Board of Directors


Chair: Herschella Conyers, Chicago

Herschella G. Conyers is the Lillian E. Kraemer Clinical Professor in Public Interest Law and the Director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project at the University of Chicago School of Law.  Before joining the Law School, she served as an assistant public defender, supervisor, and deputy chief in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender from 1986 to 1993. During her time at the Public Defender’s Office, Professor Conyers worked in both the Cook County municipal and felony divisions including conflicts and capital litigation. A native of the South Side of Chicago, Professor Conyers became interested in criminal defense and juvenile justice after doing her law school clinical work at the Criminal Defense Consortium of Cook County, in Woodlawn. She has most recently organized several symposia that brought together judges, educators, and other community leaders to discuss the criminal and juvenile justice systems and violence in minority communities. In 2013, Professor Conyers received the Edith Sampson Award from the Illinois Judicial Council for her work in advocating for juveniles in the legal system. Professor Conyers is also a nationally recognized leader in trial skills: lecturing and training students, lawyers, and judges around the country. She is faculty and a board member of the National Criminal Defense College. She has also lectured or taught trial skills at Harvard, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Training, the New York State Defender’s Association and numerous public defender offices and bar associations around the country. Professor Conyers received both her JD and her BA from the University of Chicago.

Vice-Chair:  Veronica Williams, Founder of Mothers Against Wrongful Convictions, Lake County

Secretary: Keyria Rodgers, Director of Millikin University’s Criminal Justice Dept., Decatur

Treasurer: Elizabeth Clarke, Founder and immediate past President, JJI, Evanston

Julie Anderson, Chicago

Amy Campanelli, Chicago

Courtney Carson, Decatur

Brady Chalmers, Chicago

Patrick Keenan Devlin, Evanston

Reginald King

Scott Main, Chicago

Gretchen McDowell, Chicago

Sheila Murphy, Chicago

Michael Rodriguez, Chicago

Leo Smith, Chicago

Hon. George Timberlake, Mt. Vernon

Litesa Wallace, Rockford

David Whittaker, Chicago

Veronica Williams,  Zion

In Memoriam

Ngozi Okorafor.  The Juvenile Justice Initiative Board and Staff gratefully remember and honor the memory of our long-standing board member and Vice Chair, Ngozi Okorafor. The world lost an amazing soul with the sudden tragic passing of Ngozi Chijioke Okorafor in Nov of 2021. Ngozi was a valued member of the Juvenile Justice Initiative Board since 2007, serving first as Nominating Committee Chair, and then as Vice Chair. As her sister said, Ngozi was a “glorious force of nature with no rivals” and those of us fortunate enough to know her benefited from her passion for justice, her diligence, her eloquence, and her tremendous capacity for life. Our hearts are heavy for her precious son, the center of her life, and her treasured family. May she rest in peace and may her family find peace and comfort.

George Hill.  The Juvenile Justice Initiative Board and Staff gratefully remember and honor the memory of our first Treasurer, George Hill.  George Hill was a founding member of the Board of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI), serving for two decades as Treasurer of the nonprofit policy organization. Throughout the two decades, George generously donated his time and his expertise to the organization. His opinion was greatly valued and respected on both the financial status of the nonprofit, as well as on policy initiatives. George was a key participant in JJI’s annual policy retreats, providing a voice from the central Illinois community as well as perspective from his business background.

“On behalf of the Board of The Juvenile Justice Initiative, I want to extend our sympathy to the George Hill family. As a board member and treasurer of JJI, George brought integrity, expertise and dedication to every task. He was a champion for the just and humane treatment of juveniles throughout Illinois. Rarely was there a meeting when the question wasn’t asked “What do you think, George?” His answers were always insightful and instructive. For myself, I will continue to ask “What would George think?” and continue to be guided by his legacy. Thank you, George.” Herschella G. Conyers, Chair, JJI Board

“As the founder of JJI, I want to express my deep gratitude to George for his invaluable assistance these past two decades. I was fortunate to serve on the IL Juvenile Justice Commission for nearly 15 years with him prior to founding JJI, so have had the great pleasure of working with George for over three decades. For me, George was the rock upon which JJI was built. His voice was the caution that I valued – if George was concerned about a policy or financial issue, then I listened, and listened well. He was a mentor for me on financial management and had invaluable insight on community services in central Illinois. As I grew to know George as a friend as well as colleague, I developed a deep respect for him. He was generous in every sense, with his time and his expertise. When he was present, he was truly present. George was absolutely devoted to his daughters, and so very proud of them both. Every conversation I had with him always included an update on his children. He loved his grandchildren, cherishing his family vacations. His was an example of a life well-lived. In short, George was a dear friend as well as a colleague. I am so grateful to have known him and I will miss him more than I can say.”   Elizabeth (Betsy) Clarke

Frank Kopecky.  The Juvenile Justice Initiative Board and Staff gratefully remember and honor the memory of our first Chair, Frank Kopecky. Frank was a founding board member, the first Chair of JJI, and a dear friend to us all. Frank Kopecky died unexpectedly while traveling in Uruguay.  You can read a little about his remarkable life and achievements here –

But this obit merely covers the highlights – what we all cherished from working with him over these many years was his kind, generous and gentle spirit, coupled with his passion for justice for all our children.  Frank was the living brain trust – the most knowledgable person in Illinois on the history and meaning of the Juvenile Court Act.   It is a sad personal loss, and a huge loss to the field.  Our condolences to his family.