Jessica Jackson J.D. '11

Jessica Jackson J.D. ’11

Santa Clara University School of Law alumna, Jessica Jackson ’11, traveled to the World Economic Forum on behalf of the Forum of Young Global Leaders.

Jackson has been recognized internationally for her bipartisan work on criminal legal reform efforts. According to REFORM Alliance, as Chief Advocacy Officer, she has helped pass 19 pieces of legislation in 11 states, most recently in Illinois and Pennsylvania, and helped usher a joint statement of the United Nations signed by 74 member states supporting international cooperation to support reintegration of people returning to communities post-incarceration.

Jackson’s story began 20 years ago when she decided to change her life and return to school. “The work I do today is both professional, but mainly rooted in my personal experience,” said Jackson. “20 years ago this July, I wasn’t a lawyer, I never really thought of going to law school.” Due to her master’s thesis being on the death penalty and being a Bay Area native, Jackson chose Santa Clara Law due to our Death Penalty College and began her legal journey in 2008. “It (death penalty cases) highlights some of the issues that we see in courtrooms all across the country every day,” said Jackson. “Except in death penalty cases, it comes with the steepest price.”

While at Santa Clara Law, Jackson led the revitalization of the American Constitution Society, holding around 65 events in her first year, and worked as a research assistant for Professor Ellen Kreitzberg. Jackson wasn’t just a law student, but a parent as well. “My kids have played a huge role in this. My oldest daughter basically came to the law school with me,” said Jackson. “She still considers some of my professors her aunties and uncles.” She credits the law school for having a social justice lens and worldview that professors instill in students. Her experience addressing the death penalty with Professor Kreitzberg led her to her first job with The Habeas Corpus Resource Center, which supports those in death penalty habeas corpus proceedings.

After her time at the Center, Jackson went on to serve as a council member on the Mill Valley City Council, including a year as mayor, before co-founding #cut50 with Van Jones. At #cut50, Jackson passed over 20 bills and got the First Step Act signed into law by the Trump Administration. To date, the bill has brought over 30,000 people home. She went on to co-found REFORM Alliance with Van Jones as CEO and her serving as Chief Advocacy Officer. As part of REFORM Alliance, Jackson passed legislation to introduce an early termination system of supervision that has helped over 800,000 to date.

Jackson’s future goals aren’t small. REFORM Alliance is working on the first-ever technical framework for a UN Resolution that will have governments supporting people coming home from prison. “We’ll be releasing an international best practices paper in Geneva in March. In June, we will be hoping to bring that resolution,” said Jackson. “We hope to not just change America, but change the world.”