04/22/2010

SPLC Attorney Honored for Juvenile Justice Work

An SPLC attorney whose work has helped bring profound changes to Mississippi's juvenile justice system has been recognized for her remarkable public interest achievements.

Sheila Bedi, who serves as deputy legal director responsible for juvenile justice and education work in Mississippi and Louisiana, is a 2010 recipient of American University Washington College of Law's Peter M. Cicchino Award. She received the honor at a ceremony at the Washington, D.C., law school on April 13.

Bedi, a 2001 graduate of the school, has extensive experience in civil rights litigation, community-based advocacy campaigns and legislative advocacy. As a former co-director of the SPLC's Mississippi Youth Justice Project, she played a key role in permanently closing the state's notoriously abusive girls' prison.  She also spearheaded advocacy for reforms that significantly reduced the number of children imprisoned in Mississippi's training schools and led efforts to establish community-based alternatives to incarceration.

Sheila Bedi, second from left, with family members of children sent to a Mississippi detention center.

"We're really fortunate to have someone of Sheila's commitment and talent working with us to make a difference in the lives of children," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "She's a true visionary whose leadership is changing the landscape for children in the South."

Recent SPLC lawsuits against juvenile detention centers have resulted in settlement agreements that are transforming some of the worst facilities in Mississippi and protecting the well-being of detained children.

The law school named her the Cicchino Award recipient in its Alumni Winner, Domestic Focus category. The winner in the Alumni Winner, International Focus category was Cathleen Caron, who graduated in 2000 and was an SPLC summer legal intern the year before. Last year's Domestic Focus winner was Will Harrell, who joined the SPLC in January as policy director of its School-to-Prison Reform Project. He previously worked on juvenile justice issues in Texas.