Change the South,
Change the Nation


Staff Bios

Daryl V. Atkinson

Daryl V. Atkinson is the Co-Director and Co-Founder of Forward Justice. At Forward Justice, Atkinson serves in several critical roles, including leading movement building litigation, advancing public policies that address the needs of people with criminal records, and offering tremendous thought leadership through scholarship and public speaking on criminal justice, race, and democracy. For example, Atkinson was the lead attorney in the seminal felony disenfranchisement case, Community Success Initiative v. Moore, that challenged North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement regime. Atkinson and Forward Justice were the central advocates that ushered in the passage of the Second Chance Act, which expanded eligibility and access to criminal record clearance for people with records. Atkinson was an editor of “What We Know”, a compilation of innovative policy proposals developed by currently and formerly incarcerated people; a contributing author to “Parsimony and Other Radicals Ideas”, a compendium of articles on creating transformational change in the criminal legal system.

Prior to joining Forward Justice, Atkinson was the first Second Chance Fellow for U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). At DOJ, Atkinson was an advisor to the Second Chance portfolio of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a member of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, and a conduit to the broader justice-involved population to ensure that BJA heard from all stakeholders when developing reentry policy.

Most notably, in 2014, Atkinson was recognized by the White House as a “Reentry and Employment Champion of Change” for his extraordinary work to facilitate employment opportunities for people with criminal records.

Mr. Atkinson is a founding member of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance and is on the Board of Directors for the Clean Slate Initiative. Atkinson has appeared in numerous media outlets including the Washington Post, CBS, NowThis, and MSNBC. He received a B.A. in Political Science from Benedict College, Columbia, SC and a J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis, MN.

Caitlin Swain

Caitlin Swain is Co-Director and Co-Founder of Forward Justice. Prior to joining Forward Justice, Caitlin served as a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow with the national racial justice organization, Advancement Project, which she joined in 2012. There, her work included groundbreaking voting rights litigation, as a lead member of the legal team representing the NC NAACP and individual plaintiffs in the successful challenge to racially discriminatory voting legislation in NC NAACP v. McCrory. In addition to just democracy work, Caitlin spearheaded southern-focused legal and policy support in the “Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse” project, where she supported grassroots organizations, in their work to end the racialized over criminalization of youth, and advocated for students' rights to quality education.

Swain grew up in North Carolina and Virginia and earned her B.A. in American Studies and Ethnic Studies from Wesleyan University. She is a graduate of Duke University School of Law where she received the Public Service Award, the Justin Miller Leadership Award, and the Duke Bar Associations’ Leadership award for her work in human rights and criminal justice as the director of the Law 2 Schools’ Innocence Project. In 2011, she worked on international human rights issues, including Guantanamo Bay advocacy, as an Ella Baker Fellow with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

Before obtaining her JD, Swain worked as an organizer and policy specialist for issues of educational equity, voting rights protection, and anti-discrimination with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, and McSurely & Osment, a civil rights law firm based in North Carolina. She is a 2017-2018 Opportunity Agenda Fellow, has been published in the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy and appears in local, regional, and national media outlets on behalf of clients and partners working to build a just world.

Dr. Ashley Marshall

Dr. Ashley Marshall is the Co-Founder and Deputy Director of Forward Justice. She co-leads the growing organization and manages program development in democracy, criminal justice, and economic justice advocacy.

She is an advisor to the Set If Off Tour, a national truth commission focused on the critical conditions faced by poor Black women and girls; and in partnership with Spirithouse, she is working to realize a transformative healing space for the community members of Durham NC, who experience the systemic harms of racism.Furthermore, she is a researcher and advocate whose interests are Black women’s leadership in political, community, and movement spaces.  She serves as faculty of Social Justice with Adler University’s Center for Civic Learning & Community Action, a Commissioner with Durham County Women’s Commission, a 2022 Social Justice Fellow with the Memorial Foundation, and is a community advisory member with Elon University, Health Equity Racism (H.E.R.) Lab.

Dr. Marshall’s earlier community experience entails serving as an organizer for N.C. State Conference of the NAACP, developing violence prevention programming with and for youth and serving as an organizer with Women In Transition and KY Jobs with Justice organization. She earned her doctorate in Leadership Studies, focusing on transformative civic and community engagement, her master's degree in public administration, and a graduate certificate in nonprofit administration.