Thank you, Attorney General Garland. And thank you, Associate Attorney General Gupta, for your generous words. I am honored and humbled to take on this role, and your faith in me means so much.
I also want to thank your teams—my colleagues from the leadership offices—who work with us so closely, through the good stuff and the hard stuff, and well as the confirmation gurus from the Office of Legislative Affairs who led me through the long and winding confirmation process. Thank you for being here. And I am so honored to have here great friends and wonderful leaders from across the Department. Colette, Steve, Kristen, Rachel, Hamp, Carlos, Tom, Jono—I am so moved that you are here.
My family is here as well, including my husband, Michael; daughter Eva; and son Josh. Our other son, Gabe, is watching from France where he’s studying for the semester. I am also joined by a few close family members who I successfully locked out of my hearing… but it means the world that they are here today: My mom and brother, my father-in-law and his partner, my brother-in-law and my close cousins who live down the street, as well as a few very close friends. My dad and others are watching on WebEx. For fear of getting too emotional, I will simply say that I love you all, and I am infinitely grateful for your unconditional love and support.
My OJP family is here too—both past and present. I am so fortunate to be working alongside such expert and dedicated colleagues, from the dynamo, rock-star office directors who are all here today, to the amazing team in the front office, to the incredible career staff at OJP who have been working so hard over the long haul—through good times and tough times—because of their commitment to safe and just communities. I am so grateful to Team OJP and will do everything in my power to support you and our mission.
A special shout out here to our career Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Maureen Henneberg, who carried the weight of this role in important ways over the last two-and-a-half years. You have been my partner, Maureen, and will continue to be in this next chapter. And to Brent Cohen, who serves as Chief of Staff—and counselor in chief to many: Thank you for your leadership and savvy on the policy front, and for both your strong advocacy and light touch when it comes to working with people. I also want to thank you, Sonya, Dominique and others for putting together this amazing celebration.
I also want to recognize long time colleagues, friends and mentors who are here today. Former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorneys Gneeral Mary Lou Leary and Beth McGarry, and former National Institute of Justice directors Jeremy Travis and John Laub are all here, as well as my former professor and longtime mentor Frank Hartmann. It means the world to me that you are here today. I have learned so much from each of you, and I am using your example as my guide every day in this role.
As many of you know, I got my start here at OJP in the 1990s, when Jeremy was NIJ Director, Laurie was the AAG, and Janet Reno was the AG. I was a junior staffer working in a windowless cubicle on the 7th floor. . . and I loved every minute of it. In those early days I learned that government could be creative, rigorous and dogged about finding solutions to help our communities, as we tackled historically high rates of violent crime and pioneered some of the earliest national reentry efforts.
What’s amazing is that so many of us spent our early formative professional years here at the department. If you were here during the 1990s, please stand up. It’s incredible—both in the room and out there in the field we have leaders who got inspired and empowered during that era and are now leading the International Association of Chiefs of Police (Vince Talucci), the National Criminal Justice Association (Chris Asplen), the National Policing Institute (Jim Burch), until recently the Pretrial Justice Institute (Cherise Burdeen), the National Institute of Justice (Nancy LaVigne), the Office for Victims of Crime (Kris Rose), as well as our own Deputy Assistant Attorney General (Maureen Henneberg). If we expand into the 2000s, we’ve got alum now leading at Pew (Jake Horowitz), Vera (Ed Chung), Arnold Ventures (Julie James and Jocelyn Fontaine) and the NBA Social Justice Coalition (James Cadogan), among others.
This speaks to the OJP that I want to continue to build into. I want young, smart, ambitious, optimistic people to see OJP as a place to learn cutting edge policy and research… for this place to be bursting with ideas, bubbling with creativity and responsible for growing our evidence base. As the OJP team in the room knows, we are in the process of hiring over 120 new positions this year, and I hope that our country’s young people will be a healthy part of the applicant pool.
There are also aspects of OJP today that were not part of the early formula. We’ve got incredible colleagues and leaders with lived experience in our ranks—people who have been in the justice system themselves, who have been survivors of crime, as well as frontline practitioners. We are bringing their lived experiences, their unique perspectives and great expertise to the table, and it’s shaping our policies, practices, initiatives, research and internal culture. I am convinced that it will make us stronger and better equipped to help our partners in the field with our core mission: to advance community safety, build community trust and strengthen the community’s role as co-producer of public safety. That’s why we’re here. And we are doubling down on our commitment to equity, evidence, fairness and transparency.
Here at OJP we believe this is lifesaving work. It’s hard work, with so many opportunities for failure and for things to go wrong. But on good days, we see the best of what’s possible, as we hear from leaders from around the country about innovations that are working to reduce crime.
In just the last month, we met with incarcerated students who are now earning their college degrees and formerly incarcerated leaders who have turned around their own lives and are now creating second chances for others. We’ve toured states achieving impressive juvenile justice reforms and held forums with law enforcement focused on recruitment and retention.
Over the last week, we shined a light on the voices of crime survivors who are shaping justice reform solutions; partnered with HHS Medicaid leaders to expand access to health care and with HUD officials to expand housing opportunities for people who’ve been justice-involved.
We met with philanthropists interested in fair chance hiring and participated in an international summit on violence prevention, an overdose fatality review, a training for federal law enforcement and a forum on youth investments. We also contributed to a whole-of-government roadmap to advancing alternatives to incarceration and reentry strategies.
This week we’re hosting forensic lab directors, a tribal justice conference and a 30x30 webinar focused on getting more women into the policing profession. And as we look into May, we’ll honor fallen heroes during National Police Week and we’ll hold the first NIJ conference in 12 years. We’ll release more than a dozen statistical and research reports, the remaining 29 of our 177 FY 23 solicitations and a new strategic plan for OJP.
It’s a head-spinning amount of activity, with no signs of letting up, but our NorthStar—our reason for being—is clear: we want safe and just communities. Because everyone deserves that. We want kids to feel safe and neighbors to know each other, trust each other and have faith in their justice system. We want full civic participation on offer for every person, even after a tough chapter in their own lives. Here at OJP we want to lead by example and move the dial on outcomes that really matter to people. That’s what we’re after, nothing less.
These are not left-leaning or right-leaning ideas. In fact, this work is not political at all. We are about safety, justice, equity, evidence and opportunity—values that every American should care about.
As the Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General have reminded us, we are fortunate to be part of a federal agency that bears the name of one of those values: justice. I am so proud to work with and for these leaders who embody this principle, and to stand with my OJP colleagues as we carry it into action.
It is an immense honor to serve this Department, and I couldn’t be more committed to this next chapter at OJP. I thank you all for your support and faith in me and in this organization.