Our Team

Lenore Anderson – Executive Director

Lenore is an attorney with extensive experience working to improve our criminal justice system. She is a regular commentator in the media and at events about challenges within our prison and justice system and the smart justice policies and practices that can overcome those challenges.

Before launching Californians for Safety and Justice, Lenore was Chief of Policy and Chief of the Alternative Programs Division at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, where she spearheaded initiatives to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. She also crafted local and state legislation to aid victims of domestic violence, protect violent crime witnesses, reduce elementary school truancy and reduce recidivism among people convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Lenore also served as Director of Public Safety for the Oakland Mayor, overseeing the Mayor’s violence-reduction and police recruitment initiatives, and as Director of the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. There she oversaw $10 million in violence-prevention grants, advised the Mayor on public safety matters, and launched a citywide gun buy-back program, Community Policing Task Force and Juvenile Justice Task Force. 

Previously, Lenore served as the Director of the Books Not Bars campaign at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which contributed to significant declines in youth incarceration in California, and as an adjunct professor of juvenile justice at the University of San Francisco. She also currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Center for Youth Wellness, a new initiative to reduce the health impacts of chronic stress and trauma on urban youth.

Lenore, who holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law and a B.A. from UC Berkeley, lives with her family in Oakland. 

Milena Blake – Policy and Legislative Advocate

Milena has helped to craft and pass into law several smart justice policies for Californians for Safety and Justice. Before joining the organization, Milena served for three years as Committee Counsel to the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety. There she worked on various public safety legislation (prison conditions, the sex offender registry, child abuse prevention, peace officer training, and firearms) and also organized oversight and informational hearings on topics ranging from California’s aging prison population to human trafficking.

Before her time at the State Capitol, Milena worked as a Public Defender in Solano County, where she specialized in juvenile clients. She has also worked as a research analyst at UC San Francisco and interned at the Child Welfare League of America in Washington, D.C. 

Milena received a B.A. in History and Political Science from UC San Diego and graduated from the UC Davis School of Law (King Hall) with a Public Interest Certificate. She lives in San Mateo, where her husband works as an economist in the tech industry.

Mike de la Rocha – Los Angeles Strategic Partnerships Director

Mike has more than 15 years experience advancing public policy and empowering community stakeholders. Before joining our team, he spent four years as the Senior Legislative Deputy for then L.A. City Councilmember (and now Congressman) Tony Cárdenas, with an emphasis on public safety and juvenile justice. He played an instrumental role in developing The New Alliance for Public Safety, the country’s first network of officials committed to juvenile justice reform. He also advised the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development.

Mike also worked on a number of community-driven efforts, including drafting the nation’s first gang injunction removal process, facilitating the L.A. City Council’s Community Engagement Advisory Committee, and co-founding the Joint City and County Juvenile Justice Task Force in L.A. County. Mike also has served as Policy Advisor for the L.A. Human Relations Commission; Managing Director for Equal Opportunity Productions (a nonprofit arts outreach program); and Program Coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center.

Mike is a writer, musician and artist who received a B.A. from UCLA and a M.A. from California State University-Dominguez Hills.

Jenny Montoya Tansey – Health Matters Program Director

Jenny leads “Health Matters,” a program within Safe and Just's Local Safety Solutions Project. “Health Matters” advances the role of health solutions in building safe communities through toolkits (Enrolling Jail and Probation Populations in Health Coverage) and trainings for practitioners to direct work helping counties understand how to use the Affordable Care Act to provide treatment to people cycling in and out of their justice systems with mental health and addiction needs. She also provides technical assistance through the “Health Matters” Help Desk.

Jenny joined Californians for Safety and Justice after almost four years as a senior advisor on civil rights at the Department of Agriculture. There she worked to ensure that all people receive equal access to USDA programs, which provide affordable housing, key business and infrastructure investments, and food assistance to one in six Americans. Jenny led the creation of USDA’s first-ever policy on access to programs and services by non-English speakers. She also spearheaded the creation of new policies, trainings and best practices for Forest Service law enforcement. Previously, Jenny spent more than a year organizing communities across the country to support President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Jenny earned a J.D. from Stanford Law School and has gained expertise in criminal justice policy at the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Ella Baker Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. She and her husband are happy to be back in Oakland after their stint in our nation’s capital.

Suman Murthy – Communications Associate

Suman oversees event management, social media and other key communications strategies for Californians for Safety and Justice. Her background in communications and nonprofit work includes positions at Change Consulting (a firm providing strategic communications solutions to nonprofits) and as the Communications Manager at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. While at the Lawyers’ Committee, she guided the organization’s communications strategies for their racial justice, economic equality and immigrant rights work.

Previously, Suman was the Project Coordinator at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, working to strengthen the leadership and management capacity of nonprofits. She received her B.A. in Community Studies from UC Santa Cruz, with a minor in Sociology, and is completing her M.A. in Communications from San Francisco State University. Suman currently resides in San Francisco.   

Robert Rooks – Organizing Director

Robert provides leadership for key programs and partners of Californians for Safety and Justice, including our Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice and Criminal Justice Advocacy networks, our work with organized labor and more.

Robert joined Safe and Just after three years with the NAACP, where he served as both National Criminal Justice Director and Executive Director of the California State Conference. As National Criminal Justice Director, Robert was the founding director of the program and provided strategic direction, oversight and management of criminal justice activities. He was responsible for launching the “Misplaced Priorities – Educate Not Incarcerate” campaign, where he worked with Right on Crime to recruit conservatives to join NAACP's efforts to reduce state prison populations and reallocate dollars to education.  

Prior to NAACP, Robert was a national criminal justice reform expert and labor organizer working on sentencing reform and green jobs. Robert has served in senior leadership roles at A Better Way Foundation (in Connecticut), Justice Strategies and the Institute for Community Research. For several years, Robert was a grant reviewer for California HIV/AIDS Research Programs. Robert also worked with the strategic research program at Change To Win labor federation to organize workers in emerging green industries.

Robert has served as an adjunct professor teaching social movement theory and research methods at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and St. Joseph’s College, and at Central Connecticut State University. Robert lives in Sacramento with his wife and three sons.

Stephanie Sabini – Operations Manager 

Stephanie manages Californians for Safety and Justice’s finances and operations. Previously, she was the Operations Manager at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she led and coordinated accounting, human resources, information technology infrastructure and office operations. Previously, Stephanie worked at the Center for Young Women’s Development as a Program Coordinator, Development Associate and Executive Assistant. 

Stephanie has participated on numerous panels and conferences, raising awareness and sharing solutions to develop programs and strategies that create spaces where young women can heal, grow and thrive. A third-generation San Franciscan, she graduated from the University of San Francisco cum laude and lives in San Francisco with her teenage son. 

Mike Smith – Director of Communications and Administration

Mike joined Californians for Safety and Justice after 10 years at Fenton Communications, a public relations firm that helps nonprofit and public interest campaigns accelerate social change. At Fenton, he provided branding, medial relations and strategic counsel to organizations ranging from The James Irvine Foundation to Green For All to the Public Policy Institute of California. Starting in 2002, he helped the Polly Klaas Foundation launch its Amber Alert Now campaign, which worked with law enforcement agencies and policymakers to create Amber Alerts in California, all remaining states as well as national legislation to coordinate these life-saving systems.

Prior to Fenton, Mike held public relations and marketing positions at the Horn Group, Wetfeet.com, and Odwalla Juice. He also wrote and developed advertising campaigns at the Onion Newspaper.

Mike graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in English and a minor in African Studies. He and his wife live in Oakland with their grumpy pointer mix Uno and Maybe, their mischievous little pit bull. 

Sujatha Baliga – Strategist, Victims Outreach

Through working with victims of domestic violence and child sexual abuse, Sujatha has become an expert on victims’ voices in restorative justice practices. In 2008, she used a Soros Justice Fellowship to spearhead a successful program in Alameda County that uses restorative justice with juveniles as alternatives to incarceration, which she expanded as Director of the Oakland-based Community Justice Works.

Sujatha serves as a Senior Program Specialist at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, recently convened the Alameda County Restorative Juvenile Justice Task Force, and is the founder and Executive Director of The Paragate Project, an organization dedicated to exploring forgiveness.

Herself a victim of child sexual abuse, Sujatha’s interest in justice and her work with women accused of killing their abusers drew her initially to criminal defense work. After working as an appellate public defender in New Mexico and New York City, Sujatha relocated to California in 2006 to work on capital cases.  

Sujatha has advised the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and is regularly invited to address academic institutions, conferences, legislative bodies, prisoners and others. She is also an advocate and board member for rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. 

Sujatha earned her B.A. from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in the Bay Area with her partner, son and their sweet dog, Django.

Aqeela Sherrills – Strategist, Victims Outreach

Aqeela is one of Californians for Safety and Justice’s key strategists and organizers regarding victims’ assistance and advocacy. He is also Regional Director of Resources for Human Development, California, a Los Angeles-based organization focused on a new paradigm of personal accountability, practice and leadership.

Aqeela serves on the boards of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, the Turning Tides Coalition and Fathers of Watts. He also serves as the Southern California Outreach Coordinator and spokesperson for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

His work draws on decades of experience working to prevent gang violence as well as the tragic loss of his 18-year-old son, who was shot in the back while home from college because someone mistook his red Mickey Mouse sweater as representing gang colors.

Aqeela’s work with his brother to tackle the myriad personal and social issues that contribute to crime, drugs and violence have led to the historic 1992 “peace Treaty” between the Crips and Bloods. He has consulted in war-torn regions such as Belfast, Ireland, and the former republics of Yugoslavia. He lives in Watts, Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Siggins – Director, Local Safety Solutions Project

Elizabeth directs our Local Safety Solutions Project, which provides city and county officials with best practices, training and tools to implement smart justice policies that improve safety and reduce costs.

Previously, Elizabeth spent almost 10 years as an executive with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). As Assistant Secretary of Juvenile Justice Policy at CDCR, she coordinated and drafted many of the major reforms for California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly the California Youth Authority). More recently, as CDCR’s Chief Deputy Secretary and Director of Rehabilitative Programs, Elizabeth oversaw the education, substance abuse treatment and rehabilitative programs for the state’s 33 adult prisons and statewide parole offices. 

Elizabeth and her team implemented over $250 million in budget reductions using evidence-based decision-making, and she drafted the state’s plan to reinvest in rehabilitative programs as part of CDCR’s 2012 Blueprint (ultimately adopted and funded by the Legislature). Elizabeth has also worked with the California Legislature, for the Office of the Inspector General, and with several nonprofits, including as the Executive Director of City Youth Now (located in San Francisco’s Youth Guidance Center). 

Elizabeth has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She and her son live in Sacramento.

Dionne Wilson – Survivor/Victim Outreach Coordinator

In 2005, Dionne’s husband, a police officer in San Leandro, was shot and killed while responding to a disturbance call. Raising two young children and stricken with grief, Dionne struggled in the months that followed. Though her husband’s shooter was caught, solace came to Dionne in helping other victims heal and by promoting smarter justice policies. This includes speaking on behalf of our Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice program throughout the state, as well as engaging crime victims in Silicon Valley and beyond as part of the statewide network. She lives in Morgan Hill, California. 

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