and management to both her role at Kresge and to the many boards, committees, and task forces focused on human services on which she serves. Hatter has received numerous accolades for her work including the 2016 American Public Human Services Association State Member Award for Transforming Human Services and the 2014 Spirit of Crazy Horse Award from Reclaiming Youth International for her service to children, youth, and families.
Michelle Jones is a second-year doctoral student in the American Studies program at New York University. Interested in exploring the consequences of criminal convictions for people and families directly impacted by mass incarceration, she also participates in a project with a group of incarcerated scholars that challenges the narratives of women’s prison history. Even while incarcerated herself, Jones published and presented her research findings to dispel notions about the reach and intellectual capacity of women involved in the justice system. Her advocacy extends beyond the classroom through the following roles: chairwoman of the board of Constructing Our Future, a reentry alternative for women created by incarcerated women in Indiana; 2017–18 Beyond the Bars fellow; 2017–18 Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University; 2018–19 Ford Foundation Bearing Witness Fellow with Art for Justice; 2019 Right of Return Fellow; 2019 Code for America Fellow; and 2019–20 Mural Arts Fellow. With other scholars who are currently or formerly incarcerated, Jones is under contract with The New Press to publish the history of Indiana’s carceral institutions for women. As an artist, Jones works to funnel her research pursuits into theater and dance. Her original co-authored play, “The Duchess of Stringtown,” was produced in Indianapolis and New York City in December 2017.
Carter Stewart is managing director of the Draper Richards Kaplan (DRK) Foundation, where he plays a lead role in sourcing new investments and working with the leadership of those organizations as they build capacity to achieve their maximum impact. A member of the Foundation’s senior leadership team, he also helps to execute the Foundation’s strategy and goals and contributes to its thought leadership and external outreach. Prior to joining DRK, Stewart served as US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, where he was responsible for prosecuting federal crime in a district that included Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. Stewart emphasized deterrence, crime prevention, and alternatives to incarceration in his work. He created the district’s first community outreach position and established a community leadership committee geared toward building trust and improving communication between the public and law enforcement. He created the district’s first diversion program to allow individuals a means of avoiding a felony record while still being held accountable for their wrongdoing. Stewart also took a leadership role at the US Department of Justice in addressing inequities in the criminal justice system by raising awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline and chairing a working group of US Attorneys focused on reducing racial disparities in the federal system. Carter previously served as an Assistant US Attorney in San Jose, California, and was a litigator at two private law firms. Prior to receiving his JD from Harvard Law School, Stewart was a New York City Urban Fellow and taught high school history classes.