Brittany K. Barnett
Brittany K. Barnett is an attorney and criminal justice reform advocate. As the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Brittany knows first-hand that the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching and devastates families and entire communities.
While working as a corporate attorney, Brittany showed a steadfast commitment to pro bono representation of clients in federal prison. She was personally responsible for obtaining freedom through the federal courts for several clients who had served decades in federal prison for drug convictions. Brittany’s dedication to this life changing work paid off tremendously – resulting in executive clemency from President Barack Obama for seven of her clients, Donel Clark, Sharanda Jones, Wayland Wilson, Darryl Reed, Corey Jacobs, Trenton Copeland, and Burnett Shackleford. Sharanda, Corey, and Trenton were each serving life without parole sentences as nonviolent drug offenders. Clemency from President Barack Obama literally saved their lives. Brittany shares a special bond with each of her clients. They are forever bound by redemption and the gracious mercy of the first African-American President of the United States of America.
Brittany has been named one America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division; Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas by the Texas Young Lawyers Association; and Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers – all for her professionalism, commitment to serving the community and dedication to helping others through her pro bono work.
Sharanda Jones is a passionate advocate for criminal justice reform. Her story is nothing short of inspirational. She was sentenced in 1999 to mandatory life without parole for her role in a nonviolent drug conspiracy – her first ever arrest and conviction. Determined not to let a life sentence establish her fate, Sharanda maintained a positive attitude and worked each day in prison to better herself and those around her. After serving 16 years and 9 months in prison, Sharanda was granted clemency by President Obama on December 18, 2015. This act of mercy by the President literally saved her life. She works tirelessly to use her story to promote much-needed change with the criminal justice system.
Sharanda’s journey for freedom has been featured in numerous media outlets such as the Washington Post, CNN, HBO and others. Her change.org petition garnered nearly 300,000 signatures from people across the country supporting her release.
At the age of 30, Corey Jacobs was sentenced to life without parole as a nonviolent drug offender – his first ever felony conviction. In spite of facing a reality that would have been unbearable for many, Corey dedicated himself to personal growth and remained a positive source of encouragement to all who came in contact with him. On December 19, 2016, Corey received clemency from President Barack Obama after serving over 18 years in prison and was recently released in November 2017. Re-entering society for Corey is knowing that he has an opportunity to fulfill a heartfelt purpose of turning the failures of his past into great accomplishments to help others. A gracious act of mercy from President Obama saved his life – he wants to ensure others have the chance he has to live “life after life” as productive citizens of society.
Corey’s case was used to highlight the need for criminal justice reform in a New York Times Op-Ed by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
At the young age of 22, Chris Young was arrested and ultimately sentenced to life without parole as a nonviolent drug offender. Chris, now 29, is serving his 7th year in prison with absolutely no release date. Illustrating the harshness of Chris’ sentence, the sentencing judge, Kevin Sharp, said the imposition of a life sentence was “way out of whack” with what Chris’ co-conspirators had received. The judge said, “Each defendant is supposed to be treated as an individual. I don’t think that’s happening here.”
Determined not to let his current life sentence establish his fate, Chris works diligently to show that he has learned from past mistakes and has been on a track of continuous self-improvement since the beginning of his incarceration. Chris is an inspiration to many lives that he has encountered along his journey. He is a constant light in a too often dim world. His passion for science and tech led him to teach himself how to code in prison and he aspires to own a technology company that develops software to “supply the needed technology to prevent another young man or woman from being in such a critical situation because of bad choices.”
Chris’ journey for freedom was featured in VICE. Notably, former federal judge Kevin Sharp mentions Chris’ case in an insightful article discussing the reason why he left the bench and retired as federal judge – citing his deep ethical discomfort with sentencing people like Chris—young men “barely on the totem pole” of drug conspiracies—to die in prison.