Daphne Robinson is a public health practitioner and a former Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans and Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Tougaloo College in 1988, Daphne went on to earn her Juris Doctorate degree from the American University Washington College of Law in 1991. She has practiced law for over 20 years, including 18 of those years as an ADA for the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Louisiana. There, she was the Chief of the Juvenile Section, in which she supervised a staff of four and was responsible for the prosecution of juvenile delinquencies and the abuse and neglect of children cases for the entire parish of Rapides.
While serving as an Assistant District Attorney, Daphne prosecuted many criminal cases and worked tirelessly in the community to create outreach programs designed to prevent crime. One of the programs that she developed was the Neighborhood Accountability Board, a panel of neighborhood citizens who volunteered to hear the offenses of youthful offenders and to impose an appropriate sanction, which often included writing letters of apology to victims and families, and participating in community service.
Very early in her career, Daphne realized that many of the offenders that appeared in her court suffered from substance abuse and mental health issues. Throughout her career, she saw many of these same people revolve in and out of the criminal justice system without ever receiving the treatment that they so desperately needed.
In 2006, Daphne was asked by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation to serve as the Project Manager for Models for Change: Systems for Juvenile Justice Reform in Rapides Parish. While spearheading the reform efforts in Rapides Parish, Daphne helped create evidence-based programs in the community to address the behavioral health problems of disadvantaged youth. She also wrote and collaborated in the writing of a number of academic articles on juvenile justice reform. As a result of this experience, Daphne’s viewpoint evolved and she began to see delinquency and crime as serious public health issues.
After years of experience, Daphne has recognized that the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with issues of mental and behavioral health. She now understands that incarcerating many of these individuals can do more harm than good. She sees preventing crime as not just a public safety issue, but a public health issue as well, that requires decision-makers to support innovative programs that include diversion, treatment, and smart sentencing.
After seeing how her work with the Models for Change project directly impacted families in her community, Daphne decided to devote herself entirely to the cause of criminal justice reform and crime prevention through public policy and advocacy. In May of 2016, she earned a Masters Degree in Public Health Prevention Sciences from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia. She continually works to expand her knowledge on these issues in an effort to make an impact on at risk youth and families in the most vulnerable communities across the country. To further that end, Daphne has joined the faculty of the Health Law and Policy Institute in the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas, as a Research Professor.
Many of Daphne’s contributions to research on effective alternatives to the criminal justice system can be found at http://modelsforchange.com.