Maya Ragsdale, a ’20-’21 Justice Catalyst Fellow working at Dream Defenders, was named Best Activist in the Miami New Times’ “Best of 2020” list. Their article is reproduced below:

 

Although Maya Ragsdale is relatively new to town, the Harvard-trained attorney has already become one of the loudest voices in the fight to reform Miami’s criminal-court system. A former Miami-Dade public defender, Ragsdale is driven by a passion for the people she used to represent: poor, mostly Black defendants who have historically been railroaded by the U.S. penal system. Although no longer a participant in that system, Ragsdale has continued her advocacy as a so-called movement lawyer involved in organizing efforts with local groups. Working with the Dream Defenders, she helped start the Free the Block campaign, which seeks to end pretrial detention and the use of cash bail. And when the coronavirus reared its ugly head in March, Ragsdale was one of the first activists to sound the alarm about the inmates in Miami-Dade’s jails, who — as she predicted — began contracting COVID-19 at alarming levels. Starting in April, she helped represent them in a lawsuit against Miami-Dade’s corrections department, interviewing dozens of incarcerated people and their families to document unhygienic, inhumane, and even life-threatening conditions inside the Metro West Detention Center. “The people inside are vulnerable,” she said during an April Zoom call, “and it’s on us to protect them, because Corrections won’t.”