We don’t make it easy for returning citizens to restart their lives. Though they’ve done their time, a whole host of federal, state and local laws – not to mention the discriminatory practices of private employers and landlords, for example – stand in the way of finding a new footing and starting afresh. Sheena Meade, currently the Executive Director of the Clean Slate Initiative, has focused her career on supporting formerly incarcerated people to get the second chance they deserve. On this episode of Shades of Freedom, she talks about her beginnings in labor organizing, then helping to co-lead the successful fight to restore voting rights in Florida, and how that has led to a push, across the States, to automate the clearing of records, and other new collaborations, such as Next Chapter, to change employer approaches to hiring returned citizens.
This episode is part of Rework Reentry, a partnership of The Aspen Institute and Slack supporting career options for returning citizens.
Sheena Meade is the Executive Director of the Clean Slate Initiative (CSI). CSI is a national bipartisan organization that builds state-based coalitions to pass legislation that automates the expungement of eligible arrest and conviction records. Before being selected as the organization’s first executive director, Sheena served in various leadership roles focused on building long-term, sustainable change for communities. As a criminal justice program officer at Galaxy Gives, she helped develop and lead a Criminal Justice Fellowship program that helps grantees hone professional skills to build stronger, more impactful organizations.
Sheena has also served as the director of strategic partnerships at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and senior advisor to the Second Chances Florida Campaign. In those roles, she developed the blueprints for fundraising, events, and grassroots organizing that helped win the landmark ballot initiative that restored voting rights for Floridians who have completed all of the terms of their sentence. Sheena, who has been directly impacted by the criminal legal system, is a mother of five, proud wife, organizer, optimist, and leader of a national organization committed to ensuring meaningful opportunities for all, regardless of past records.
Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, amplifies and uplifts promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and looking at the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates incarceration.
The Shades of Freedom podcast, hosted by Dr. Douglas E. Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is named after and inspired by the book Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.