The Ahimsa Collective

Organizational Staff, Facilitators and Collaborators

 

SONYA SHAH

DIRECTOR

sonya shah initiated the Ahimsa Collective in 2016. She is also an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Central to her core values are nurturing community belonging and collective care, healing, compassion, love and transforming harm. She is a Buddhist, a first-generation immigrant from the Northwestern part of India and feels most at home in nature. She has two amazing children who remind her what it means to be in love all of the time, and currently resides in northern California. 

RICHARD CRUZ

PROGRAM MANAGER

Richard Cruz has been with the Ahimsa Collective since 2018. He is native and his relations are through his mother (Georgia) Assiniboine Sioux, Nakota, Montana. He also has an american college education and has earned Certifications as a Substance Abuse Treatment Counselor and Communications Technician. He currently holds a position as the Director of Finance and Operations. He believes in celebrating our differences, new experiences and healing our communities and history. He lives in the Bay Area of California.

ALISON ESPINOSA-SETCHKO

PROGRAM MANAGER

Alison Espinosa-Setchko was born in Oakland, CA, received a degree in Community Healing and Social Engagement from Pitzer College, and has spent much of her adult life working with young people as a teacher, a mindfulness educator and a facilitator of restorative justice in schools, prisons, and communities. As a survivor of child sexual abuse whose family has been impacted by the criminal legal system, her life has shown her the power of restorative justice to transform lives and institutions, and she is committed to making its healing potential manifest on a larger scale. Alison is currently a Program Manager at the Ahimsa Collective where she facilitates Victim Offender Dialogues, manages the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program at Valley State Prison, facilitates an alumni group for individuals who have participated in our in-prison programs and facilitates Resiliency Rising, a group for women of color survivors of sexual violence.

JULIAN WARD

PROGRAM MANAGER

Julian Ward believes it is possible and necessary to heal from harm and restore our inherent connections with one another and the earth. His focus is on shifting a culture of fear, isolation, and domination to one of love, nurturance, and interdependence. In addition to a variety of administrative tasks at the Ahimsa Collective, he manages the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program at Avenal State Prison, and facilitates that same program at Mule Creek State Prison. He has a master’s in restorative justice from the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.

MARTINA LUTZ SCHNEIDER

VOD MANAGER

Martina was introduced to Restorative Justice by Dominic Barter in 2003 through her engagement with Nonviolent Communication. She is a devoted RJ advocate and has volunteered in school and prison settings. She received her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco with a focus in Restorative Justice and a Conflict Resolution Certificate from Sonoma State University.

In 2015 Martina began facilitating Victim Offender Dialogues in severe and violent crimes in California State prisons through Insight Prison Project. She now collaborates directly with the Office of Victim and Survivors Rights and Services (OVSRS/CDCR) and serves as a VOD consultant and VOD lead facilitator.

Martina Lutz Schneider is a VOD Consultant and VOD Lead Facilitator.

MAEGAN WILLAN

MFT / FACILITATOR

Maegan Willan is a licensed psychotherapist working with activist and queer communities in private practice in Berkeley, CA.  Since first falling in love with Restorative Justice she has been blessed to learn with many inspiring circle keepers in the field.  She has worked in prisons, schools and with groups of survivors of crime, as well as facilitating Victim Offender Dialogues and community healing processes. Informed by the wild possibility of restoring safety and trust within families and communities impacted by gendered and intimate harm, and by her own history, this work has been the most transformative in her life and a place of deep belonging.

Maegan Willan co-created the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence Program at Valley State Prison, and serves as the MFT for The Ahimsa Collective.

BONNIE WILLS

FACILITATOR

Bonnie Wills received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Ecology at John F. Kennedy University, a Masters in Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University, and a Masters in Religion and Philosophy at California Institute of Integral Studies. She is a Certified Diversity Facilitator, and a Restorative Justice Facilitator and Trainer. She has facilitated Restorative Justice Circles at San Quentin Prison, and COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) groups for formerly incarcerated youth. She has facilitated healing/training circles at California Institute of Integral Studies, Cal State East Bay and Holy Names University.  She completed the Merritt College Community Mental Health Advocates certification training.  She currently facilitates training for the re-entry pod at San Francisco Jail, Valley State Prison. and various community organizations. Bonnie is committed to a compassionate, just, and inclusive planet. Through her work, she strives to support the eradication of social injustice and inspire.  She currently facilitates training for healing within our homes, workplaces, communities, institutions, and the planet.

Bonnie Wills is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and facilitates Restorative Circles for families and organizations.

KASHKA BANJOKO

FACILITATOR

Kashka Banjoko was granted a Master of Arts degree at Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University. He has facilitated Restorative Justice Circles at San Quentin Prison and currently facilitates circles in the re-entry pod at the San Francisco Jail and Valley State Prison. Kashka has also worked with COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) with formerly incarcerated youth through RJOY.  He has facilitated training circles at California Institute of Integral Studies, Cal State East Bay and Holy Names University.  Kashka seeks to restore wholeness and purpose in the lives of individuals, including his own, one circle at a time. 

Kashka Banjoko is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and facilitates Restorative Circles for families and organizations.

DAVE BELDEN

GRANT WRITER / FACILITATOR

Dave Belden has been facilitating restorative justice oriented groups in prisons and jails since 2012. He is a writer, editor and occasional college teacher. His eclectic work life has included 20 years as a carpenter, 10 as a corporate writer for engineers, 4 as managing editor of the spiritual progressive magazine Tikkun, and two published science fiction novels. His heart is with restorative justice and peacemaking, as the most effective response to harms from the individual to societal levels, including the massive harms caused by Europeans’ centuries-long drive for dominance. He emigrated from England to marry his American love; they have been together over 35 years and have one son.

David Belden writes grants for The Ahimsa Collective and is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

NURI NUSRAT

PROGRAM MANAGER

nuri nusrat hopes to bring love and compassion to those she has the honor of working with. She has 6 years of experience in restorative justice and over 15 years supporting those impacted by the criminal legal system. She’s had the privilege of training incredible people in circle process and restorative community conferencing models and has co-facilitated direct dialogues about harm, accountability, and support. She believes the collective has more wisdom than she could ever hold alone and values collaboration as a fundamental part of restorative justice work. nuri’s parents were both child sexual abuse survivors, amongst many other identities, including fiercely loving and often hilarious parents. This motivates her to create opportunities that her parents didn’t have-for communities to work together to acknowledge harm, seek accountability without shaming, and to support those impacted and each other. She cares deeply for all those who have experienced, done, and been affected by harm. nuri currently works at the Ahimsa Collective where she facilitates the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence Program at Valley State Prison and Avenal State Prison, facilitates "Victim Offender Dialogues", and collaborates with others on exploring the potential for restorative justice to support those impacted by domestic violence and other harms.

TROY WILLIAMS

COLLABORATOR / TRAINING CO-FACILITATOR

Troy Williams is a media expert who develops transformative stories for social change through his production company and nonprofit in the Bay Area, California. When incarcerated he directed the San Quentin Prison Restorative Justice Roundtable, raising prisoner participation from less than 40 to over 200, and founded the award-winning San Quentin Prison Report media production company.

Troy Williams is a collaborator on restorative justice movement building and training co-facilitator.

SAMANTHA LYNNE WILSON

RESTORATIVE PRACTICES CONSULTANT / FACILITATOR

Samantha Lynne Wilson (MA, M.Div, PhD ABD) is a community psychologist, spiritual care provider, and restorative practices consultant and facilitator in Los Angeles, CA. From 2008-2013, she founded an international youth organizing collective, collaborating with other young adults to organize over 500 youth across the USA, India, and Mexico on transnational dialogues and action in their local communities. Experiences of inequity and abuse within families, communities, and institutions led her to pursue her Masters in Divinity at Claremont School of Theology, focusing her work on faith-rooted organizing and nonprofit management. Informed by her spiritual call, she worked as an intern chaplain, completing 1200 hours of clinical pastoral education in Los Angeles, providing interfaith care in public hospitals, jails, and in re-entry nonprofits. She is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry and a PhD candidate in Community, Liberation, and Ecological Depth Psychologies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She does her work in honor of  generations of family members who caused and experienced harm in the midst of systemic oppressions, and to the incarcerated great-grandfather her family never met.

Samantha Lynne Wilson is a consultant for restorative practices in faith-based and community organizations as well as a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

KAZU HAGA

FACILITATOR

Kazu Haga is the founder and Coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy, is a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence and teaches various aspects of nonviolence, restorative justice and mindfulness. Born in Tokyo, Japan, he has been engaged in social change work since the age of 17, and has played leading roles in various social movements. He works to empower incarcerated communities, young people and activists around the country. He currently resides in Oakland, CA.

 

Kazu Haga is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

SACHI MANIAR

COLLABORATOR

Sachi Maniar runs a non-profit, Ashiyana, which aims to transform the lives of vulnerable children and children in conflict with the law within closed institutions in India. Her journey to build peace began as a student and continued through her film making career and her equally committed volunteer work. She works with diverse stakeholders in Mumbai's complex juvenile justice system which often includes other national and international agencies. No matter the role she inhabits she manages to bring hope to the children and to be a catalyst for inner transformation for all. 

Sachi Maniar is a collaborator on restorative justice movement building in India.

IAN NAVAS

FACILITATOR

Ian Navas is formerly incarcerated and served a nine year sentence. Ian went to jail when he was 18 years old. During his time in prison he experienced multiple instances of violence and abuse, which caused profound psychological and emotional trauma. While participating in one of The Ahimsa Collective's programs at Valley State Prison, Ian was able to engage in courageous conversations that helped him transform his negative experiences into a powerful tool to help others. After release from prison, Ian has been active in helping others who have suffered traumatic experiences like himself with the goal to transform victimization into survival.  

Ian Navas is a trainer for the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program.

KAREN LISCHINSKY

COLLABORATOR

Karen Lischinsky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice  at Curry College, where she teaches on issues of social justice. She founded the Transformational Prison Project (TPP) to bring the principles and practices of restorative justice to the Massachusetts prison system. Restorative Justice is founded on making possible courageous conversations that have the power to be transformative and connecting for survivors, for those who are subject to incarceration, and to the society as a whole. The power of restorative justice is that it centers the voices of those who have been harmed, while supporting those who are willing to take responsibility for the harm they have caused. Kischinsky received her PhD in Sociology from Northeastern University, and her MSW from Boston University.  

Karen Lischinsky is a collaborator on the Trauma Education Project for Law Enforcement and Systems Professionals. 

SUJATHA BALIGA

COLLABORATOR

sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crimes. She speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. A former victim advocate and public defender in New York and New Mexico, baliga was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2008 which she used to launch a pre-charge restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County. Through the Restorative Justice Project baliga helps communities implement restorative justice alternatives to juvenile detention and zero-tolerance school discipline policies. She is also dedicated to using this approach to end child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. sujatha is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences; she’s been a guest on NPR and the Today Show; and The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic have profiled her work. She earned her A.B. from Harvard College, her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and has held two federal clerkships. A long-time Buddhist practitioner, she is a lay member of the Gyuto Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Richmond, CA, where she teaches meditation on Monday nights.

sujatha baliga is a collaborator.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

VALLEY STATE PRISON INCARCERATED FACILITATORS

FACILITATORS

The Ahimsa collective has seven in-prison facilitators at Valley State prison who are equally responsible for the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program at Valley State Prison. They co-lead the curriculum, have an in-depth understanding of restorative justice and trauma healing, foster the agency of each participant, and critically-self reflect on their own process of teaching and learning. In addition to technical facilitation skills, they have the wisdom of personal experience and knowledge about their incarcerated community that makes them excellent facilitators.

 

DANIEL JACOB SELF

FACILITATOR 

daniel jacob self is a dancer, performing artist, group facilitator, and therapist in training currently pursuing his Master's degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Somatic Psychotherapy. His undergraduate degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, focusing on privilege, positionality, and embodiment. Coming from a family with a legacy of sexual abuse, daniel is a firm believer in the power of relationships, community, and courageous vulnerability to help heal trauma, isolation, and shame.

 

ANA MARIA HURTADO

FACILITATOR / COLLABORATOR

Born and raised in Colombia with a multicultural educational background, Ana Maria was introduced to Restorative Justice while she was completing her Master’s Degree on East and West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Restorative Justice has added another layer of meaning to the work she does in the world and an opportunity to reconcile with paradox. She is also a SoulCollage® and Guided Imagery Facilitator and is committed to holding space for soul and spiritual inquiry. Ana Maria is also convinced humor is a key component to healing.

Ana Maria Hurtado is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and a collaborator for restorative practices in Colombia.

 

NICOLE PITTMAN 

VOD FACILITATOR

For 16 years, Nicole Pittman worked solely on stopping the abusive practice of placing children on sex offender registries. Nicole has seen how our most vulnerable children get caught in the crosshairs of legislation intended to combat crimes against children, and how this practice perpetuates the cycle of abuse. This led Nicole to think deeply about how to move her work beyond fixing the existing system to addressing the root causes of sexual harm. To this end, Nicole is now focusing on co-creating a “Roadmap” to the future of ending child sexual abuse that is bold, exciting, healing &, does not depend on or center the carceral system. She is excited to imagine and build with partners like Ahimsa Collective, a world where we work upstream and transform the conditions that allow child sexual abuse to occur.

Nicole Pittman is a VOD facilitator with the Ahimsa Collective.

 

A.J. URRIZA

COLLABORATOR

AJ achieved his Bachelors of Science Degree in Financial Accounting at Far Eastern University, Philippines. He also graduated with high honors in achieving his degree in Sociology. He received his Customer Service Specialist Certification from Electronics Technician Association (ETA). AJ is a facilitator of Restorative Justice, Anger Management and Domestic Violence. As a facilitator, he is never afraid to share his insights and vulnerability. He is supportive of every member of the group - warm, available to talk, seeking connection, healing and accountability. According to AJ, “I believe in championing all beauty, living with courage, and standing fearlessly together to celebrate our differences. I will never stop building a community where diversity is expected, self-expression is honored, and equality is valued. ALL are welcomed, and YOU are included. Because I believe we belong to something beautiful.”

A.J. Urriza is a collaborator with the Ahimsa Collective for restorative justice practices in the Philippines.

 

HENRY ORTIZ

COLLABORATOR

Henry Ortiz is a Leadership Trainer, Community Organizer, Youth Mentor, and Prison Reform Advocate. In 2005 Henry Co-Founded The Self-Awareness and Recovery non-profit organization. While serving a 21 year prison sentence, Henry started writing and teaching trauma informed emotional intelligence workshops. He also became a trained mediator and Toast Master. Three months after his release, Henry was featured in the New York times, Univison and various articles published by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR). On his six month out of prison, Henry received a grant by the California Endowment Foundation to do his first Schools Not Prison Documentary. During his free time Henry enjoys song writing and playing the guitar.

Henry Oritz is a collaborator with the Ahimsa Collective.

 

SHELL THOMAS

FACILITATOR

Shell received a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Critical Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. She works with children who are on the Autism Spectrum as a Clinical Specialist and enjoys the difference she is making in these children’s lives. Shell also has a passion for restorative justice and the importance of having alternate outlooks on crime and harm. Shell goes to Valley State Prison as a facilitator in training . Her drive for this work comes from Shell’s survival of indirect gun violence, childhood sexual abuse, as well as a step-parent incarcerated. Shell’s cocktail of life experiences has placed her right where she needs to be and she is very grateful to practice healing for herself and others. Communal healing has been extremely beneficial for Shell’s personal journey and she seeks to send that back into the universe. Áse.

Shell Thomas is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

K. NOËL AMHERD

VOD FACILITATOR

Working with schools throughout the State of California, Noël facilitates dialogues and trains school administrators and staff to develop restorative disciplinary responses, building a culture of healthy youth and adult relationships of mutual responsibility and repair. When needing a restorative dialogue, Noël facilitated community dialogue for the Sudanese Association of Northern California as an example of his work also with community organizations. For five years, Noël's been a regular participant in the San Quentin State Prison’s Interfaith Restorative Justice Symposia out of which he became a volunteer chaplain for the men-in-blue in general population and on death row who worship Ifá/Òrìsà, the indigenous tradition of the Yorùbá of whom Noël is an initiated babaláwo in the Ijèbú-Rémo area of Nigeria. His book, Reciting Ifá: Difference, Heterogeneity and Identity is published by Africa World Press. Noël received his Doctorate from the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, UK and his Master's in Anthropology from Cal State, Hayward. Noël is currently co-directing a documentary film on the origin and perpetuation of racial construction and violence in the United States.

Noël Amherd is a VOD facilitator with the Ahimsa Collective.

 

RACHELLE SCHILLER

FACILITATOR

Rachelle Schiller received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Fresno Pacific University. She was first involved in Restorative Justice work when she became a mediator at Community Justice Conferencing in Fresno, CA. Rachelle mediated conflict between those who were identified as youth offenders by the Juvenile Justice Court and the victims of their crime, and conflict between the youth offenders and their families. Rachelle has now transitioned to working with adults as the case manger for COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) Fresno, where she works to provide support for those returning to the community after incarceration. Rachelle’s commitment to this work is rooted from her mother’s journey of healing and her grandparents’ support for healing. 

Rachelle Schiller is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

JESSICA HARRIS

FACILITATOR

Jessica Harris is currently pursuing her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Alliant International University-Fresno. She has worked with individuals with developmental disabilities, juveniles, college students, and clients in an outpatient clinic. She was introduced to Restorative Justice in 2017 through her volunteer work with Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA). She currently serves as a team member of a COSA-Fresno circle and participates as a volunteer in a monthly Restorative Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence group at Valley State Prison. Being trained on the practices of restorative justice was a transformative moment in her life and she has witnessed the power of circles as a tool for helping individuals on their journey towards healing.   

Jessica Harris is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

JENNY PORETZ

FACILITATOR

Originally from New York City, Jenny is deeply committed to dismantling systems of oppression born and bred of white supremacy. Over the last eight years, Jenny's work has been focused primarily on disrupting cycles of mass incarceration by addressing the interpersonal and systemic root causes of harm through restorative justice processes. As a survivor with loved ones impacted by the criminal legal system, this work calls Jenny to tear down binaries and embrace the subtleties, complexities, and nuances of everyone's humanity and capacity to cause harm. Central to her is the power of relationships, community, goofiness, belonging, courageous vulnerability, and love as a means for individual and collective healing. Jenny uses she/her pronouns.    

Jenny Poretz is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and a VOD facilitator.

 

JAIME LEYVA

FACILITATOR

Jaime Leyva was born is Los Angeles, California and is currently residing in the Central Valley. He is employed with COSA-Fresno, a nonprofit organization that facilitates a support network for individuals re-entering free society. He is a Substance Use Disorder Counselor and Mediator. Jaime is formally incarcerated, and while incarcerated he became a practitioner of non-violence and was a mentor for two different programs for at-risk youth, a facilitator of various self-help groups (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/Intervention, Criminal Thinking, Anger Management, Denial Management, Victims Impact, Alternative to Violence Project, Substance Abuse) and a Peer Counselor in the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program for the last ten years of his incarceration. In 2019, Jaime was trained in Victim Offender Dialogues. He is committed to creating a safe space for those that seek healing and collaborates with others in Restorative Justice efforts to create a healing culture.   

Jaime Leyva is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

MISTY FRANKLIN

COLLABORATOR

Misty loves inspiring others through talks on Compassion, Leadership, Personal Development, and Community Mental Wellness. She is the founder of Misty Franklin Speaks. With great promise as a young teen on her way to college and beyond Misty connected with the wrong person that through a series of wrong decisions landed her in prison. Through that brief journey along with her powerful self-education, Misty has become a new woman, a mentor, speaker, and advocate.

Misty Franklin is a Restorative Justice Fellow with The Ahimsa Collective.

 

KONY KIM

FACILITATOR

Kony Kim is an attorney who counsels and represents people facing the parole board. While earning her JD and PhD at UC Berkeley, Kony co-founded the Restorative Justice Committee and volunteered for six years in the GED and college programs at San Quentin State Prison. Her research explored the role of self-narrative in promoting freedom and wellbeing, and the special potential for redemptive self-narratives to facilitate reintegration after prison. (Her own self-narrative is a fairly messy work in progress.) Kony has lived in two dozen cities, mostly in California, and lovingly calls Berkeley, California her home. An avid memoir reader and amateur poet, Kony takes delight in the written word. She is both a cat person and a dog person.   

Kony Kim is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

ADRIANA BELTRAME DOS SANTOS KELLER

FACILITATOR

Adriana started her studies with Visual Arts in Brazil. While in the art world, she became very interested in the expression of the depths of human psyche and eventually took the next step in her studies engaging in independent research on themes such as Mythology, Astrology, Archetypes, Fairytales, Philosophy, Anthroposophy, Non-violent Communication, Ecopsychology and Meditation. She has experience working as teacher, lecturer, writing and creativity tutor, group facilitator for Brazilian immigrants in the US and as counselor for nature-based programs for children and teenagers. She recently completed the MA in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and has combined different skills and tools to support people in rediscovering inner peace and liberation.

Adriana Beltrame dos Santos Keller is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

ELIZA SHERPA

FACILITATOR

Eliza is committed to community-centered autonomous responses to harm and violence. She’s been involved in work around restorative justice, sexual violence, and criminalization for the last 5 years and strives to create pathways for individual and collective healing. She also organizes with groups supporting inside/outside collaboration and prison solidarity work, primarily California Coalition for Women Prisoners. She believes deeply in the power of transformative work, like that of the Ahimsa Collective, to shift the structures that feed violence.   

Eliza Sherpa is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

MONICA GARCIA

FACILITATOR

Monica Garcia has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice and will soon be finishing her Masters Degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies from Fresno Pacific. As a follower of Jesus, her desire is to continue participating in the healing process with other awesome people and a witness to see them become the person God has called them to be. She loves to travel, make new friends, and drink coffee. 

Monica Garcia is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

ELAINE LEEDER

VOD FACILITATOR

Elaine Leeder, MSW, MPH, PhD is a Professor of Sociology and Dean Emerita at Sonoma State University. For the last 25 years she has worked in prisons in New York and California, first running groups and education programs. Now she does Victim/Offender Dialogues. She is the recipient of many awards, including a Real Hero Award from the Red Cross for her work in prisons. Her book, My Life with Lifers: Lessons for a Teacher, Humanity has no Bars, has been used in universities around the country and documents her work inside Elmira Correctional Facility and San Quentin. Leeder enjoys this type of work, being interested in why people commit crimes. Her father was a Holocaust refugee, so the issue is close to home. 

Elaine Leeder is a VOD facilitator.

 

JAMES MACKEY

FACILITATOR

James Mackey is from Stockton, California, where he now works as a Transitions Clinic Network (TCN) Community Health Worker with Community Medical Centers (CMC). Before joining TCN and CMC he worked as a peer counselor and housing coordinator serving the homeless of Fremont with Bay Area Community Services. James received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in 1987 and a Master of Humanities degree from CSU Dominguez Hills in 2008. Twenty-five years as a participant, facilitator, and mentor in self-help programs and 7 years as a mental health aide while incarcerated prepared James for many roles, but none could have fit better than the role of a TCN community health worker.  In this position James is able to assist returning community members with reentry by helping them with medical and behavioral healthcare navigation, SUD services, food, clothing, jobs, housing, and by being someone our brothers and sisters can turn to when they need someone who understands where they are coming from.

James Mackey is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

RENÉ RIVERA

LEAD VOD FACILITATOR

René Rivera is a leader and bridge-builder, working and learning in all the spaces in-between race, gender, and other perceived binaries, as a queer, mixed-race, trans man. René teaches heart-centered, trauma-informed meditation and mindfulness practices, and serves as a circlekeeper for the Restorative Practices Sangha, at the East Bay Meditation Center. René is a lead VOD facilitator, and is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program, for the Ahimsa Collective. René is committed to bringing healing to the experience of sexual and gender based violence, especially for men and masculine people, and those who have done harm. 

René Rivera is a lead VOD facilitator and a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

SIMA SAVDHARIA

FACILITATOR

Sima Savdharia is a formally trained Mediator, Restorative Justice facilitator, Kingian Nonviolence trainer, and meditation teacher. She has been working in the realm of conflict transformation for the past 7 years as a former classroom teacher and graduate of USF's "Urban Education and Social Justice" MA program. When she's not working, you could find her leading migrant support efforts at a refugee shelter in Tijuana, BC, spending time in nature with her dog, and pondering the vast complexities of systemic and interpersonal healing. 

Sima Savdharia is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

KIMBERLY GRAGSTON

COLLABORATOR & FACILITATOR

Kimberly Gragston believes that individual and collective healing and wholeness are possible. She is committed to work alongside others in the community to create a safe environment to talk about what led to harm, the impact, and a way forward. Her own experience as a survivor of sexual harm and intimate violence has shaped her understanding and the importance of embracing belonging and relationships as necessary companions on this journey of healing. Kimberly feels grateful to have been introduced to Restorative Justice through the amazing work of COSA Fresno. She is currently the Administrator for The Community Justice Center, loves to hike, and resides with her family in Fresno, CA.

Kimberly Gragston is a VOD facilitator and is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

DEIDRE WILSON

VOD FACILITATOR

Deirdre Wilson is Co-Chair of Unchained Scholars, a student interest group in the graduate school of social work at University of Southern California where she is pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Since her release from prison in 2005, she has worked in various capacities to build healthy and resilient community centering practices of Restorative and Transformative Justice. Deirdre has been a member of California Coalition for Women Prisoners since 2010 and served as Program Coordinator for three years. Deirdre has spent the last several years working as a counselor in residential recovery. She had the privilege of facilitating a meditation group with men in recovery that deepened her appreciation of the sacredness of our unity as human beings within our vast diversity of expression. 

Deidre Wilson is a VOD facilitator.

 

JULIE HILT

VOD FACILITATOR

Julie Hilt is a Restorative Justice practitioner with a wide range of experience. She co-facilitated the first restorative conference with a death row inmate at San Quentin and facilitated a victim-offender group with adult lifers for two years. Currently, she runs three weekly restorative justice groups with incarcerated youth and manages a youth diversion program in the community that has maintained an 85% success rate for three years in a row. In 2018, she started a mentor program for incarcerated youth, matching trained community members with youth in detention. In 2019, her company received a grant from the California Youth Reinvestment Fund to create a county-wide diversion program for high school students. This is part of an initiative to reduce the racial and ethnic disparity in the juvenile justice system. Julie is the founder of Alternative Restorative Communities (ARC), and is very proud to say that 50% of her colleagues are returning citizens. She is a licensed trainer for the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), and is currently pursuing accreditation with the United Kingdom Restorative Justice Council. 

Julie Hilt is a VOD facilitator.

 

MIGUEL QUEZADA

PROGRAM MANAGER

Miguel Quezada is a spanish language facilitator that has contributed to establishing several rehabilitative, educational and restorative justice focused programs. He is co-founder of the Adult Peer Education Project in San Quentin State Prison where he created a peer-to-peer education curriculum and was an instructor helping students earn their diplomas and enroll in higher education. He was a certified rape counselor and crisis pevention counseler with Bay Area Women Against Rape, a certified Batterer Intervention Program facilitator with the Marin County Probation Department as a service provider with the Guiding Rage into Power Program (GRIP) at San Quentin State Prison, was managing editor of the monthly publication San Quentin News and has helped establish the bilingual curriculum programs Personal Insight Exploration and GRIP in Avenal State Prison. Miguel has a background in community organizing and as a policy manager working on criminal justice reform in California. 

 

KAREN SCHOUSBOE

FACILITATOR

Karen is driven by a commitment to collective trauma-healing, community building, and truth-telling around historical harms.  She has five years of experience in restorative justice and has been honored to be a part of the Realize Community at Valley State Prison since August 2018. She has also facilitated trainings in community circles, harm circles, and restorative community conferencing models though her work on the Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. Prior to that, Karen worked on community development and peace leadership programming in Myanmar for several years, igniting her firm belief in the ability of youth to bridge difference and transform community. She holds an M.A. in Conflict Analysis and Transformation from the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Karen uses she/her pronouns.

Karen Schousboe is a VOD facilitator and is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

CONLY BASHAM

FACILITATOR

Conly is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist working with Bay Area elders and youth. She has a background in theatre performance, arts based facilitation, and an MA in Counseling Psychology and Expressive Arts Therapy. Currently a PHD candidate in Expressive Arts at the European Graduate School at Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Conly is dedicated to exploring the intersections of Expressive Arts and restorative practices towards the acknowledgement of power and privilege, collective healing and communal peacebuilding. 

Conly Basham is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

ALBA CONTRERAS

FACILITATOR

Alba Contreras was born in South Central, Los Angeles. She received her bachelor's degree in Criminology with an emphasis in Victimology from Fresno State. Having her father and brothers incarcerated has brought her to be passionate about restorative justice. She is grateful to COSA Fresno for introducing her to the Ahimsa Collective, and is now dedicated to the work and healing that comes from it. Alba believes that this work can be transformative and healing for anyone who is willing to do the work. She is dedicated and hopes to continue working alongside what she now considers family.  

Alba Contreras is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

 

BARBARA VAN SICKLE

COLLABORATOR / FACILITATOR

Barbara’s passion for social justice and her nonprofit, psychology and legal background led her to the place she is today. As a former entertainment attorney, public defender, and legal advocate, Barbara has expanded her life-long desire to effect change in the system and in the lives of system-impacted individuals to a new arena. She co-founded the nonprofit organization, ReEvolution, where she supports the healing of incarcerated youth offenders and the formerly incarcerated community. She continues to marvel at the power of the circle, community and restorative practices through her collaboration with the Ahimsa Collective.  

Barbara Van Sickle is a collaborator with the Ahimsa collective, a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and a VOD facilitator.

 

KRISTY DINSMOOR

COLLABORATOR / FACILITATOR

Kristy's life focus is on community building. Having a keen awareness of the interconnectedness of life, she believes in the notion that a high tide raises all ships. Kristy started this path as a restorative justice mediator in 2002 and has since worked for various nonprofits aimed at providing inclusion, equality, and empowerment to underserved populations. She has been working with system impacted people since 2017 both in and out of prisons, now as co-founder of ReEvolution and also collaborating with the Ahimsa Collective.  

Kristy Dinsmoor is a collaborator with the Ahimsa collective, and a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.

KEVIN SKIPPER

VOD FACILITATOR

Kevin Skipper serves the Ahimsa Collective as a facilitator for the Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) program. He previously served as a volunteer facilitator for the Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) in San Quentin State Prison and currently serves as a professional facilitator with Stronghold in the support of transforming community organizations via restorative practices. Kevin combines his 30+ years of financial services consultation and 17 years as a real estate broker as a platform for addressing historical harm and creating a pathway to equity and social justice. A California native and lifelong Bay Area resident, he understands the connection between acknowledging harm, creating accountability, and setting the stage for equity inclusion and collaboration as a basis for building strong healing communities. He is a father of three and a grandfather of two. He loves yoga, good food, and exceptional conversation.  

Kevin Skipper is a VOD facilitator.

 
 

ELLE DOWDY

EMPATHIZE FACILITATOR

My name is Elle Dowdy and I am delighted to be a member of the Ahimsa Collective. I come to this work as a result of the death of my 24 year old daughter, Emily, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009 in Pacific Beach. On January 15, 2019, I had a conversation (VOD) with Alan, the man responsible for her death at San Quentin prison. The dialogue was facilitated by members of the Ahimsa Collective. I was part of a process that brought healing to myself and Alan in ways that I hadn’t imagined possible and it became my heart’s desire to work for Ahimsa in some way. I have participated in victim impact awareness groups in several prisons and have taken the VOD facilitator training last summer. I turned 70 this year and I have lived a lifetime wanting to be of use—wanting to be a source of love and kindness. My daughter’s death nearly ended my own life and to be given the chance to redeem her death by doing this work of healing and redemption is amazing. Love truly does win!

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Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means non-harm, and non-violence.