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Event — Race, Law, and Social Work: Serving Communities of Color Using Anti-Racist Principles


This conference will explore the issue of race in the fields of social work, law, and law enforcement. For years, communities of color have been plagued with over surveillance by both police officers and social workers in social services agencies. We will discuss the role of social workers, lawyers, and police in providing services to communities of color using an anti-racist lens.

The program will answer the question: is it possible for social workers and police officers to work in partnership with communities to keep residents safe? It will feature the voices of current law, social work, and law enforcement professionals and students who are committed to anti-racist principles, and who want to work towards promoting social justice in their careers. The discussion will focus on the challenges and present solutions for effective community partnerships.

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Panel One

Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq.Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq.

A fourth-generation leader of faith and social justice, Jennifer Jones Austin fights for equity. As CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), an anti-poverty, policy, and advocacy organization with 170 member agencies and faith partners, she has led and secured monumental changes in social policy and law in New York State to strengthen and empower the disenfranchised and marginalized. Prior to joining FPWA, she served as Senior Vice President of United Way of New York City, Family Services Coordinator for Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and Vice President for LearnNow/Edison Schools.

Jennifer co-hosts the awarding winning WBLS “Open Line”, weekly guest hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, “Keep’n It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton”, and is a monthly contributor on the “Karen Hunter Show”. She is the author of Consider It Pure Joy, a harrowing account of her battle with a sudden, life threatening illness, and the power of faith and community to transform desperation into joy.

Jones Austin has chaired several influential boards and commissions, including the Mayoral Transition for Bill de Blasio, the NYC Procurement Policy Board, and the NYS Supermarket Commission. She currently serves as a Board Member of the National Action Network, Chair of the NYC Board of Correction, Member of the Feerick Center for Social Justice Advisory Board, member of the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior Advisory Board, and as a lead advisor for the NYPD Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.


Bennett CapersBennett Capers 

In Fall 2020, Professor Bennett Capers joined Fordham Law School, where he teaches Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure, and is also the Director of the Center on Race, Law, and Justice. A former federal prosecutor, his academic interests include the relationship between race, gender, technology, and criminal justice, and he is a prolific writer on these topics. In addition to co-editing the forthcoming Critical Race Judgments: Rewritten U.S. Court Opinions on Race and Law (Cambridge University Press) and Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Criminal Law Opinions (Cambridge University Press), he also has a forthcoming book about prosecutors, The Prosecutor’s Turn (Metropolitan Books). His commentary and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other journals.

He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a Director of Research for the Uniform Laws Commission, and has served as Chair of the AALS Criminal Justice Section and Chair of the AALS Law and Humanities Section. Governor Cuomo has twice appointed him to serve on judicial screening committees. He has also served for several years as a Commissioner on the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board.


Derrick JacksonDerrick Jackson

Mr. Derrick Jackson, Director of Community Engagement for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Derrick is the social worker who became a police officer that now helps to run a police agency. As the Director of Community Engagement, Mr. Jackson has spent the last 12 years designing and implementing systems that integrate social work and criminal justice theory in order to revolutionize traditional policing strategies. Derrick is a proud graduate of Eastern Michigan University where he studied social work as an undergraduate student and the University of Michigan School of Social Work for his graduate studies.

As a social worker and Certified Law Enforcement Officer, he has a unique perspective and role in building bridges between law enforcement and the communities they serve. He has spent his time within law enforcement learning, understanding, deconstructing, redesigning, and implementing systems within the Washtenaw County community that have helped reimagine the role of police within community and the role of social workers within law enforcement. Where some may see social work and law enforcement on opposite ends of the spectrum, Director Jackson redefines the spectrum and uses social work and law enforcement to enhance the impact of both.


Renae LockhartRenae Lockhart

Sergeant Renae Lockhart joined the Raleigh Police Department in 2002 after obtaining a BSW from NC State University. She has served as a patrol officer, family violence intervention officer, training officer and patrol supervisor. Lockhart currently supervises the Detective Division’s Youth Services Unit. She has been certified as a North Carolina Justice Education and Training Standards Commission Criminal Justice Instructor for more than 13 years. She teaches courses in domestic violence response to both police recruits at the Raleigh Police Department and police cadets at Wake Technical Community College.

Since 2009, Lockhart has served as a field supervisor for undergraduate and graduate level social work interns with the Raleigh Police Department. Lockhart earned an MSW degree from NC State University in 2011. In June 2016, she received the Raleigh Police Department’s Award for Merit for creation of the Trauma Counselor position. The Trauma Counselor is a professional counselor who is available to provide counseling, emotional support, and community resource referrals following a traumatic event. As the Youth Services Unit Sergeant, she has been instrumental in bringing programs like “Bigs in Blue” and “The Giving Tree” to the Raleigh Police Department.


Moderator for Panel One: Anne Williams-Isom


Anne Williams-IsomAnne Williams-Isom

Anne Williams-Isom is a nonprofit executive with more than 25 years of leadership experience in large, complex organizations. She serves as the James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies at the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University working with faculty and students to develop research, programs, and policy analyses that improve services to at-risk children and families.

Previously she served as the CEO and COO for the Harlem Children’s Zone. Ms. Williams-Isom oversaw all programs, led 2,000+ staff, and strengthened the organization’s use of data to improve services and outcomes for 25,000 participants.

Prior to joining HCZ, Ms. Williams-Isom worked in leadership at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) for 13 years, concluding her tenure as Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Community and Government Affairs. While at ACS, she instituted and oversaw the implementation of several innovative initiatives, including the first ever ACS Leadership Academy for Child Protection, a program designed to help the 160 ACS Child Protective Managers lead the 3,800 frontline staff responsible for investigating the 55,000 reports of child abuse and neglect each year.

Ms. Williams-Isom earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from Fordham University, her Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School and received an honorary doctorate from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.

She serves on the executive committee of the board of directors of Child Trends and the Central Park Conservancy; and the boards of Graham Windham, Collegiate School, Metropolitan Montessori School, Weill Cornell Medicine, Partnership Schools and the Advisory Board for Columbia Entrepreneurship.


Transition from Panel One to Panel Two: Tina Maschi, Ph.D.


Tina MaschiTina Maschi, Ph.D.

Tina Maschi, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW is a full professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. She teaches social work research and practice to the next generation of social work change agents at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Dr Maschi also is a researcher and scholar, who has over 150 peer review publications and five books including: Forensic Social Work, A Rights Research Manifesto, and the 2020 new release: Aging Behind Prison Walls: Studies of Trauma and Resilience.

Additionally, Dr. Maschi also is a licensed clinical social worker and professional artist and musician with over 30 years of eclectic practice experience providing a wide range of community-based services with diverse age groups, populations, and settings that include racially/ethnic and LGBTQIA+ minorities, youth to older adults with justice involvement and.or at high risk of victimization and criminalization. Her forensic social work and the law practice experience centers around individuals, families, and communities to address intersectional age, trauma and oppression, equality, justice, and well-being for individuals, families, and communities.


Panel Two


Felecia PullenFelecia Pullen

A doctoral student at Fordham GSS, Felecia Pullen is the Founder and CEO of Pillars, an NGO in Harlem committed to promoting a holistic approach to addiction. She openly describes her recovery journey. After a 30-year career in advertising, she surrendered and admitted that she was in active addiction for decades. In 2012, a year after treatment, she entered the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University where, after completing her master’s, she is now pursuing a doctorate degree in Social Work Policy.

As a licensed social worker, Felecia specializes in substance use disorders, prevention, and addiction recovery supports. Her work focuses on community-based approaches to poverty alleviation, the reduction of recidivism, and the development of social equity. Her belief is that through multi-tiered initiatives, we can reduce active addiction, and promote healthier communities.


Celia GobleCelia Goble

Celia Goble is a student in the dual degree program at Fordham University’s School of Law and Graduate School of Social Service, where she is working towards her J.D. and M.S.W. degrees. Prior to her time at Fordham, she worked in the museum field for several years, with an emphasis on education. She has interned with The Legal Aid Society’s Education Law Project and Juvenile Rights Practice as a legal intern, and is currently at Legal Aid’s Criminal Defense Practice for her social work field placement.

Celia is particularly interested in working with underserved communities and considering interdisciplinary strategies to improve service delivery. She recently wrote a Note focusing on how social workers may respond instead of or alongside police to mental health emergencies, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Fordham Urban Law Journal.


Casey DeanCasey Dean

Casey is in her second year of Fordham’s three-year part time M.S.W. program at Lincoln Center. She has experience in government working as an Americorps VISTA in Austin, Texas and as a scheduler for a New York state Senator. She currently works as a paralegal in a private practice consumer protection law firm, interns at Black Women’s Blueprint, and is a Graduate Assistant for Professor Sameena Azhar, Ph.D.


Carlos RojasCarlos Rojas

Carlos Rojas is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with over 20 years clinical experience, and is fully Bilingual/Bicultural in Spanish. His professional career includes clinical practice, community-based agency settings, hospitals, schools, program management, and clinical supervision of staff and graduate students. Rojas has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses in mental health, psychopathology, and substance abuse at various universities in NY/NJ.

Rojas earned my first master’s in social work from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. Additionally, he holds a master’s degree in leadership from Fordham University. Currently Rojas is pursuing a Ph.D. at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. Rojas is trained in cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, and psychoanalytic therapies., and holds an Advanced Certificate in Schema Therapy as well as supervisor/trainer/program director titles. He is the coordinator for certification in Latin America for the International Schema Therapy Society, and facilitates workshops, courses, and supervision in Schema Therapy both domestically and internationally.

Rojas has a private practice in Union, NJ where he specializes in working with individuals, couples, and facilitating training and supervision. His areas of clinical specialization include anxiety, depression, relationships, cultural issues, and acculturation, and athletic performance. Rojas holds LCSW licenses in New Jersey and Florida.


Moderator for Panel Two: Kandra Knowles


Kandra KnowlesKandra Knowles

Kandra received an undergraduate degree from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in Psychology and Latin American and Iberian Studies. She pursued her Master in Social Work from New York University and has been a Licensed Social Worker in the State of New York for the past six years. Kandra is in the process of obtaining a doctorate degree from Fordham University in Social Work and partners with the Urban Assembly in NYC for research on social emotional learning in New York Public Schools.

Her experience spans from working with children in foster care in upstate New York, The Ali Forney center servicing LGBTQ youth experiencing homeless in New York City, to providing mental health support to women and girls who are survivors of sexual trauma in the Bahamas. Some of that experience has also been with Wediko Children Services, a non-profit based in Boston and New York as a service provider and clinical supervisor at their outpatient treatment facility in New Hampshire. This work focused on behavioral, psychological, and emotional interventions for adolescents experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges. Most recently, her work has been with educators and parents in the Bahamas to create programs and provide support focused on the acquisition of social emotional learning skills for students, in order to improve academic achievement. Moreover, she works privately providing therapeutic support to adolescents and families in need of additional support


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