Al | Executive Director
The Rev. Alexander E. Sharp has been working on criminal justice issues for 15 years. He served as the founding executive director of Protestants for the Common Good from 1996 through June 2012. He and colleague Walter Boyd (see below) joined the early efforts in Illinois to provide a second chance for those seeking to re-build their lives after prison. They were struck by how many individuals, predominantly African American and Hispanic, were incarcerated for low-level drug offenses. They began to challenge the War on Drugs.
Rev. Sharp has brought national models of diversion to public attention in Illinois and played a key role in the passage of medical marijuana in Illinois in 2012. He then served for 18 months as Acting Director of the Community Renewal Society in order to help incorporate PCG as a policy unit within CRS.
Al was Commissioner of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1976 to 1979 and the chief financial officer of the University of Chicago from 1980 to 1994. Al is now devoting full time to Clergy for a New Drug Policy.
Rev. Sharp is a graduate of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs. He was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 2007 after having received his MDiv from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in 1996. He and his wife Margaret O’Dell live in Chicago and are members of Hyde Park Union Church.
Tom | Policy Director
Tom Houseman has been doing policy research for Clergy for a New Drug Policy since July 2017. He received his MPP from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy in June, 2017, focusing his studies on urban poverty, social equity, and arts policy. He interned with the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, where he wrote about the deleterious effects of racial segregation on cities, and was a part of the Harris Policy Lab team working on ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen in Gary, Indiana.
Before attending the Harris School, Tom worked for a number of non-profit organizations in Austin, Texas, including The Boys & Girls Club, where he helped run an after-school program at Lyndon B. Johnson High School. He also did field work for a series of local elections in the Austin area. He received his B.A. in American Studies from Bard College in 2009, writing his senior thesis about the history of television censorship and the show South Park. Aside from social justice activism and drug policy his deepest passions are long-distance running, musical theater, and hip hop.
Reta| Communications Director
Jeanne Bishop is Assistant Public Defender at Cook County Public Defender’s Office. A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and Northwestern University School of Law, Ms. Bishop also attended Yale Law School as a Visiting Student. She is an adjunct professor of law at Northwestern and a recipient of its alumni award for outstanding public service. She is a co-recipient of the Brigid Award bestowed by the humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide on women of compassion and justice. She is the author of Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer (Westminster John Knox Press), which traces her journey from supporting to opposing the mandatory life without parole sentence her sister’s murderer received as a juvenile. A third-generation elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Ms. Bishop is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago.
Walter Boyd is the former Executive Director at St. Leonard’s Ministries, which provides comprehensive residential, case management, and employment services for those released from prison. At the age of 20, Walter was the youngest owner/proprietor in Shell Corporation’s Northern Territory of Illinois; however, just five years later, he was convicted for aiding and abetting a drug transaction. Upon his release in 1998, Walter immersed himself into prison reform efforts, on a volunteer basis at first, all of which were inspired by his two decades stint in prison. In 1999, he was hired as a Case Manager with Dynamic Educational Systems Inc. and in 2001 became the Program Manager for Ex-offender Employment with North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) as Program Manager for the Ex-offender Employment Service Network. In 2004, Walter moved into a director’s post with Protestants for the Common Good (PCG), where he identified actionable social justice issues, fashioned policy, built constituencies, and advocated for diversion and reentry legislation to protect the rights and enhance opportunities for people with criminal records. Currently on the Adult Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board (ARIOB), Walter looks forward to continuing his work in the areas of mass incarceration and drug policy reform as he enjoys his return to direct service at St. Leonard’s Ministries.
Larry L. Greenfield is former Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. Dr. Greenfield received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he subsequently taught and served as dean of students. He also served as president of the Divinity School in Rochester, NY and as vice president for research at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith and Ethics in Chicago. Rev. Greenfield has served pastorates and campus ministries in Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Rev. Greenfield serves on the board of Community Renewal Society as the theologian-in -residence. He sits on the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and the Board of Directors of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Jesse Lava is a health and criminal justice advocate with extensive communications and social media experience. Most recently he spent three years in Los Angeles as Campaign Director at Brave New Films, which produces videos and engages social media to create a more just world. There he started and ran the group’s Beyond Bars campaign against mass incarceration, using visual storytelling to show the dysfunction of our nation’s criminal justice system. Jesse has also done communications for progressive groups, worked to reclaim the national values debate from the religious right, and, in his first job out of college, campaigned door-to-door for political candidates. He received his bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and an MPP from Harvard University. Jesse lives in Chicago.
Ali Abid is a staff attorney and criminal justice policy analyst for Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, working on systemic court reform in Cook County. Before joining Appleseed, Ali was a George N. Leighton Fellow, teaching and researching Prisoners’ Rights and Mass Incarceration and Race at the John Marshall Law School. He has published papers on Restorative Justice, Mass Incarceration, and International Human Rights. Ali is a graduate of the John Marshall Law School where he was an editor of the John Marshall Law Review.