Jennifer Vollen-Katz, Executive Director

Jennifer Vollen-Katz is an attorney and the Executive Director of the John Howard Association of Illinois. She oversees the Association’s work monitoring the conditions and programming in all Illinois correctional facilities, as well as helping to create and implement operational and policy reform system wide. Jennifer is the past Chairperson and a current board member of the State Advisory Board to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice; a board member on the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, for which she serves as the Chairperson of the Appeals Committee; a member of the Federal Defender Program, Salvation Army, and Chicago Community Bond Fund Advisory Boards; and she is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from St. Lawrence University, New York, her law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, Washington D.C., and her MSc in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics, London, England. Prior to joining the John Howard Association, Jennifer was a lecturer in law and a clinical supervisor at the University of Chicago Law School Mandel Legal Aid Clinic Federal Criminal Justice Project. She was also a staff attorney with the Federal Defender Program where she represented indigent defendants in federal criminal cases in the Northern District of Illinois.

Steven Hawthorne, Prison Response Unit Assistant

Steven joined JHA in 2018 as a Prison Response Unit Assistant.  In addition to working at JHA, Steven also works at Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), where he serves as a Technical Assistant in HVAC and a Director of Equipment & Tool Management.  He also manages one of IMAN's youth leadership houses for young men.

Daniel Hoffman, Operations Manager

Dan has been the Operations Manager for the John Howard Association since 2008, using his knowledge in office administration coupled with his strong organizational and interpersonal skills. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Human Resource Management and a minor in Psychology. Prior to working at JHA, Dan worked in the retail, corporate, and distribution management fields.

Beverly Houston, Prison Response Unit Assistant

Beverly Houston joined JHA in 2018 as a Prison Response Unit Assistant, bringing with her more than 20 years’ experience in multiple industries in administrative, general office, and bookkeeping.  In addition to working at JHA, Beverly also serves as the Social Media/Marketing Coordinator for Lakewood Bowl.  Beverly was a member of CLAIM’s Visible Voices group and is currently a member of CGLA’s Leadership Council.  She has spoken on several panels advocating for various issues in the Illinois Department of Corrections.  Beverly earned a Bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University in Business Management-Accounting.

Omar Jamil, PhD, Juvenile Justice Facility Monitor & Policy Analyst

Omar joined the John Howard Association as the Juvenile Justice Facility Monitor and Policy Analyst in 2018. He earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Community Psychology from DePaul University in 2010. Omar has worked with adolescents as a researcher, psychotherapist, behavioral intervention developer, and analyst for over seventeen years, focusing on addressing and preventing adolescent risk behavior. Though his initial research focused on HIV prevention and intervention, his more recent work examined the effectiveness of programs focused on youth involved in the justice system. Despite the differences in research areas, he has found that many of the same risk factors and prevention recommendations are present when addressing sexual risk behavior and criminal involvement among adolescents.

Heidi Lambros, Director Legal Literacy Project

Heidi is the current director and co-creator of JHA's Legal Literacy Project.  She also works as an Assistant Appellate Defender at the Office of State Appellate Defender, representing indigent defendants on appeal in the Illinois Supreme and Appellate Courts, a position she has held since 2003. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University College of Law and regularly speaks and presents at various organizations.  Heidi earned her Bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her law degree from DePaul University College of Law.  She also holds an advanced LL.M. degree in Child & Family Law from Loyola University.  Prior to working at JHA, Heidi won the JHA Volunteer of the Year in 2013. 

Scott McWilliams, Volunteer Program Manager

Scott joined the John Howard Association in 2016. He graduated from the University of St. Francis in 2013 cum laude with a degree in Criminal & Social Justice. He is expected to graduate with a master's degree in Criminal Justice & Criminology from Loyola University Chicago in the Fall of 2017. Since 2014, Scott has worked as Executive Director with a nonprofit organization that works with incarcerated people and their families, and among other duties, is responsible for the development and management of their volunteer programming. Scott was a former intern at The John Howard Association during his graduate studies, and has continued to volunteer as a citizen monitor ever since. His volunteering with JHA earned him the JHA Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015.

Rebecca Pellegrino, Director of Development

Rebecca joined the John Howard Association as Director of Development in 2016. Prior to JHA, Rebecca worked in Development for both UCAN and Adler University, and provided fundraising counsel for GIVEndeavors. Additional non-profit experience includes the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization and Cancer Research UK. Rebecca started her career in advertising, working with firms including FCB, element79partners, and Y&R. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and her MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Rebecca is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Maya Szilak, Policy & Research Specialist

Maya is an attorney and John Howard Association's Policy and Research Specialist. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from Tulane University, New Orleans, and her law degree from Loyola University, Chicago. Prior to joining the John Howard Association, she served as a judicial law clerk in the Illinois Appellate Court, First Judicial District. Subsequently, she worked for eight years as an Assistant Appellate Defender in the Office of the State Appellate Defender, representing indigent clients in criminal appeals before the Illinois Appellate Courts and the Illinois Supreme Court, and in clemency proceedings before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

Gwyneth Troyer, Director of JHA's Prison Monitoring Project

Gwyn became the Director of the Prison Monitoring Project at the John Howard Association in 2012. Prior to joining JHA, Gwyn practiced law in a boutique civil litigation firm. There she represented whistleblowers in cases involving multimillion dollar corporate fraud in government contracts and partnered with State and Federal investigators and prosecutors to recover penalties and misspent taxpayer funds, primarily in the healthcare and military sectors. Other areas of her legal practice included plaintiff-side complex litigation, class action, civil rights cases, and pro bono criminal defense work. She currently serves on the Northwestern University Institutional Review Board and is active in several national professional associations advancing independent oversight, transparency and accountability, and improvements in law enforcement and corrections policies and practices. Gwyn is a Department of Justice-certified Prison Rape Elimination Act Auditor for both adult and juvenile facilities. She earned her B.A. from Reed College in Portland, OR and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.

Phillip Whittington, Corrections Policy Analyst

Phillip earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Loyola University of Chicago in 2012 and is pursuing his Master's Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, also at Loyola. He is the 2017 recipient of the Gad Bensinger Award, given to the outstanding graduate student in Loyola’s Criminal Justice and Criminology program.  Phil started as an intern at JHA, and as Corrections Policy Analyst, is currently responsible for JHA's Prison Information Services, responding to letters, emails and phone calls from inmates, their families and loved ones. He draws upon his more than two decades of experience with the various facets of the criminal justice system to answer these inquiries about a wide range of subjects. Phil also serves on the Advisory Board of the Illinois Department of Corrections.