Our Mission & Approach
NC CRED is a nonpartisan organization that works across professional, political and ideological lines to identify, document, and develop strategies to reduce racial disparities in North Carolina’s juvenile and criminal justice systems. NC CRED brings together a diverse group of more than 30 criminal justice leaders and stakeholders who share a commitment to building a more equitable, effective, and humane criminal justice system throughout the state. Represented on the Commission are judges, Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement leaders; District Attorneys, Public Defenders, community advocates, law professors, and scholars. We’re pursuing innovative, empirically-based solutions to reform the criminal justice system. The Commission envisions a criminal and juvenile justice system that is fair, humane, and effective.
How We Work
We seek common ground by engaging
in thorough, vigorous, and respectful dialogue.
We study problems and use data and evidence
to inform recommendations on policy and practices.
Our Core Values
We have a bold vision and dedicate ourselves to learning and continuous improvement to effect the changes we seek.
We commit ourselves to bringing racial equity to the center of policymaking and reform efforts.
Our greatest strength is derived from diverse perspectives brought by committed people from different backgrounds.
LEARNING & RESPECT
We believe voicing unpopular or contentious views is a courageous act necessary for real dialogue.
Board & Staff Members
James E. Williams, Jr. (Chair)
Mr. Williams received a B.A. in Political Science and J.D. from Duke University. He was Chief Public Defender for Orange and Chatham Counties from 1990-2017 and previously the Felony Chief of the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office. While a member of the N.C. Advocates for Justice Board of Governors, Mr. Williams helped establish and served as Chair of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Criminal Justice System which ultimately led to the establishment of the NC CRED. Mr. Williams is also a founder and Board member of the N.C. Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity and serves on numerous boards, including the N.C. Fines and Fees Coalition, National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, N.C. Association of Black Lawyers, Orange Bias Free Policing Coalition. He serves as Co-chair of the District 18 Bar Racial Justice Force. He has received numerous awards, including the N.C. Advocates for Justice Thurgood Marshall Award, the MLK University/ Community Planning Inc. MLK Jr. Citizenship Award, the N.C. ACLU Champion of Justice Award, and the North Carolina Bar Association James McNeil Smith Jr. Award.
Jim Woodall (Vice Chair)
Jim Woodall has been District Attorney for District 15B in Orange and Chatham County since 2005 when he was appointed interim District Attorney. He was first elected a year later and has been serving in that capacity ever since. A Johnston County native, Mr. Woodall received his bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. Jim started his career in private practice before joining the District Attorney’s office as an Assistant DA in 1990.
Mr. Woodall is the former President of The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, former member of the NC State Bar Ethics Committee, and current Vice-Chair of the District 18 Racial Justice Task Force.
Melissa Neal Stein (Secretary)
Ms. Stein is a public health professional who specializes in creating effective criminal justice systems and healthy communities. She graudated from Elon University and has both a masters and doctorate in public health from East Tennessee State University.
Ms. Stein joined Policy Research Associates in 2017 as Senior Research Associate where she leads national communications and technical assistance disseminated through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GAINS Center. Previously, she served in various capacities with Mecklenburg County Criminal Justice Services in Charlotte as well as the Justice Policy Institute and Planning & Learning Technologies in Washington, D.C. She is a sub-committee member of Race Matters for Juvenile Justice.
Mr. Atkinson is an experienced civil and human rights attorney who presently serves as Co-Director with Forward Justice. Previously, he was Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) where he focused on criminal justice reform issues, particularly removing the legal barriers triggered by contact with the criminal justice system. He received a B.A. in Political Science from Benedict College, Columbia, SC and a J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis, MN.
Ms. Chavis is a Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University School of Law. In 2015, she was appointed as a Senior Academic Fellow at the Joint Center for Political And Economic Studies. She has substantial practice experience and writes and teaches in areas related to criminal law, criminal procedure and criminal justice reform. Ms. Chavis is a frequent contributor to national and international media outlets and has appeared on CNN, CTV, and NPR. She has written for the New York Times and the Huffington Post, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BBC News, U.S. News and World Report, International Business Times, Deutsche Welle, and other outlets regarding police accountability and the structural reform of law enforcement agencies.
Professor Jim Coleman is a graduate of Columbia University (J.D. 1974), and Harvard University (A.B. 1970) who joined the Duke faculty full-time in 1996, where his teaching responsibilities include criminal law, wrongful convictions, and appellate litigation. His academic work, conducted through the Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility, centers on the legal, political, and scientific causes of wrongful convictions and how they can be prevented. His administrative work for the University has included chairing the Lacrosse ad hoc Review Committee in 2006, and chairing the Athletic Council (2010-present).
Mr. Dowling worked in banking in New York and Chicago for the first part of his career and obtained a degree in finance going to school at night. In 1994, he and his wife Bethaney moved to Orange County, NC. Using his financial experience, Robert began a new career in affordable housing in Durham in 1995. He was named the executive director of Community Home Trust (CHT) in late 1997 and managed the organization’s evolution to a community land trust in the early 2000’s. When he retired in early 2020, there were more than 300 affordable homes in CHT’s portfolio. Robert has served on the boards of the Community Land Trust Network, Grounded Solutions Network and the Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas Maher began practicing as a criminal defense attorney in North Carolina after spending two years clerking for a federal appellate judge. Maher has appeared in state and federal court on charges that range from DWI to capital murder, handling trials, appeals and post-conviction cases. He served as co-counsel in the high-profile defense of Michael Peterson, featured in the documentary The Staircase. In addition to many years as a litigator, Maher also served as Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, and as Executive Director for the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services, the agency that supports public defense in North Carolina. Maher received the Friend of the Court award, which is the highest award from the North Carolina court system. He teaches trial practice skills to law students at Duke University School of Law and teaches lawyers through the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America and is AV rated in Martindale-Hubbell. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1979 at Northwestern University and his law degree in 1982 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
John Rubin joined the UNC School of Government in 1991, where he specializes in criminal law and indigent defense education. He has written several books, articles, and other resources on criminal law, including a book on The Law of Self-Defense in North Carolina and a guide to Relief from a Criminal Conviction, among other publications. In 2004, Rubin created the Indigent Defense Education program at the School of Government, supported by contract revenue, grants, registration fees and sales, and fundraising. He helped establish and continues as a consultant to the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services. In 2008, John was awarded a two-year distinguished professorship for faculty excellence. In 2012, he was named Albert Coates Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government. Before joining the UNC School of Government, Rubin practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California. He earned a J.D. from UNC–Chapel Hill in 1982 and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1978.
- Daryl Atkinson – Co-Director, Forward Justice
- Chris Blue – Chief of Police, Chapel Hill Police Department
- Tarrah Callahan – Executive Director, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform
- Kami Chavis – Professor of Law & Director of Criminal Justice Program, Wake Forest University School of Law
- Jim Coleman – Director of the Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility; Co-Director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, Duke University School of Law
- Emily Coward – Project Attorney, Indigent Defense Education, UNC School of Government
- Robert Dowling – Retired Nonprofit Executive
- Stormie Forte – Attorney, Raleigh City Council Member
- Dennis Gaddy – Executive Director, Community Success Initiative
- Rick Glazier – Executive Director, NC Justice Center
- Thomas Maher – Attorney, Law Offices of Amos Tyndall, PLLC
- Jasmine McGhee – Special Deputy Attorney General & Director, Public Protection Section
- LeAnn Melton – Former Chief Public Defender, Buncombe County
- James Moore – Former Chief of Police, City of Rocky Mount
- Marcia Morey – Representative, North Carolina State House
- The Honorable Ashleigh Parker Dunston – District Court Judge, Wake County District Court
- Raul Pinto – Staff Attorney, NC Justice Center
- Kristie Puckett-Williams –Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager, ACLU of NC
- The Honorable Vince Rozier – Wake County Superior Court Judge
- John Rubin – Professor of Public Law and Government, UNC School of Government
- Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman – President, NAACP North Carolina
- Gerda Stein – Director of Public Information, Center for Death Penalty Litigation
- Melissa Stein – Senior Research Associate, Policy Research Associates
- The Honorable Louis Trosch, Jr. – Superior Court Judge, District 26
- James D. “Butch” Williams – Senior Partner, The Law Offices of James D. Williams, Jr. P.A.
- James E. Williams, Jr. – Former Public Defender, District 15B
- The Honorable James R. Woodall – District Attorney, Chatham, and Orange Counties
- Eric Zogry – State Juvenile Defender, NC Office of the Juvenile Defender