In this team member spotlight, we sit down with Recidiviz’s Senior Partnerships Manager, Molly Cohen. Learn about her current binge-watch, advice she’d give her younger self, and more in this short Q&A:
Coffee or tea?
Herbal tea. Every now and again I drink some decaf coffee – light and sweet for my Dunkin Donuts people. I worked an overnight job during law school and used to reserve caffeine for those nights.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
That’s a hard one, but probably something like stress less and read more. I am curious to know what advice my younger self would give me today.
Tell us about what you do at Recidiviz.
I have the immense privilege of working on our partnerships team. That means that I spend most of my time encouraging more states to use Recidiviz’s data to improve their outcomes. I connect with state corrections directors and staff in-person and online to learn about their problems and goals. And then I work with states on contracting, data-sharing, and onboarding to help them hit the ground running and speed up their path to impact. I also coordinate our advisory board and meet with awesome criminal justice reform organizations to share more about what we do, brainstorm collaboration opportunities, and offer policy impact forecasting.
What’s a highlight or two from your work at Recidiviz so far?
I unlock a new highlight every time I’m on a call with a new state. I see people’s eyes light up when they learn what our technology does and it’s even more fun to report back to the Recidiviz team about why a state wants to partner with us.
Another major highlight was our inaugural Partners Summit in 2022, where we brought directors together from our 11 partner states. It is always inspiring and moving to share space with these visionary leaders, hear about their problems, and co-design solutions that’ll transform the criminal justice system.
What person, event, experience, or values have most shaped your desire to improve the criminal justice system?
When I worked in New York City to improve pretrial practices and the bail system, there were so many examples of how bureaucratic policies kept people in jail. There were all these one-off decisions made by different arms of the government – like hours that clerks would accept money bail in courthouses, the bus schedules that transported people from courts to Rikers, a system of using $1 bail as a data workaround – that made it harder for people to get released pretrial. And, of course, being detained pretrial has these terrible cascading effects – on people’s employment, their families, and the outcome of their cases. Now, none of the decisions the government made stemmed from bad intent, but in combination, they made the system harder to navigate and kept people detained pretrial longer than necessary.
When you’re working for the government, it is easy to get technical, explain why each little decision was made, and ignore the real-life costs. When I went into bureaucratic explanation and justification mode, I knew I needed to take a step back and remember that each decision has a human consequence. It is helpful for me to think about incarceration as a health emergency. If you’ve ever had a family member with cancer or another serious health problem, each delay in a scan or treatment feels like an infinitely long and unjust wait. But for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, it’s just another day at work.
I’m so happy to be at Recidiviz now, where we build responsive, easy-to-use tools that help combat the delay that can result from complicated systems. We’re working to ensure that no one is detained or on supervision longer than needed.
What’s something quirky we don’t know about you?
I can ride a unicycle (though probably pretty poorly at this point).
Last show you binged?
I am currently enjoying season 3 of Ted Lasso. I’m not much of a binger, so the last show I really sat down and binged hard was Bridgerton.
A book that changed you?
I read a lot, so there are just too many to list here, but a recent one that I couldn’t put down and that devastated me was Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott, which follows up on New York Times reporting about a family living in a homeless shelter in NYC and all the ways that city government and social services failed the family.
If you could eat one food exclusively forever, what would it be?
Cheetos, but not the skinny type, the obviously superior Cheetos Puffs!
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