About Us

The Texas Justice Initiative is a project spearheaded by Amanda Woog, postdoctoral legal fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin. The Initiative seeks to build narratives around who is dying in Texas’ criminal justice system, bring attention to the lives that have been lost, and provide a foundation for research toward solutions that will save lives. The Texas Justice Initiative is made possible through generous funding and support from The Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at The University of Texas at Austin, the France-Merrick Foundation and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law.



Amanda Woog first conceptualized the Texas Justice Initiative in November 2015 when collecting data on officer-involved shootings. She is currently a postdoctoral legal fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA) at the University of Texas at Austin. Amanda received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.  She served as a briefing attorney to the Honorable Cheryl Johnson on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and as Policy Director for the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence in the 84th legislative session. Between those two Texas gigs, Amanda was a litigation associate with the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP in Palo Alto, California.

Amanda is currently researching and tracking officer-involved shootings and custodial deaths in Texas. With the goal of reducing fatalities through evidence-based policy research, her focus is on improving data collection and publication.


Jennifer Laurin

Advisory Committee Member

Jennifer Laurin is a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. Professor Laurin received her undergraduate degree in Politics from Earlham College and her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was an Executive Articles Editor of the Columbia Law Review. She served as a law clerk to Judge Thomas Griesa of the Southern District of New York and Judge Guido Calabresi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and spent several years as a litigation associate with the New York City civil rights firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP (formerly Cochran Neufeld & Scheck, LLP).

Professor Laurin’s principal research interests lie in the intersections of criminal and constitutional litigation, and regulation of criminal justice institutions. Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Columbia Law Review, Texas Law Review, and Notre Dame Law Review, among others. Professor Laurin is also a co-author (with Michael Avery, David Rudovsky, and Karen Blum) of Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation, the leading treatise in that area of civil rights litigation. Among other professional activities, Professor Laurin is currently serving as Reporter to the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Standards Task Force charged with updating the 1996 3rd Edition Discovery Standards.


Kali Nicole Gross

Advisory Committee Member

Kali Nicole Gross is professor of African American Studies at Wesleyan University. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including two residencies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a Lindback Grant.

Her book, Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910 (Duke University Press, 2006) received the John Hope Franklin Center manuscript prize in 2005 and the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians in 2006. Her second book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America, was released on February 3, 2016 by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Gross has been featured on NPR, BookTV/C-SPAN2, PCNTV, and a number of radio and television programs, and her opinion pieces on race, gender, and criminal justice can be found in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Root, American Prospect, Ebony, Jet Magazine, Warscapes, and Truthout.


Michele Deitch

Advisory Committee Member

Michele Deitch holds a joint appointment as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs and the School of Law, where she teaches graduate courses in criminal justice policy and juvenile justice policy.  An award-winning teacher and the recipient of a Soros Senior Justice Fellowship, she has 30 years of experience working with legislators, corrections officials, advocates, and other stakeholders on prison and jail safety issues, correctional oversight, sentencing policy, and juvenile system reform.  Among her many experiences prior to entering academia, Professor Deitch has been a federal court-appointed monitor of the Texas prison system, a policy advisor to the Texas Legislature on criminal justice issues, and a drafter of the ABA’s national standards on the treatment of prisoners.  Professor Deitch currently co-chairs the American Bar Association’s subcommittee on independent correctional oversight. She is the author of numerous publications on criminal and juvenile justice issues, including “Independent Correctional Oversight Mechanisms Across the United States:  A 50-State Inventory” (Pace Law Review).  Recently, she published an Op-Ed in The New York Times titled “What’s Going On in Our Prisons?,” about brutality, deaths in custody, and lack of oversight in the New York State prison system.

She holds a J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School, an M.Sc. in psychology (with a specialization in criminology) from Oxford University, and a B.A. with honors from Amherst College.