Edward Bennett Williams – storied and stellar in career and remembrance – holding intelligent and prestigious gatherings discussing relevant issues and seeking pathways to improvement (continuing the admirable work of EBW). The Edward Bennett Williams Inn of Court holds monthly programs on a range of relevant topics for Inn members, who are both white-collar defense lawyers and prosecutors, and including D.C. federal trial and appellate judges.

Joel Sickler – invited panelist at EBW Inn of Court (February15, 2024, Washington DC). The meeting held in the District of Columbia Court of Judge Amit Mehta. In addition to panelists, approximately 150 lawyers including several Federal District Judges were also present. The panel was presented primarily with Michael Horowitz, DOJ Inspector General and Seth Eichenholtz, Deputy Assistant Attorney General – also featuring Vanessa Rojas, a returning citizen with direct and learned perspective regarding constructive reforms within the Bureau of Prisons.

Mr. Horowitz was both thoughtful and thorough focusing on the BOP and the positive changes required for going forward. Opportunities in these recent years such as FSA and the wider use of ‘compassionate release’ indeed contribute to lasting benefits not just bettering an individual, but also delivering results to minimize recidivism and the added betterment to society overall which that brings. Expanding the role and awareness of attorneys and the Courts in advocating (and navigating) the corrections system on behalf of a sentenced/incarcerated individual was another priority of this EBW panel discussion. And Ms. Rojas notably lent her personal look into the process to offer an immediate, credentialed perspective to these issues, in addition to being a stellar blueprint example of a successful and highly admirable personal rehabilitation.

Moderators: Seth Rosenthal; Addy Schmitt – Participants: Seth Eichenholtz; Michael Horowitz; Vanesa Rojas; Joel Sickler – (Left to Right): Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General DOJ; Addy Schmitt, Managing Partner Harris, St. Laurent & Wechsler LLP; Joel Sickler, Founder of Justice Advocacy Group LLC; Vanesa Rojas, Formerly Incarcerated Rising Scholar, Palomar College; Seth Eichenholtz, Senior Counsel to Deputy Attorney General at DOJ; and Seth Rosenthal, Chief Deputy Attorney General for Office of AG District of Columbia.

This panel coming together was highly relevant and long overdue – and the gains from this discussion will continue in their momentum and good direction. There is significant and growing awareness of necessary systemic adjustments needed that are both reasoned and wise – and it’s truly heartening to see Michael Horowitz and Seth Eichenholtz involved and committed to these worthy improvements – with Vanessa Rojas remaining an inspiration to us all in experience and illustration, remarkably showing what can be accomplished/achieved coming out of this adversity.

Some priorities and specific recommendations the Justice Advocacy Group was able to highlight for the panel: 1) attention to contraband which puts inmates and staff at risk. 2) bring staffing up to par with adequate training at all levels (administrative, security, medical, programming, reentry, etc.). 3) drastically limit the use of administrative segregation.  4) refine the antiquated administrative remedy (grievance) process to make it more timely and actually meaningful.  5) upgrade medical and mental health services, physician positions must be filled (and outside specialist contracts).  6) fully fund recidivist programming and insure the programs are staffed and are actually available/operating on a consistent basis.  7) fully fund reentry services to create more reentry beds for prisoners returning to the community who need reentry services – especially in the large urban cities. “If just some of that can be accomplished (tall order I know), but at least the last two items, you will have less inmates reoffending and far more inspirational success stories like Vanessa.” Joel Sickler 2/15/24

My College Experience Gave Me a Second Chance After Going to Prison and Battling Addiction, The San Diego Tribune, 4/25/23, Vanessa Rojas

Joel Sickler and the Justice Advocacy Group were honored to have been part of this discussion and the chance to participate on the EBW panel was tremendously appreciated. The lineup of other presenters and moderators was very important and influential regarding standing and ability to successfully implement the policy developments and priorities discussed. I have dedicated most of my life to these legitimate and foundational matters within sentencing and corrections, and the direction of this panel and its participants is of real significance to both note and support.