photo of Joel Caston

Joel Caston

Justice Consultant

I am the first person in the history of Washington, D.C. to be elected to public office while incarcerated. My 2020 win as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) garnered nationwide attention—from VICE and TIME to ABC and NPR. In my role, I served as Treasurer of the ANC, 7F Commission and Co-Chair of DC’s Redistricting Task Force. I often testified on behalf of my constituents, like after the Federal Bureau of Prisons called to depopulate the jail following the January 6 insurrection, and emphasized my lived experience as someone impacted by the criminal legal system.

Before assuming my role of commissioner, I co-founded the Young Men Emerging (YME) community inside the DC Jail—a mentorship program that emphasized civic engagement as a means of freedom and what I liked to call a "citizen mindset." The program was covered by both the Washington Post and Business Insider.

Drawing on the wisdom of 27 years of direct involvement with the criminal legal system, I continue to work closely with the DC government, policymakers, advocacy groups, and organizations to change the culture of mass incarceration. I am a consultant for the Justice Policy Institute, a renowned national research organization, and also spend my professional time working in youth violence prevention and financial literacy for marginalized communities.

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

Events featuring Joel Caston
Events featuring Joel Caston