Change the South,
Change the Nation


Staff Bios

Daryl V. Atkinson

Daryl V. Atkinson is the Co-Director and Co-Founder of Forward Justice. Prior to joining Forward Justice, Daryl served as the first Second Chance Fellow for U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her remarks announcing this historic role, stated “this position was designed to bring in a person with expertise as a leader in the criminal justice field— and as a formerly incarcerated individual. Recognizing that many of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system hold significant insight into reforming the justice system”. While at DOJ, Daryl will be an advisor to the Second Chance portfolio of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a member of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, and a conduit to the broader justice involved population to ensure that DOJ is hearing from all stakeholders when developing reentry policy. Daryl 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.

Prior to joining DOJ, Daryl was the Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) where he focused on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues, particularly removing the legal barriers triggered by contact with the criminal justice system.

In 2014, Daryl 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. According to the White House press release associated with the honor, “The Champions have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary dedication and hard work to help those with criminal records re-enter society with dignity and viable employment opportunities.” Attorney General Eric Holder recognized Daryl’s transformative journey in his remarks when he said “Daryl overcame his own involvement with the criminal justice system and has since worked to build a better future not only for himself – but for countless others who deserve a second chance.”

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 currently serves as the Deputy Director for Forward Justice, a social justice, law, policy, and strategy center focused on serving the US South. In her role, she provides strategic leadership to the organization, co-manages fundraising efforts, and manages program development in the fields of criminal justice, democracy, and economic justice advocacy. She is also a mixed-methods researcher where her primary research interests are Black women’s leadership, political and community engagement, and social movements.

Before co-founding Forward Justice, she was an organizer for the NC State Conference of the NAACP under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Barber, II. For two years, she aided and supported the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement organizing and fundraising efforts. She was also the 2014 Shannon St. John Fellow at the Triangle Community Foundation in Durham, North Carolina, where she served as a member of the Community Engagement’s grants review and evaluation team and aided in the launching of new Regional Cultural Arts grant programs.

Dr. Marshall’s earlier community experience entails violence prevention work with a domestic violence agency, youth outreach and development, and serving as an organizer with economic justice organizations Women in Transition and Ky Jobs with Justice.

She received her doctorate in Leadership Studies from the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, with a focus area of transformative civic and community engagement.  She also graduated cum laude from North Carolina Central University with a Master of Public Administration. She received her bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Northern Kentucky University. She is a published researcher and a fierce advocate for inclusive transformative social change.