Board of Directors
Executive Director: Diana Claitor
Diana Claitor has been a journalist and historical researcher for more than 30 years. Her published articles have appeared in publications such as the Texas Observer; Current—for People in Public Media, the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman. She has covered subjects such as maternal incarceration with her groundbreaking “Baby Steps,” a story about BAMBI, the Babies and Mothers Bonding Initiative, a TDCJ facility in Houston, and in a 1980s story, examined experiences of Central American refugees in one of the first privatized detention facilities in Texas. Her profile of Texas activist-author Diane Wilson appeared in Hope magazine in 2003.
As a proxy researcher at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, she has contributed both textual and photographic research to books and films on President Johnson; Ladybird Johnson; and the legendary anti-war priests the Berrigan Brothers; Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues of baseball; and legendary newsman Walter Cronkite. She has done extensive research for small presses and books on the histories of San Antonio, the Coastal Bend Region of Texas, and the early Irish colonies before the Texas revolution. She has worked as an information specialist at PBS and as an instructor; her essay on teaching at Austin Community College, “A Day in the Life of a Part-time Teacher,” has appeared in two anthologies. She is currently working on her second novel.
In 2006, she co-founded the nonprofit Texas Jail Project (TJP). As the executive director of the only county jail specific advocacy organization in Texas for the past 10 years, she has answered thousands of emails and calls from families across the state and continues to update an innovative website – texasjailproject.org – that provides help and information to families and friends of the approximately 65,000 inmates in the county jails of Texas. In addition, under her leadership in 2016, TJP launched Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas, a website collection of first hand accounts of what happens to people and families as a result of incarceration in county jails prior to conviction. She has successfully supported three bills reforming treatment of pregnant women in county jails, and worked on others, including one prohibiting night time releases of people from county jails and another that would limit the use of solitary confinement of people experiencing mental illness. Claitor is routinely contacted by state and national media outlets as a source and speaks on panels such as the January 31st noonday panel on the publication of “Preventable Tragedies: How to Reduce Mental Health-Related Deaths in Texas Jails,” at the UT School of Law.
Maria Anna Esparza: President, TJP Board
Maria Anna Esparza has worked for 21 years as a teacher and for the past seven years as a guidance counselor near San Antonio. She has nearly three decades of experience as a teacher and counselor. She is an active member of the National Association of Mental Illness. Her articulate and impassioned outreach helped gain the release of her own son, an ex-Marine who returned from Iraq with mental disorders, from a solitary cell in a county jail with no care, into a treatment program in a hospital. She has since been a tireless advocate for veterans incarcerated in Texas jails and state hospitals. She contributes frequently to the TJP website and helps answer email queries seeking information and advice.
Greg Hansch: Mental Health Consultant, Secretary, TJP Board
Greg Hansch currently works as Public Policy Coordinator of the Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Alliance (NAMI); previously he participated in the Policy Fellowship Program of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Greg is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and holds a Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University. He served as Assistant Executive Director for Austin Clubhouse for nearly 2 years in the areas of development, management, administration, policy, and program operations.
Krishnaveni Gundu: Founding Board Member
Soon after moving to the United States, Ms. Gundu served as the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal from 2002-2004, prior to which she volunteered as a community health field worker and researcher among the communities affected by the 1984 deadly gas leak from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. Over the years, she has organized and participated in teach-ins and actions across the United States to keep alive the memory of the biggest industrial disaster in history while attempting to bring Union Carbide and its new owners Dow and Dupont, to justice. As part of the campaign she collaborated with grassroots coalitions involving environmental health and justice campaigns in the US and India. Prior to her environmental activism, she worked with Ogilvy & Mather and JWT advertising agencies as an award winning copywriter for over a decade. She received a Bachelors Degree in Electronics with a minor in Math and Physics from Osmania University in India. She co-founded Texas Jail Project along with author, environmental activist and friend Diane Wilson whose incarceration in several Texas county jails resulted in the discovery of horrific shackling practices of pregnant inmates. She’s also the co-founder and secretary of ‘tejas barrios’ – An environmental health and justice non-profit that works in the fence line communities bordering the Ship Channel and chemical refineries in Houston. With nearly two decades of experience in advertising, market research, coordinating environmental health & justice campaigns and training non-profits in media and fundraising strategy, she currently works part-time with TJP’s executive director on FOIA requests, research for grants and answering inmates and their families in need of help. She is currently a Math and Physics tutor at the Lone Star Community College in Houston. She’s also the proud mother of an 8 year old.
Dr. Eric Tang
Dr. Tang serves as an assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and is a faculty member in the Center for Asian American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He has a Ph.D. from New York University. His recent book ‘Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto’ is based on his 10 years as a community organizer in the Bronx. He has established the Social Justice Institute at the Department of Diversity and Community Engagement Center (DDCE). As director of the institute, Tang oversees projects that engage typically underserved populations in the Austin area. Tang was instrumental in putting together a key panel as part of the 2013 Heman Marion Sweatt Symposium, “The Future of Black Life in Austin,” drawing on research he has conducted related to displaced African American communities in East Austin. This research project, entitled “East Avenue” is a collaboration between the Social Justice Institute, the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and several community-based groups. He is passionate about supporting the work of community based groups such as TJP. As part of that commitment, he acquired free office space for TJP at the DDCE.
Amanda Woog: Legal and Policy Consultant
Ms. Woog is a postdoctoral legal fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA) at the University of Texas at Austin. Her undergraduate degree in Philosophy was from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. She served as a briefing attorney to the Honorable Cheryl Johnson on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and as Policy Director for the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence in the 84th legislative session. Between those two Texas gigs, Amanda was a litigation associate with the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP in Palo Alto, California. She is currently researching and tracking officer-involved shootings and custodial deaths in Texas. With the goal of eventually reducing fatalities through evidence-based policy research, her focus is on improving data collection and publication.
Ms. Franklin is one of the newest members of the TJP board. She is a survivor of abuse and trafficking. She has been incarcerated in Texas county jails and prisons and gone through drug and mental health rehabilitation. She’s passionate about reform and intervention programs. She currently serves as a survivor consultant for Houston’s chapter of CEASE,a national network that works with stakeholders in the community to end the demand for purchased sex. She speaks each semester for Dr. Nash at the University of Texas, for her undergraduate nursing class about human trafficking and Allison had the privilege of being a keynote speaker twice for the Harris County Drug Court Foundation fundraiser. She routinely collaborates with the intervention and rehabilitation programs at the Harris County Sheriff’s office. Her story – Allie’s Story – is the lead-in for an online intervention program that rolled out in Drug Courts nationwide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Ms. Sloan works as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work. She has 13 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker, working in agency settings focused on mental health and mental health access for LGBTQ clients. She has also worked for 12 years for Austin Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity International. She has a small mental health private practice, providing psychotherapy, supervision and consultation. She values service and in that vein she is currently a mentor through the Seedling Foundation where she works with a third grader whose father is in prison. She also volunteers in the Austin arts and with organizations that promote social justice for all. Over the years, as she learned more about the injustices in the criminal justice system, especially mass incarceration at a higher levels for people of color, she became deeply interested in jail and prison reform. She has also been interested in how changes can be made in the pretrial system. As one of TJP’s newest board member, she is keen to contribute her skills and experience, especially with mental health issues.
Matt Simpson: Advisory Board Member, Treasurer, Legislative Consultant
Mr. Simpson received an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Baylor University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, OR before becoming a Policy Strategist at the ACLU of Texas in 2008. As Policy Strategist, he lobbies the state legislature and assists with local campaigns related to youth rights and criminal justice issues such as prison and jail conditions, law enforcement information sharing, and ending the school to prison pipeline. Mr. Simpson worked alongside the TJP advocating for reforms in local practice and law in county jails during the 2009, 2011, and 2013 legislative sessions. He helps coordinate advocacy targeting the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and reforms to standards via that agency.
Fran Clark: Advisory Board Member
Fran Clark is an activist and organizer with experience as a counselor for the GI Rights hotline, as a board member for Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center, coordinator of CodePink Austin, and involved in the visitation program at T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center. She is a registered nurse who is employed as a bilingual (Spanish) nurse home visitor with Any Baby Can, where she visits indigent pregnant women and mothers to educate and support them.