Our Team

The Emerging Adult Justice project at the Columbia Justice Lab is led by Lael Chester. Our team engages with scholars, policymakers, directly-impacted individuals, and students in projects related to emerging adult justice. 


Lael Chester

Director, Emerging Adult Justice Project

Lael Elizabeth Hiam Chester is Director of the Emerging Adult Justice Project at Columbia University’s Justice Lab and leads the national and international research on Emerging Adult Justice. Lael is an attorney who has focused her career on juvenile, criminal and civil rights law and policy. After graduating from Barnard College and Harvard Law School, she was the Albert Martin Sacks Clinical Fellow at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard and then joined the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. For 12 years, she served as Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ), a statewide non-profit dedicated to improving the juvenile justice system. Lael led the successful Justice for Kids Campaign, ending the practice in Massachusetts of automatically prosecuting and sentencing all 17 year olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the offense. Her expertise on other advocacy campaigns include school-to-prison pipeline, parent-child privilege, racial disparities and over-use of secure confinement.

Vincent Schiraldi

Co-Director, The Justice Lab

Vincent (Vinny) Schiraldi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia School of Social Work and co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab. He has extensive experience in public life, founding the policy think tank, the Justice Policy Institute, then moving to government as director of the juvenile corrections in Washington DC, as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, and Senior Policy Adviser to the NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. Schiraldi gained a national reputation as a fearless reformer who emphasized the humane and decent treatment of the men, women, and children under his correctional supervision. He pioneered efforts at community-based alternatives to incarceration in NYC and Washington DC. Schiraldi received a MSW from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University.

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Selen Siringil Perker

Senior Research Associate

Selen Siringil Perker is a Senior Research Associate with the Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab. Her work aims to bridge academic research on emerging/young adult justice with policy and practice at all stages, from research design to implementation and dissemination. As an international attorney and justice reform specialist, she works closely with government officials, justice leaders and international organizations, including the World Bank and UNDP, to assist local efforts to measure and drive criminal justice reform in the United States and abroad. Previously, Selen was a Research Fellow with the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School for the Indicators for Development: Safety and Justice project. She holds an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School, and a Master’s in International and European Law from the University of Paris I (Panthéon – Sorbonne). More on Selen's work and publications can be found on her website.

Maya Sussman

Research and Policy Manager

Maya Sussman is a Research and Policy Manager with the Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab. In this role, she conducts and helps disseminate law and policy research regarding 18- to 25-year olds in the juvenile and criminal legal systems in an effort to reform system practices. Prior to joining the Justice Lab, Maya conducted legal analyses of juvenile justice system practices to support a corrections expert’s testimony in a lawsuit challenging the unjust treatment of juveniles in state correctional facilities. Maya also worked with girls in a non-secure placement facility in Queens, New York. Maya holds a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. During law school, Maya served as a law and policy intern at Lawyers for Children in New York City, the Children’s Defense Fund of New York, and the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice (Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit). Maya received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from New York University.

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