Alec Karakatsanis (2023)

Founder, Civil Rights Corps

Alec Karakatsanis was honored with the 2023 New Frontier Award for his work advancing pretrial justice across the nation, which has led local and state jurisdictions to shift their approach to incarceration and end wealth-based detention policies.

Alec is the founder of Civil Rights Corps, an impact litigation nonprofit whose mission is to challenge systemic injustice in the U.S. legal system. Before founding Civil Rights Corps, Alec was a civil rights lawyer and public defender with the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; a federal public defender in Alabama, representing impoverished people accused of federal crimes; and co-founder of the non-profit organization Equal Justice Under Law.

Alec has pioneered constitutional civil rights cases to challenge the size, power, profit, and everyday brutality of the punishment bureaucracy across the United States. These legal challenges have helped to free hundreds of thousands of people from jail, returned tens of millions of dollars to indigent people and families, prevented hundreds of thousands of illegal convictions, prevented the separation of thousands of families, and transformed the way the U.S. criminal punishment bureaucracy handles fines, fees, and bail. Alec has also worked with directly impacted communities across the U.S. to design innovative new legal, advocacy, and narrative strategies for challenging widespread illegal and harmful practices of prosecutors, police, probation officers, judges, and private companies who work with them to profit from the punishment bureaucracy.

Alec graduated from Yale College in 2005 with a degree in Ethics, Politics, & Economics and Harvard Law School in 2008, where he was a Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review. Alec lectures widely about the failures of the criminal punishment bureaucracy, typically giving hundreds of speeches, trainings, interviews, and workshops per year.