Patrice Sulton is an attorney, criminal justice reform advocate, community organizer and law school professor who is powering a movement to fundamentally transform the criminal justice system in Washington D.C., which has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. She served on the District of Columbia’s Criminal Code Reform Commission (comprehensively rewriting D.C.’s criminal code), Police Reform Commission (recommending an overhaul D.C.’s approach to public safety), and Jails & Justice Task Force (publishing a plan to decarcerate by half and bring D.C.’s residents home to a safe environment).
She has represented clients in criminal and civil cases for 15 years, served on public commissions and worked alongside grassroots organizations in underestimated communities of color that are deeply impacted by over-policing, over-sentencing, and notoriously unsafe jails. These experiences inspired Patrice to launch DC Justice Lab, an innovative nonprofit that is driving a conversation about what constitutes public safety and reimagining public systems that ensure safety and justice for all. In creating a model for comprehensive change in Washington DC, she is laying the foundation for generating more effective and equitable systems everywhere.
Patrice is passionate about instructing the next generation of lawyers in constitutional law, criminal justice reform, racial equity, and in how to generate systems change. She is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School, where she teaches Adjudicatory Criminal Procedure and Trial Advocacy. She was awarded the Distinguished Adjunct Teaching Award in 2021. Patrice is recognized for training peers in trial skills and criminal law at, among others prominent organizations, the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, Rising for Justice, the DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.
Patrice serves on the Board of Directors for the Network of Victim Recovery of DC. Prior to founding DC Justice Lab, Patrice served on the Board of Directors for several leading justice-focused nonprofits, including NAACP DC, DC Lawyers for Youth, DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the New York Urban League of Young Professionals. She was named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine, the Greater Washington Area Chapter of the National Bar Association, the National Law Journal and Legal Times. Patrice earned a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.
Patrice’s career is devoted to fundamentally changing the way people think about who we punish, why we punish, and how we punish. A lifelong organizer, she believes the brilliant ideas we are looking for are in the brilliant people we overlook.