Meg Sattherthwaite

Margaret Satterthwaite ’99

Professor of Clinical Law
Faculty Director, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Faculty Director, Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights

Margaret Satterthwaite’s research interests include economic and social rights, human rights and counterterrorism, and methodological innovation in human rights. Satterthwaite graduated magna cum laude from NYU School of Law in 1999 and served as a law clerk to Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1999-00 and to the judges of the International Court of Justice in 2001-02. She has worked for a variety of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and the Commission Nationale de Verité et de Justice (Haitian Truth and Justice Commission), and has authored or co-authored more than a dozen human rights reports. She has engaged in human rights work in places such as Guyana, Haiti, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, the United States, and Yemen. Satterthwaite has served as a human rights consultant and advising expert to UN agencies and special rapporteurs and has been a member of the boards of directors of several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International USA, the Global Initiative on Economic and Social Rights, and Digital Democracy. Satterthwaite is currently the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers for the United Nation's Human Rights Council. She also serves as a member of the Africa Council to the ABA's Rule of Law Council.


Sukti Dhital

Executive Director

Sukti is the Executive Director of the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law. She also serves as a Supervising Attorney with the Global Justice Clinic, where she oversees legal empowerment projects spanning jailhouse lawyers and immigrant rights. Previously, Sukti was the Executive Director and Co-founder of Nazdeek, a legal empowerment organization that works closely with indigenous and Dalit women to advance human rights through a community-driven approach. Prior to Nazdeek, Sukti was the Director of the Reproductive Rights Unit at the Human Rights Law Network, India and assisted in securing landmark social and economic rights judgments. She has also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Sukti currently serves as a Steering Committee member of the Legal Empowerment Fund, a member of the Grassroots Justice Network's Network Advisory Council and an Advisory Board member of the WIEGO Law Programme. Sukti received her JD from Northeastern University School of Law and BA from University of Michigan. She is a mother of 2 beautiful kiddos and a deep believer in community justice as the pathway to liberation.


Tyler Walton Headshot

Tyler Walton '18

Deputy Director

Tyler Walton is the Deputy Director at the Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law. He joined the Bernstein Institute as the inaugural Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellow. Tyler works on legal empowerment, researching and co-developing strategies with affected community members to access and exercise their rights and shift power paradigms back towards communities and individuals. He serves as the managing attorney for the Jailhouse Lawyer Initiative and a supervising attorney with the Global Justice Clinic. Prior to joining the Bernstein Institute, Tyler was a fellow at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre where he led the program on freedom of expression, working to combat closing civic spaces in southern Africa and address new human rights issues caused by the rise of the Internet and digital technologies. He also served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi developing participatory community health programs. Tyler received his BA from the University of Missouri and his JD from NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest scholar.


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gabriela Piñeros Medina

Program Manager

gabriela is the Program Manager at the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law. They are also an Immigrant Youth Accompaniment Aide at The Door, an organization that provides a wide range of free services to NYC-based youth. Prior to joining the Bernstein Institute, gabriela was an organizer with the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA) where she worked with students and young people to further the goals of the Fair Food Program developed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Prior to SFA, gabriela volunteered at the Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (LEAH) where she learned about the power in people being able to know, use, and shape the laws that affect them. While at LEAH, she had the opportunity to work on the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative, a national project that aims to re-conceptualize the role of jailhouse lawyers as agents of empowerment. gabriela has also served as a Democracy Program Intern at the Brennan Center for Justice. 

gabriela is an immigrant from Colombia and first-generation college student. They graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida where they earned a BA in Criminology and in Gender and Sexuality Studies. 


Photo of Jhody Polk smiling. Jhody is wearing a yellow shirt and glasses.

Jhody Polk 

Researcher and Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative founder

Jhody Polk is the founder of the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI) and CEO of A Light In The Valley, LLC. She is the Pathways to Research and Advocacy Fellow at the Fortune Society and Center for Justice Innovation, and is the creator of the Legal Empowerment & Advocacy Hub (LEAH), an online space dedicated to people Knowing the Law. She is the recipient of the 2019 Peacebuilder of the Year Award, the 2020 Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr. Legacy award and named a Soros Justice Fellow in 2018. She currently serves on the board of Namati.

Jhody is known for her work as a central Florida Organizer on Amendment 4, a campaign to restore voting rights to over 1.5 million Floridians with felony convictions. She is the formal Director of Community Justice at the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding and served as the Director of the Alachua County Reentry Coalition 2017-2020. Jhody is a rising Tarot Reader, Astrologer, and Energy Healer. She unapologetically lives for the liberation of Black People, Power, Peace , Human Rights, Participatory Action Research (PAR), Legal Empowerment, Community Peacebuilding and Justice For All.


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Darren Breeden

Community Justice Fellow

Darren Breeden is Community Justice Fellow at NYU’s Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI) located within the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. Breeden is a graduate of Bard College, received his paralegal certification in 1994, and from Columbia University in 2022. He is a staunch advocate for Legal Empowerment; specifically, the right of former jailhouse lawyers to contribute to oppressed communities by utilizing legal skills in community based justice hubs.


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Alejandra Torres '22

Legal Empowerment Fellow 

María Alejandra Torres García (she/ella) is a Fellow at the Bernstein Institute. She was previously at the Global Justice Clinic working on issues of climate justice, anti-extractivism, and corporate accountability in the Caribbean; trauma and resilience of human rights defenders; and combatting anti-Black and anti-migrant policies. There, she also assisted Professor Satterthwaite in her capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Alejandra graduated cum laude from NYU School of Law in 2022. During law school, she was also a student advocate with the Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative and interned at the International Law Commission. In past years, she has worked primarily with immigrants, women, children, and racialized minorities through grassroots organizing, policy analysis, and legal services. Alejandra graduated summa cum laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with the self-titled concentration, “Empire and Postcolonial Subjectivity” in 2018. She also obtained a postgraduate Specialization in Human Rights and Access to Justice in Latin America at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2019.


Christine Eldabh

Christine Eldabh

Legal Fellow

Christine ElDabh is a fellow with the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative at the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. She graduated from NYU School of Law in 2023 where she was a student advocate in the Global Justice Clinic and the Civil Rights in the Criminal Legal System, a fellow with the Center on Race, Inequality & the Law, a research assistant to Professor Deborah Archer, and a volunteer with the Parole Advocacy Project. Before law school, Christine was a program officer at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice where she worked on anti-carceral and gender justice advocacy in the US and Kenya. She received her BA from the University of Virginia.


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Sophia Opferman

Membership Coordinator

After graduating Magna Cum Laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in May 2024, Sophia joined the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative full-time as the inaugural Membership Coordinator. During her undergraduate career, Sophia designed her own major, studying the intersections of Human Rights, Postcolonialism, and Law, with a focus on the tensions between law as a tool for mass injustice and the potential for law as an avenue for systemic change. Outside of the classroom, Sophia’s academic interests have translated into her work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated communities, where she feels the tensions of the law are most evident. She was a member of the 2022 Cohort of the Gallatin Fellowship on Human Rights, where she worked as a community organizer with the Urban Justice Center’s Freedom Agenda Project, advocating for the decarceration of New York City and the closure of Riker’s Island. In 2023, she received the Gallatin Dean’s Award for Summer Research and an NYU Changemaker Fellowship, during which she worked as an intern with the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative, researching legal empowerment as a tangible pathway toward abolition. She is also a volunteer writer with the Remedy Project, where she assists incarcerated people in Federal Prisons in filing Administrative Remedies.  Sophia plans to attend law school in hopes of working for the rights of justice-impacted communities, informed by the lessons and values of legal empowerment.


Head shot of Bernstein Institute consultant Mela Chiponda

Melania Chiponda 

Participatory Action Researcher

Melania Chiponda is an ecofeminist, popular educator, and participatory action researcher who believes in centering people’s lived experiences and realities in the creation of knowledge. To Melania, community empowerment and knowledge creation is a collective process that shifts power from mainstream knowledge systems and institutions to the people. Her research approach is embedded in participatory action approaches that bring out grassroots people's experiences, stories and struggles, and is oriented towards evidence- based advocacy and people-driven reforms that go beyond short-term reformism. The research contributes towards longer-term structural changes that are required to ensure economic and development justice. Melania has a PHd in Development Studies with a MSc in Development Studies.


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Ben Polk

Visiting Scholar 

Ben Polk is an international justice policy expert with subject matter expertise in rule of law, access to justice, civil and criminal legal aid, and justice data indicators. He served most recently as Global Policy Director for the International Legal Foundation, an NGO that builds and promotes legal aid systems in post-conflict countries including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Palestine, and Tunisia. He previously served as Justice Deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis (formerly United States Secretary of Labor for President Barack Obama). Ben also has worked extensively as a legal aid lawyer (including as a Skadden Fellow), most recently managing a team of attorneys and support staff providing wrap-around legal services to people experiencing homelessness. Ben has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School. Before entering public service, Ben was a management consultant for Bain & Co., based in London and working on projects in South Africa, and across Europe and the United States. While at the Bernstein Institute, Ben is working on a law review article seeking to quantify the funding necessary to provide constitutionally-sufficient public defense (a.k.a. criminal legal aid) services throughout the United States, and is also supporting Professor Satterthwaite's work as Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by identifying the most critical indicators of independence for judges and lawyers.