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News, Press Release

2023 Award Winners

  • 04 Oct 2023
  • Jeremiah Sierra

Celebrating leaders in the field

ARC recognizes Three Outstanding Practitioners Transforming the Criminal Legal System with Annual Awards

Advancing Real Change, Inc. will recognize the winners at Together Towards Justice, its annual virtual event on October 19 at 6:30pm Eastern.

Advancing Real Change, Inc, (ARC), a leading provider of mitigation services and training for criminal defenders, announced the winners of its annual awards today. The national awards recognize mitigation specialists who are leaders in the field and a partner making an impact on the criminal legal system.

ARC awarded the Muhammad-White Award, which recognizes a mitigation professional who has demonstrated excellence throughout their career and had a profound impact on the field, to Scarlet Nerad. Nerad is a mitigation specialist with more than 30 years of experience who has been a leader in the field since its inception and has helped mentor countless other defenders.

ARC’s Emerging Leader Award went to Kristen Samuels, a mitigation specialist for the Southern Center for Human Rights. This award is for a mitigation specialist who is in the early stages of their career who represents the future of mitigation work. Less than ten years into her career, Samuels has already demonstrated an ability to connect with her clients, a commitment to best practices, and a determination to make the field stronger and more equitable.

The awards are selected by a volunteer committee of accomplished mitigation specialists, capital and non-capital defenders.

The 3am Warrior Award recognizes a professional who has had an important impact on the criminal defense community and ARC. ARC staff select the recipient of this award. This year’s award goes to Dr. Leslie Jill Patterson, a national expert in narrative defense and an English Professor at Texas Tech University, award-winning writer, and storyteller for public defenders representing indigent individuals facing capital punishment. Dr. Patterson leads a skill-building training on narrative development for ARC and many other organizations, such as the ACLU, NAACP, and the Legal Defense Fund. Her work has had a tremendous impact on those who have participated in her workshops and on ARC’s practice.

Learn more about our winners here.

The winners will be celebrated at ARC’s annual virtual event, Together Towards Justice, held on October 19 and 6:30pm Eastern. All are invited to register for the event here.



About Mitigation Investigation

Mitigation investigation is the process of unearthing detailed information about the lives of individuals accused of crimes. This work involves many hundreds of hours meeting with our clients, interviewing scores of witnesses, and collecting records to develop an accurate, detailed, multi-dimensional account of the client’s life. This information, called mitigating evidence, helps decision-makers understand their full personhood and particular circumstances and choose more humane sentences.

About Advancing Real Change, Inc.

Advancing Real Change, Inc. envisions a criminal legal system that is rooted in dignity, empathy, and equity.

We promote a more just and humane criminal legal system by unearthing the life histories of people facing extreme sentences, such as the death penalty, life without the opportunity for parole, and decades-long prison sentences. This work, called mitigation investigation, fosters understanding for our clients and leads to shorter and more equitable sentences that account for our clients’ full humanity. Founded in 2014, Advancing Real Change, Inc., is a leader in the field of mitigation investigation, providing direct services to indigent clients as members of criminal defense teams, offering training and education to defenders across the nation, and applying the values and practices of mitigation investigation to all areas of the criminal legal system.

For more information about Together Towards Justice, the award winners, or the work of Advancing Real Change, Inc., please contact Jeremy Sierra, Director of Development and Communications, at [email protected] or 917-741-2994.

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