Our Staff

Our Staff2019-03-06T10:53:29-04:00

Barbara Wieland, Communications Specialist

Wieland joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2018. She is responsible for the organization’s daily communication activities and developing strategies to effectively communicate with stakeholders, partner groups and the wider community.

“Communities are safest when all who live in them have an equal share of justice,” Wieland said. “Justice can’t fully exist when people’s transformations go unrecognized and their opportunities for redemption are denied.”

Before joining Safe & Just Michigan, Wieland spent more than 20 years in communications, including 14 years as a print journalist and more than six years as a writer for the Michigan legislature. She is also a limited license professional counselor who worked with the survivors of sexual assault at the Listening Ear in Lansing, where she was a board member for five years.

Wieland holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. She lives in her hometown of Lansing.

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Dena Anderson, Membership Services Specialist

Anderson joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2003 and assists with the research used to educate lawmakers, stakeholders, and the media about issues related to public safety and justice. She also is responsible for the organization’s member services where she maintains contact with incarcerated people in Michigan.

“Men and women across Michigan have powerful and sometimes heartbreaking stories about their experience with the criminal system,” says Anderson.  “Their stories deserve to be told.”

Prior to serving as Research Assistant, Anderson worked as an English teacher, and as executive secretary to the president of the Lansing Urban League.  She has also volunteered inside Michigan’s prison system in programs to help incarcerated people rethink their lives and their futures.

She was a founding volunteer for the Lansing Council against Domestic Assault and has worked on the staffs of a variety of Michigan lawmakers.

A graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati (Mount St. Joseph University), Anderson lives in Lansing.

Elsie Kettunen, Financial and Data Specialist

Kettunen joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2011 and assists the organization with research and financial management.

“I wholeheartedly support the mission and work of Safe & Just Michigan. I am proud to play a role on their team,” says Kettunen.

Prior to serving as Financial and Research Specialist, Kettunen worked as a data and research analyst for the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan State University, and Texas A&M University. She first worked with Safe & Just Michigan as a volunteer.

A graduate of Michigan State University, with a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, Kettunen resides in Lansing.

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

John S. Cooper, Executive Director

Cooper became executive director on January 1, 2019 and is responsible for the organization’s strategic vision and direction.

“We are working to strengthen communities through smart criminal justice reforms,” says Cooper. “Lansing’s political landscape is always changing, but we have a compelling message, and the work couldn’t be more worth the effort.”

He joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2017 and served as the organization’s associate director of policy and research. In this role, he was responsible for policy development, strategic work with stakeholders, and advancing the organization’s legislative priorities.

Cooper has extensive experience working on complex criminal justice policy issues in Michigan – both in his current role, and previously as the founder of the Coalition of Justice Voters, and as special counsel for criminal justice policy for state Representative David LaGrand.

Prior to joining LaGrand’s office, Cooper spent seven years as a litigator in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins LLP. Prior to this, he served as law clerk to Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

A west Michigan native, Cooper obtained his juris doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law after graduating with honors from Calvin College. He lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids.

Judith Martus Miller, Operations Manager

Miller joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2016 and tackles the organization’s administrative and organizational responsibilities.

“At Safe & Just Michigan we’re building thriving communities,” says Miller. “It’s a thrill to see change happen in lives of Michigan residents. It’s more thrilling to be a part of that transformation.”

Prior to serving as Operations Manager, Miller spent nearly 45 years working for Michigan State University, in both the Office of the Registrar and the Department of Mathematics, where she specialized in degree certification, bookkeeping, event planning, and office administration.

A St. Johns native, she makes her home in Lansing.

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Kate McCracken, Deputy Director 

McCracken joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2017 and leads and manages all daily operations, leads key programs and project.

“Justice and safety each come from a place of healing and accountability,” says McCracken. “Redemption and transformation are also possible. They are, each, goals worth pursuing – and vigorously.”

McCracken, a Michigan native, returned home after residing on the West Coast, primarily in San Francisco, for over a decade. Prior to serving as Communications Director, McCracken worked as Deputy Director of the Office of Violence Prevention Services for former San Francisco Mayor, the late Edwin M. Lee, where she implemented the Mayor’s violence prevention initiative, working daily with crime survivors and others affected by the criminal justice system.

She previously served as the Director of Policy and Development at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to reduce the nation’s reliance on incarceration.

A graduate of Humboldt State University, with a graduate degree from Portland State University, McCracken is a resident of her hometown of Mount Pleasant.

Mary Lynn Stevens, Development Director

Stevens joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2016, offering her talents and remarkable fundraising experience.

Prior to serving as Development Director, she worked as the Director of Development at the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, where she headed the Center’s “Victors for Michigan” campaign, raising more than $6 million for scholarships, operations, endowments, and programs. Stevens has also led curatorial and program efforts in history museums across the country.

Since 2007, Stevens has worked as a volunteer sponsor and program consultant for the National Lifers of America, at Scott and Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.

“Working face-to-face with imprisoned women in Michigan has fueled my passion for smart and humane corrections policies,” says Stevens. “I couldn’t be prouder to work with an organization like Safe & Just Michigan that’s focused on real solutions.”

A graduate Marymount College (Fordham University) and the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, Stevens lives in Chelsea.

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Sloan Gibson, Community Engagement Specialist

Gibson joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2019 and serves as our community engagement specialist, working primarily in the Detroit area.

“As someone who grew up in Detroit — and someone who has been directly affected by the justice system — I knew that we needed to do better. I was lucky enough to have a number of positive role models growing up, and now it’s time for me to give back,” Gibson said.

Before joining Safe & Just Michigan, Gibson worked at The Greening of Detroit as recruitment/job placement coordinator, where he helped individuals with barriers to employment (majority formerly incarcerated people) find gainful employment after completing a training program. Before that, Gibson operated his family’s businesses in Detroit, which include a party store and ice cream parlor.

Gibson is working on completing his associate degree in liberal arts from Wayne County Community College, and he plans to continue to study public policy at Michigan State University.

Gibson lives in Detroit.

Troy Rienstra, Outreach Director

Rienstra joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2017 and works to advance the organization’s outreach program by elevating the voices of people directly harmed by the effects of crime and punishment. He is responsible for outreach activities to crime survivors, formerly incarcerated individuals, and their family members, and the faith community.

“When people come together to help, they can change the world,” says Rienstra. “Lives are being changed across the state, and that’s exciting work to be a part of.”

Prior to serving as Outreach Director, Rienstra founded the Network for Real Change, and worked as program coordinator at the Church of the Servant – Prisoners in Christ. Rienstra completed 22 years of a life sentence in Michigan, during which he obtained training in critical thinking, communication, substance abuse awareness, and conflict resolution.

Rienstra lives in Center Line.

Photo Credit
Khalid Ibrahim
Eat Pomegranate Photography

Our Volunteers

Our work is advanced through a partnership of professional staff, volunteers and other community supporters. Volunteers and interns play a fundamental role in our policy work and outreach efforts.

Interested in volunteering or interning with Safe & Just Michigan? Contact us at info@safeandjustmi.org to learn more.

Employment Opportunities

Policy Analyst

We are seeking a full-time policy analyst to join our team. The policy analyst assists SJM leadership with policy development, research, legislative analysis and strategy. Please download the position description below for full details on responsibilities, qualifications, and details on how to apply.

Download>> Policy Analyst Job Description

Research Specialist

We are seeking a full-time research specialist to join our team. The research specialist is SJM’s dedicated researcher, and in that role gathers and analyzes the organization’s criminal justice data. As such, the research specialist plays an important role in policy development, communications, and legislative advocacy. Please download the position description below for full details on responsibilities, qualifications, and details on how to apply.

Download>> Research Specialist Job Description

Last updated: February 27, 2019.