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. She brings two decades of experience working to build a more just society, as an organizer, legal advocate, and policy expert. In founding Forward Justice, Swain sought to launch a catalytic organization – to strengthen social movements’ unified work to combat systems, policies, and practices upholding racism in the U.S. South. As a movement lawyer, she is proud to serve as counsel to the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, supporting the Campaign’s historic work to eradicate poverty and usher in a ‘Third

Swain’s work has focused on groundbreaking voting rights litigation, including representing the NC NAACP and individual plaintiffs in NC NAACP v. McCrory, successfully challenging an omnibus voter suppression law that would deliberately “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” to depress Black voting power. She has co-led innovative voter protection and voter registration programs in six election cycles, brought historic re-enfranchisement litigation on behalf of the N.C. Second Chance Alliance, and mounted novel legal challenges to discriminatory barriers to voting in state and federal court— successfully preventing mass voter purges and the implementation of discriminatory Photo Voter ID in high-stakes Presidential election cycles.

Early in her career, Swain joined the team providing legal representation for Dontae Sharpe, who was incarcerated for over 25 years for a crime he did not commit, ultimately securing his exoneration in 2019 and a Gubernatorial Pardon of Innocence. Today, she is proud to work alongside Sharpe, supporting experience-informed advocacy to drive the widespread reform needed to prevent wrongful convictions and end mass incarceration.

Prior to founding Forward Justice, Swain served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, where she specialized in anti-discrimination field work and developed a first-of-its-kind youth-led oral history program to inspire new generations of educators and advocates across the commonwealth. As a Skadden Fellow and staff Attorney with the national racial justice organization, Advancement Project, Swain spearheaded southern-focused legal and policy support in the “Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse” project, where she resourced grassroots organizations in their work to end racialized over-criminalization of youth and advocated for students' rights to a quality education.

Swain 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 and as the director of the Law Schools’ Innocence Project. Swain was an Ella Baker Fellow with the Center for Constitutional Rights, an Opportunity Agenda Fellow, has been published in the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy, testified before Congress, and served as a facilitator in UNESCO’s International Leadership Training Programme.




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.