John Dacey, Executive Director and Legal Team
John Dacey worked for 12 years at legal aid and public interest firms where he handled class actions and other cases for the poor and people with disabilities in matters concerning poverty and disability programs, particularly Medicaid, and jail conditions. Since 1990 John has been in private practice in Phoenix where he represents businesses, particularly nonprofits,that provide medical, behavioral health and developmental disability services. His work includes trials in state, federal, and tribal courts. John served as a state court judge pro tem and a federal court-appointed mediator to mediate inmate lawsuits over medical care and religious freedoms. For the last five years John has been building a litigation challenge to the constitutionality of private for-profit prisons. He founded Abolish Private Prisons, a 501(c)(3) Arizona nonprofit corporation, in 2015.
Paul Bender, Legal Team
Paul Bender teaches courses on U.S. and Arizona constitutional law at the Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He has written extensively about constitutional law, intellectual property and Indian law, and is coauthor of the two-volume casebook/treatise, Political and Civil Rights in the United States. Bender has argued more than 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and actively participates in constitutional litigation in federal and state courts. Professor Bender served as Dean of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law from 1984-1989, during which time he was instrumental in starting its Indian Legal Program. Prior to joining the College faculty, he was law clerk to 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and spent 24 years as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Bender served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 1993-1997, with responsibility for Supreme Court and federal appellate litigation in the areas of civil rights, race and sex discrimination, freedom of speech and religion, and tort claims against the federal government. Professor Bender has served as a member of the Hopi Tribe’s Court of Appeals, and is currently Chief Justice of the Fort McDowell Nation Supreme Court, and the San Carlos Apache Court of Appeals.
James Christian, Legal Team
James Christian is an attorney who has focused the bulk of his legal career on consumer advocacy tied to the securities markets. He spent the first decade of his career at a prominent Phoenix law firm and then went on to open his own law firm. Throughout his life, he has been active in numerous community and non-profit endeavors with an emphasis on organizations and causes that advance civil liberties and address issues related to minority and emerging communities. James graduated cum laude with a degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona University in 2001. He obtained his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, California in 2004, where he focused his studies on International human rights.
Ira P. Robbins, Legal Consultant
Ira P. Robbins is the Barnard T. Welsh Scholar and Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Practice & Policy Institute at American University’s Washington College of Law. He teaches courses on Criminal Law, Post-Conviction Remedies, and Prisoners’ Rights. Professor Robbins has served as Acting Director of the Federal Judicial Center’s Division of Education and Training, and as the Reporter for the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Privatization of Corrections. He has also served as a special consultant to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
An ardent opponent of private incarceration since its inception in the early 1980s, Professor Robbins has testified on the subject before the U.S. Congress, the President’s Commission on Privatization, and many state legislatures. He has also served as an expert witness on prison privatization. His publications include a book that is considered a classic in the field – The Legal Dimensions of Private Incarceration (American Bar Association, 1988) – as well as many articles, including Privatization of Corrections: Defining the Issues (Vanderbilt Law Review); The Impact of the Delegation Doctrine on Prison Privatization (UCLA Law Review); Privatization of Prisons: An Analysis of the State Action Requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Connecticut Law Review); and Privatization of Corrections: A Violation of U.S. Domestic Law, International Human Rights, and Good Sense (Human Rights Brief). Robbins is also the author/editor of Prisoners and the Law (Thomson Reuters, six volumes, 2016).
Robert Craig, Staff Attorney
Robert Craig graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2012. He clerked for Judge Andy Hurwitz on the Ninth Circuit for one year followed by a three-year clerkship with Judge James Soto of the District Court of Arizona. He volunteered with Abolish Private Prisons over the fall of 2017 and joined the team full-time in 2018.
Immediately after graduating from the University of Arizona, Robert taught fifth-grade in Phoenix for two years as part of Teach For America. That experience sparked a passion for working with underserved communities that continued through law school, during which he worked for the School District of Philadelphia's General Counsel Office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Civil Practice Clinic.
Jane Dacey, Communications Team
An Arizona native, Jane attended the University of Arizona and received her B.A. in Spanish. Immediately following her undergraduate career, Jane used her education and fluency in the language to help orphaned children in Mexico – an experience that has made her passionate about improving the outcomes of disadvantaged youth.
With strong expertise in program development and management, relationship building, and strategic partnerships – Jane received additional training in the nonprofit sector as a member of Class VI of the American Express Leadership Academy through the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Innovation. She is also an active member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Phoenix.
Michael S.C. Soto, Communications Team
Michael S. C. Soto has been a social justice professional for more than 15 years. He currently works at the Arizona Community Action Association as the Economic Equity Policy Manager.
Previously, he worked in the for profit, government, and non-profit sectors. He has worked for agencies including the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona Citizens for the Arts, Equality Arizona, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
His academic and professional expertise are diverse and include economic justice, public policy analysis and development, movement building, communication and marketing strategist, strategic development of non-profit organizations, programs, and businesses, technical writing for public policy, marketing, and media, and much more.
Jeremy Esparza, Law Student Volunteer
Raul Aguilar, Law Student Volunteer
Connor Sonksen, Law Student Volunteer