July 2021


Press Release

The Foundation for Improvement of Justice, Inc.

August 23, 2021

The Foundation for Improvement of Justice is a private not-for-profit institution founded in 1984 for the purpose of improving local, state, and federal systems of justice within the United States of America. Each year, the Foundation accepts nominations for the Paul H. Chapman Award to recognize and reward individuals or organizations whose innovative programs and work have made improvements in the various systems of justice. Over $2,720,000 in cash awards have been distributed since 1986. The Foundation is pleased to announce the 2021 Paul H. Chapman Award winners:

Alison Steele, Houston, TX – is recognized for her efforts in advocation for legislative reform that created the Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue (CLEAR) Alert, which closed the gap in Texas alert coverage between Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts. In October of 2017 Alison Steele’s only child, a sophomore in college, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered. On the night of her kidnapping, several friends went in person to report the incident to local law enforcement, but police were unable to issue an Amber Alert because she was over the age of 18. Alison decided a change needed to be made in the Texas Alert System. She met with local victim advocates as well as numerous nonprofit public service groups including the Texas Center for the Missing and Texas Equusearch, search related agencies, and formed a legislative team to pursue CLEAR Alert legislation. Alison testified before both House and Senate committees during this process. The legislation passed nearly unanimously and Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law, making Texas the second state to enact such a statute. Alison established a nonprofit to educate the public on the CLEAR Alert system and to support law enforcement in its deployment.

Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, Berkeley, CA – is recognized for its legal work in abolishing fines and fees in the juvenile legal system in California and Nevada.  Beginning in 2012 the Clinic began researching this issue when families served by a local legal aid center began showing up with bills for thousands of dollars for nearly every aspect of their children’s involvement in the legal system.  At the time, 57 of 58 counties in California charged one or more fees to the families of youth in the juvenile system.  In 2016 the Clinic researched and wrote a pathbreaking report revealing the effects of juvenile fees and fines on the  families.  Collaborating with other advocacy groups, they persuaded several large counties to end fee assessment and collection.  However, not satisfied with local reform, the clinic led a coalition of co-sponsors to introduce legislation. Initially the bill stalled, but was reintroduced with additional co-sponsors and organizational support, after more research was done and a new clinic report introduced.  As a result SB 190 was passed, signed into law and became effective January 1, 2018.  This change has relieved hundreds of thousands of youth and their families of more than $360 million in previously assessed fees.  The Policy Advocacy Clinic is helping to launch a national campaign to abolish fines and fees in the juvenile justice system in all states.

Elizabeth Smart, Holladay, UT – is recognized for her advocacy and work in crime prevention and child protection.  In June 2002, at the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was kidnaped, sexually assaulted and held prisoner.  Fortunately, she was rescued in March of 2003.  Her abductors were charged and eventually convicted of their crimes.  When one abductor was sentenced, Elizabeth recognized that many victims are silent after tragic criminal actions. She used her experience to give voice to the silent epidemic and take power away from being a victim by testifying in 2010 against the seconded abductor.  Elizabeth leveraged this tragedy to start her journey of advocacy, and in 2011 starting  the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.  This non-profit works and partners with various organizations to educate them on crimes against children and prevent victimization.  Elizabeth was a vocal campaigner and vital part of the passing of Utah’s HB 286 (Erin’s Law) in 2014.  Her guide to healing after trauma was published in 2018 and after being sexually assaulted on a plane in 2019 she created a Smart Defense course.

Florida Justice Institute, Miami, FL – is recognized for their successful litigation to obtain Hepatitis C treatment for more than 8,000 incarcerated people.  After extensive investigation, The Florida Justice Institute (FJI) found that the corrections department, which housed nearly 100,000 prisoners, had provided treatment to almost none of those incarcerated and had no plan in place to test, evaluate or treat those with Hepatitis C.  In May of 2017, FJI filed a class action law suit asking for immediate treatment for the sickest inmates and for the corrections department to develop and implement a plan to test, evaluate, monitor, and treat Hepatitis C.  Five month later, after a preliminary injunction was requested and an evidentiary hearing conducted, the Court granted their request.  This order was the first of its kind in the country.  After additional discoveries, a second request of the Court was made and in May of 2019 was granted.  To date over 8,000 prisoners have been treated for Hepatitis C, around 150,000 have been tested and tens of thousands more are being monitored and staged for treatment.

Harriet Salarno, Auburn, CA – is recognized for her tireless work on behalf of crime victims and their families.  Harriet Salarno’s oldest daughter was murdered execution stye by her boyfriend on her first day at college in September, 1979.  Upon being thrust into the criminal justice system, Harriet soon realized the victims of crime had no voice or rights in the judicial system. Soon afterward she began working with legislators to change the system.  Over the years Harriet has led the way in fighting for crime victims’ rights.  She co-chaired the 1982 Crime Victims Bill of Rights ballot initiative and  founded a non-profit called  Crime Victims United in 1982.  She has served on state advisory boards and local commissions.  Harriet also advocated for passage of several propositions and laws in including the 1984 Three Strike initiative and Marsy’s Law in 2008 which wrote victims’ rights into the state constitution.  Harriet has been honored Numerous times for her hard work, dedication and accomplishments.

James Dold, Washington, DC – is recognized for his accomplishments in child protection and legal reform.  James Dold is the CEO and founder of Human Rights For Kids (HRFK), a non profit that employs an innovative approach to accelerate the adoption of policy reforms on human rights impacting children across the country.  Prior to the founding of HRFK, James used his “Ripples of Hope” strategy to unite republican and democrat policymakers and other advocates to successfully facilitate the passage of more than 40 anti-human trafficking laws in 20 states in just three years.  Those same eleven legislators now serve along side James on the board of HRFK.  Since 2017 this non-profit has successfully advocated for the introduction of more than two dozen child rights bills across the country which resulted in the passage of child rights laws in several states.  Those reforms include access to education and rehabilitation programs, ending mandatory minimum sentences, retroactively ending life and defacto life without parole sentences, increased due process protections prior to interrogations, the end to lifetime supervision, and restoring voting right of formerly incarcerated youth.

Oklahoma Interviewing Services, Oklahoma City, OK – is recognized for their work in child protection and speeding the process in the area of forensic interviewing of children and vulnerable adults.  Oklahoma Interviewing Services (OIS), a non-profit organization that was established in 2005.  OIS provides not only forensic interviewing services, but also conducts national and international forensic interviewing training, coordinates peer review for interviewers, and provides expert testimony in child abuse cases when needed.  In March of 2016 funding for a mobile interviewing unit, a 40′ RV named Joey, was secured which allowed OIS to expand services to rural areas, provide for families that had transportation or resource issues, and to support law enforcement agencies with limited personnel and budgets.  Additionally, the mobile unit provides a specially trained team and a comprehensive facility to conduct and record interviews.  This reduces the need for multiple interviews, which, as research shows, can lead to less reliable testimony.  Joey  is also equipped with closed circuit capabilities to further reduce the anxiety and trauma of having to testify in a courtroom.

Parabon NanoLabs, Reston, VA – is recognized for significant innovations for analyzing DNA.  Genetic Genealogy and phenotypes data mining/modeling are revolutionizing forensic investigations and Parabon NanoLabs is at the forefront of  utilizing these techniques for DNA analysis.  Parabons’s cutting-edge forensic service Snapshot incorporates traditional Genetic Genealogy (searching public databases and building family trees), phenotyping (predicting physical appearance and ancestry), and kinship analysis (determines relatedness out to six degrees) on DNA samples.  Since May of 2018 hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the world have been using Snapshot to generate leads, narrow suspect pools, and identify/solve human remains cases, in both active and cold case investigations.  To date, over 165 persons-of-interest cases have been positively identified. 

Tzedek DC, Washington, DC – is recognized for accomplishments in legal reform and lowering the cost.  “Tzedek”, which means justice in Hebrew, was launched in 2017 to address unmet needs for legal services for low and moderate income DC residents dealing with debt collection practices and other consumer protection problems.  Since their start, Tzedek has worked with other local agencies and collaborated with DC council members to bring about policy reforms.  Working to end automatic suspension of driver licences for unpaid traffic debt, they helped pass the Driver’s License Revocation Fairness Amendment Act of 2017, thereby restoring the driving privileges of 65,000 people.  Additionally, Tzedek , helped  develop the Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2018, which legislated changes to the regressive rules governing wage garnishments.  And through direct legal services, Tzedek has served over 2000 client households saving them an average of $2151 per debt collection case.