Angel Alejandro

Angel Alejandro joined the CFSY in February of 2020 and serves as Grants Officer on the Development team. In this role, Angel works closely with the Director of Strategic Planning to help educate diverse stakeholders on issues related to extreme sentencing.

Angel was incarcerated at the age of 18 for a crime he committed when he was 15, and he was not released from prison until the age of 39. He spent his time incarcerated educating himself and came home with two degrees and several certifications, including one in Business Entrepreneurship.  During his studies, Angel served as a tutor for other students as well as a facilitator in the mentoring programs “Alternative to Violence (AVP)” and “Victim Impact” to help people who have committed harm understand how their choices affect others. He is also a member of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN), an initiative of the CFSY which amplifies the voices and leadership of formerly incarcerated youth.

Outside of work, Angel relishes his role as an uncle to his ever-expanding family and rediscovering his hometown of NYC. He also loves to work on strategy as an avid chess player.

Eric Alexander

Eric joined the CFSY team in 2017. He speaks to groups throughout the country in support of our public education and advocacy efforts. He is also a founding member of ICAN (Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network) and works with formerly incarcerated youth to help engage them deeply and strategically in the movement for the fair sentencing and treatment of all children.

At 17 years of age, Eric was arrested and subsequently charged with especially aggravated robbery and first-degree murder. Aware that the court was seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, he pled guilty in order to receive two 25 year sentences (with a chance for parole) to be served concurrently in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He was later paroled in 2004.

After his release, he began to volunteer in Alternative Schools for students with behavioral issues. He joined AmeriCorps Community Health Corps and assisted in establishing full-service medical clinics inside of local high-schools that provided health care to poor and underserved students and families. Eric became an independent vendor for the public school system. He facilitated trainings for school staff and campus security that offered strategies in identifying gang members and providing intervention for them and their families. He partnered with the Juvenile Detention Center and local organizations to provide services for students with trauma-related issues. The goal of this coalition of providers was to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system.  As a Program Director for the YMCA of Middle TN, Eric operated a 3-point program that addressed the socio-emotional development in students with behavioral and academic performance issues.

In his downtime, Eric enjoys spending time with family and cycling. He finds time for a ‘flea market flip’ every now and then.

Tamala Allen

Tamala joined the CFSY in March 2020. Prior to joining the CFSY, Tamala was a manager for a large corporation in the Chicago area. She also volunteered for Restore Justice, where she helped organize advocacy training sessions and assisted in lobbying efforts to build awareness of extreme sentencing options in Illinois. In addition, Tamala volunteered with the Illinois Prison Project, where she helped incarcerated people experiencing mental health challenges and incarcerated veterans who had served over twenty years in prison. 

Tamala is married to a formerly incarcerated youth, a union she credits with sparking much of her involvement in criminal legal reform advocacy efforts. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, riding bikes, gardening, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends. 

Hirsa Amin

Hirsa Amin joined the CFSY team as a Legal Fellow in the summer of 2021. Hirsa works with the Legal & Policy Team on the CFSY’s legal and legislative response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones v. Mississippi.

A graduate of Yale Law School and the University of California, Berkeley, Hirsa has worked in international human rights, civil rights, immigration, and capital and criminal defense. Before attending law school, she worked for the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley, where she conducted open-source investigations research for reports and legal cases concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

In law school, Hirsa’s research focused on prisoners’ rights and the Eighth Amendment. Most recently, she co-authored the paper, Punishment in Prison: Constituting the “Normal” and the “Atypical” in Solitary and Other Forms of Confinement, 115 Nw. U. L. Rev. 45 (2020). Hirsa was also a member of the Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic, where she participated in litigation and policy advocacy aimed at upholding the constitutional framework of checks and balances and preventing governmental infringements on civil liberties. In 2020, she was a law clerk for the Appellate Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Previously, she was a legal intern for the Federal Defenders of New York for the Southern District of New York.

Outside of the office, Hirsa enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and learning new arts and crafts.

Crystal Carpenter

Crystal Carpenter joined the CFSY in April 2019. She bridges the work of several departments working to understand the experiences of individuals post-release, while developing a range of supports and resources to help them thrive. Crystal brings to this role a passion for criminal justice reform that she unearthed more than twenty years ago.

In this role, Crystal works with directly impacted individuals, their families, and communities to ensure multi-directional sharing of data, information, and experiences. Her proximity to the issue provides a unique perspective as she works to educate and train diverse stakeholders on issues related to the harsh realities faced by formerly incarcerated individuals and families. When not at work, Crystal enjoys reading, and watching movies with her family, and cheering her hometown Washington Redskins or UNC Tarheels (alma mater) on!

Alicia Contreras

Alicia Contreras graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Legal Studies in May of 2021 and joined the CFSY in August 2021. As an undergraduate, she received an opportunity to intern for Speaker Pelosi in her San Francisco office, where she worked with Speaker Pelosi’s staff on constituent casework involving Section 8 housing and immigration services. Alicia also served as an Alternative Breaks leader, a program where students spend their spring break volunteering and servicing historically underserved communities throughout California.

At the beginning of 2020, she participated in the University of California Washington Center (UCDC) program, and was a legislative intern for Senator Sanders on Capitol Hill, and spent time on legislative research projects regarding the Senator’s proposed Medicare for All legislation.  In her senior year, she worked on a semester-long research project on the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, examining the Center’s work in restorative justice alternatives and the impact it has had on the Oakland community. Alicia’s late father’s history of incarceration meant witnessing firsthand the challenges that formerly incarcerated folks face when reentering into society and the long-lasting impacts of the carceral system on them and their families. His subsequent career as a drug and alcohol counselor and passion for community activism inspire her work to this day.

Outside of work, Alicia can be found exploring D.C. on electric scooters and thrift shopping.

Donnell Drinks

Donnell Drinks joined the CFSY in March 2021 and serves as the Leadership Development & Engagement Coordinator.

Donnell was arrested at the age of 17 and was subsequently sentenced to the death penalty, which was later reduced to a life sentence. He served over 27 years and was released in July 2018. During his incarceration, he spent his time educating himself by obtaining his GED, accumulating multiple college credits, becoming a Certified Peer Specialist, and obtaining his certification in Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD). He was extensively involved in charitable work through various inmate organizations and served as President of multiple organizations. The organizations included Lifers Inc., the NAACP, the Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization (LACEO), and Journey for Change, which have all afforded him diverse experiences and skills. Since his release, he has employed these skills in his Philadelphia community as a mentor and re-entry specialist for Gaining Respect Over Our Worst Nights (GROWN) and as an anti-violence advocate. Donnell is a member of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) an initiative of the CFSY which amplifies the voices and leadership of formerly incarcerated youth.

Outside of work, Donnell enjoys creative writing, sketching, and photography.

Eddie Ellis

Eddie Ellis joined the CFSY team in early 2018. He works with ICAN members across the country, connecting them to each other and with local resources. He also works with other directly impacted communities, including the family members of juvenile lifers.

Eddie, a native Washingtonian, was arrested and charged with murder at the age of 16 — he was later found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 22 years in prison. He served 15 years and finished the rest of his time on parole.

Eddie came home in 2006 and since that time he has worked on a variety of issues, including reentry, solitary confinement, and on behalf of people with disabilities who are in the system and coming home. He has served on the board of directors of a national legal organization, and helped with client center training for lawyers, probation officers and social workers. He is an advocate for those in the system, a mentor, and a motivational speaker. His lived experience as a formerly incarcerated person provides invaluable insight and depth into his work that allows him to connect with and engage the community he serves.

Karmah Elmusa

Karmah joined the CFSY team in April 2017. She helms the organization’s public-facing work and efforts to create effective narrative change.

Karmah is a native of Washington, DC and earlier in her career held positions as a journalist at The NewsHour on PBS, The Washington Post Express, Mother Jones, and California Lawyer Magazine. Immediately prior to joining the CFSY she was a communications manager at the Institute for Middle East Understanding, where she advocated for increased coverage of Palestinian human rights in American media.

Karmah holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. In her free time, she enjoys reading fiction and running, and is an avid patron of DC’s food and music scenes.

Matthew Gritzmacher

Matt Gritzmacher (he/him) has been with the CFSY since 2015 and currently serves as Finance & HR Director.

Matt’s behind-the-scenes role helps keep the organization running smoothly, from payroll and budget development to benefits administration, tracking relevant labor laws for our growing team, and working on operational and logistics challenges when they crop up.
Outside of his home office in North Carolina, Matt is a voracious crossword solver and spends much of his free time walking, biking, cooking, and doting on his pets; cats Zelda and Angus and dogs Franklin and Remy. He sings in the choir at church and is always happy to evangelize his hometown of Buffalo, including as an avid fan of the University at Buffalo Bulls sports teams.