Anna Sacks 1L (she/her), originally from Philadelphia, is a highly engaged social justice advocate with a passionate commitment to ending mass incarceration through laws, policies, programs, and rehabilitative measures. She first became interested in criminal justice reform during a month-long high school internship in New Orleans where she worked with a juvenile justice organization and helped incarcerated youth file reports of abuse and neglect.
She attended Tulane University in New Orleans to become more deeply involved in social justice work in the prison capital of the world. Anna graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology.
After undergrad, she was hired full-time at Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), a grassroots nonprofit that works to restore civil and human rights to current and formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana. She worked at VOTE for five years where she was a part of successful statewide legislative and political campaigns including putting an end to non-unanimous jury convictions and restoring the right to vote for more than 40,000 people on probation and parole.
After living in New Orleans for 10 years, Anna returned to Philadelphia to become involved with the criminal justice reform work close to home. Her goal is to become an attorney and continue working with directly impacted communities to dismantle the United States’ system of mass incarceration.
Jessica Li 1L (she/her) comes to Temple Law School after serving as a criminal justice investigator with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, where she focused on reducing pretrial detention. While at the ACLU-PA, she conducted investigations for impact litigation on a range of issues and engaged in policy advocacy at the local and state levels.
Jessica is the author of Broken Rules: How Pennsylvania Courts Use Cash Bail to Incarcerate People Before Trial. She is a 2019 graduate of Swarthmore College.
Before attending Temple Law, Melanie Kane 1L (she/her) worked as a union salt/inside organizer for a Philadelphia labor union that represents workers in the service industry. As a salt, she worked at a Philadelphia restaurant with efforts to organize workers and establish a union that would champion the rights and interests of the restaurant staff.
She graduated Cum Laude from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology.
Melanie has been deeply involved in community organizing efforts in Philadelphia. She volunteered with a Philadelphia housing justice organization, where she worked to create a tenants’ union within a North Philadelphia apartment building owned by a neglectful property management company.
She aspires to utilize her legal expertise to serve workers, tenants, and others who are organizing to build power for themselves and their communities.
“I want my legal practice and strategies to act in service of organizers already putting in the work. To achieve this goal, I believe my approach must be shaped and guided by their knowledge, experience and expertise.”
Sam Bass 1L (she/her) earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Society with a minor in Psychology from American University in 2018. Pursuing her J.D. at Temple Law, Sam’s focus extends to post-conviction defense, wrongful convictions, and juvenile justice. Serving as a Senior Paralegal at the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) within the Philadelphia DA’s Office for five years, Sam assisted attorneys in investigating cases of wrongful convictions and actual innocence and the resulting efforts to get incarcerated persons released through courts.
Before her tenure at the CIU, Sam dedicated her efforts to juvenile justice, conducting policy research at the Children’s Defense Fund and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. She also served as a Team Leader in a bilingual public elementary school’s afterschool program, supporting both tutors and students in their educational pursuits, particularly among the immigrant and second-generation communities.
Sam’s goal is to champion post-conviction defense, fighting for the wrongfully convicted in her native Philadelphia through meticulous and compassionate justice, as she works tirelessly to improve the city’s criminal justice system.
Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard
Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard (she/her) 1L is a passionate advocate and legal scholar with a focus on health law, disability law, and poverty law, particularly as they intersect with mental health and addiction from a health justice perspective. She pursued a double major in Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Vassar College, graduating in 2018. There she earned the Michael McCarthy & Mitch Miller Prize from the Vassar College Philosophy Department and the Dashielle Robertson ’17 Memorial Prize from the Women’s Studies Program.
Between 2018 and 2023, Sessi founded and coordinated the Re-Queering Harm Reduction Project, sponsored by the National Harm Reduction Coalition and Lighthouse Learning Collective, which conducted community-based qualitative research culminating in the groundbreaking report “Our Lives, Our Care.” Sessi also served as a Harm Reduction Specialist at Community Access, working on an Affirmative Community Treatment (ACT) Team as a case worker for unhoused New Yorkers with serious mental health concerns, including schizophrenia. She furthered her impact as a Drug Policy Community Organizer at VOCAL-NY, organizing the Users Union to advocate for the rights of poor New Yorkers who use drugs.
In addition to her advocacy work, Sessi is a published freelance journalist, who has contributed to The Intercept, The Nation, and VICE.
Sessi’s goals at Temple Law are oriented towards building policies and institutions that enforce affirmative social guarantees, including the right to self-determined care, a permanent home, and empowering job opportunities.