In this employee spotlight, we sit down with Lily Fielding, state engagement manager at Recidiviz. From a beloved book of poetry to the unique student co-op that led her here, get to know our wonderful teammate through this short Q&A.
Coffee or tea?
Always coffee, always iced, always with the highest-fat dairy available. Don’t ask me if I’ve ever put heavy cream in my coffee, that’s classified.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
You love history and English, and don't thrive in biology lab. It's okay to set your sights on a different dream than being an ophthalmologist even though that’s what you always thought you’d do! Also: wear sunscreen every day. Even in the winter, even when it’s cloudy.
Tell us about what you do at Recidiviz.
I’m a state engagement manager at Recidiviz. That’s a very unique-to-Recidiviz title, but basically, what it means is that I get the immense privilege of being the voice of our state partners to my colleagues at Recidiviz and the voice of Recidiviz to our state partners. I work closely with states like Maine, Michigan, Idaho, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania to build relationships with their leadership and understand their unique contexts. And then, I’m responsible for turning our relationships with those folks and our understanding of that context into a customized impact strategy of products and analyses that will help us improve outcomes in each state’s justice system. It’s incredibly rewarding to have a front-row seat to see how states use the insights and tools we deliver to make a positive impact on justice-impacted people and the system at large.
What’s a highlight or two from your work at Recidiviz so far?
One highlight that stands out immediately is our work on understanding how officer assignment impacts client outcomes in one of our states. Some of our amazing analysts have been able to find a causal link between the PO to whom a client on supervision is assigned and that client’s likelihood of returning to prison. This is a big deal, because it gives us a chance to help states share best practices among their staff and help more clients succeed in the community. Digging into that analysis, rolling out those insights to state staff, and seeing data be a catalyst for real culture change has been amazing! Now, I’m working with our software engineers to turn those insights into an automated product. I’m very excited to see how the work continues to evolve.
What person, event, experience, or values have most shaped your desire to improve the criminal justice system?
My first introduction to the criminal justice system came from a internship that I did at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) during undergrad. At SDNY, I did most of my work with the civil rights unit, and one of my big projects was to look through thousands of Bureau of Prisons files to help the civil rights team bring an affirmative case to protect incarcerated people from sexual abuse.
I spent countless hours going through a massive box of files. Looking back, I can say that was the first step on the path that led me to Recidiviz. Each new, substantiated allegation of sexual assault and harassment that I found shed more light on the problems at the heart of our justice system - problems that I had previously never been aware of, despite growing up minutes away from New Jersey’s only women’s prison.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is the reality for many people behind bars - and the experience really opened my eyes. I often say that once you truly see the justice system, you can’t look away, and that was definitely the story for me. My work at SDNY fundamentally changed the trajectory of my career.
What’s something quirky we don’t know about you?
I make truly divine snickerdoodle cookies. And I’ll share my secrets if you ask nicely!
Last show you binged?
I have a confession: I don't really binge television shows. But I love The Great British Bake-Off. Sweet contestants, funny judges, delicious baked goods - what more could you ask for? Despite not being British, I’m partially honing my snickerdoodle craft in hopes of making it to the tent.
Book that changed you?
Devotions by Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver and my grandmother died on the same day in 2019, and my uncle shared one of her poems (Wild Geese) at my Nana’s wake. For months after that, I found references to Mary Oliver everywhere, and eventually, I took it as a sign. I picked up Devotions, which is a personally-selected collection of Oliver’s favorites from every book she ever published, and now I read a poem from it every morning. If you take one thing away from this Q&A, please go read Wild Geese, The Summer Day, and I Worried (three of my all-time faves among her poems). Maybe they’ll change your life too!
If you could eat one food exclusively forever, what would it be?
Tacos! At any time! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert (RIP, Choco Taco). I will never tire of them!
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