Onek Passes Torch to Russi at Center for Criminal Justice

By Andrew Cohen

David Onek, founding executive director of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (BCCJ), is stepping down and will be replaced by Andrea Russi, his associate director. Onek launched BCCJ in 2006; Russi came aboard in 2008.

“David has greatly exceeded our high expectations as BCCJ’s founding executive director, and Andrea has been instrumental in the center’s success to date,” says Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. “They have created from scratch an organization that is widely respected by policymakers, practitioners, and academics.”

Onek and Russi worked closely on many BCCJ initiatives: building consensus-based coalitions of unlikely allies to push for prisoner reentry and juvenile justice reform; partnering with Bay Area communities in hands-on efforts to reduce street violence; hosting numerous conferences and roundtables; garnering significant financial support from private foundations; and developing close relationships with policymakers and practitioners throughout California and the nation.

Prior to joining BCCJ, Russi spent nearly eight years as an assistant attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. She was also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, clerked on the District Court for the Central District of California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and served as editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review.

Onek will remain at Berkeley Law to host the new Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast that he created, a joint production of BCCJ and the Berkeley School of Journalism. He will be a senior fellow at the center, a lecturer in residence at the law school, and continue to serve as a San Francisco police commissioner.

“The center got off to an extraordinarily successful start under David’s leadership,” says David Sklansky, BCCJ’s faculty director, “and Andrea is a perfect fit to lead it forward.”

Dr. Barry Krisberg, longtime president of the National Center for Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), has joined the center as a distinguished senior fellow and a lecturer in residence. He is a nationally recognized expert on both the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

This spring, BCCJ will publish a series of policy briefs about key issues facing California’s juvenile justice system, and a report on increasing employment opportunities for people with prior convictions that includes recommendations for policy reform. The center is currently working with the East Palo Alto Police Department on a detailed analysis of crime trends in that city, and plans to conduct a comprehensive examination of criminal justice financing in California.