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Engagement in the Black Community 2022: Changing the Conversation on Criminal Justice Reforms Through Activism and Advocacy

Changing the Conversation on Criminal Justice Reforms Through Activism and Advocacy
A Recorded Webinar
Recorded on Thursday, February 24, 2022

Jump to Course Contents
Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans and yet represent less than 1/4th of the general population. In 12 states, more than half the prison population is Black and seven other states maintain a Black/White disparity larger than 9 to 1. The addiction profession is negatively impacted by the unacceptable slow progress of criminal justice reform. Close to half of residential and intensive outpatient referrals are actively involved or previously involved in the criminal justice system, and patient substance use is often directly linked to legal or criminal involvement. It is to the direct benefit of the addiction treatment industry that low-level drug offenses are addressed in criminal justice in the same way they are addressed in public health: an indication of someone in need of treatment, not incarceration and punishment. Since America’s continued ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a war on Black America, the need for criminal justice reform is a critical issue for the Black community. This panel discussion will outline how addiction professionals can more affectively advocate for communities who are disproportionately criminalized due to their need for substance use disorder treatment.
Learning Objectives
  • Participants will be able to define the link between patient-entry and criminal justice in the addiction profession.
  • Participants will be able to identify how advocacy for the Black community is a part of the addiction profession’s ethical code of conduct.
  • Participants will be able to apply several examples of how to propose solutions and advocate for appropriate levels of care for treatment vs. incarceration or criminal justice involvement.


Lisa Connors, LCPC, NCC, MAC, ABD

Lisa Connors, LCPC, NCC, MAC, ABD, is an associate pastor at In His Image International Ministry, Inc. She is a licensed clinical professional counselor, national certified counselor, and master addiction counselor. Her greatest passion is working with individuals affected by HIV/AIDS, substance use disorders, mental health disorders, violence, abuse, trauma, grief, loss, and racial and social injustices. Connors’ clinical work includes serving clients who have co-occurring disorders. In addition to her pastoral and clinical work, Connors is a college professor teaching chemical dependency and substance use disorder courses and is a founding member and the President-Elect of the Maryland Association for Addiction Professionals (MAAP). Connors earned her Bachelor's in Social Work, Master's of Divinity, Master's in Professional Counseling, and is completing her Doctoral degree in Psychology.

Rommel Johnson, PhD, LPC, NCC, CAADC

Rommel Johnson, PhD, LPC, NCC, CAADC, is an assistant professor in the School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Johnson holds a Doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision from Western Michigan University and Master of Arts degrees in Community Counseling and Youth Ministry from Andrews University. Johnson is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the states of Michigan and Texas, and is board certified in general counseling (NCC) and addiction counseling (CAADC). Johnson has over 14 years of clinical mental health and addiction counseling experience. Johnson’s research interests include exploring brain neuroplasticity in addiction and recovery and understanding issues of race, social justice, disability, addiction, and mental health within Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinx Americans.

Monica Rich-McLaurin, MHSA, MSW, LMSW

Monica Rich-McLaurin, MHSA, MSW, LMSW, is a clinician with over 25 years of experience. She is the CEO/Founder of Paramount Consulting Group, PLLC, which provides accreditation preparation services to organizations that provide behavioral health services, children and youth services, and opioid treatment programs. Rich-McLaurin is also the CEO of Resolution Counseling & Therapy Services, PLLC, which provides direct clinical services to adults. She is an administrative and program surveyor for CARF International, an accrediting body for the majority of behavioral health, medical rehabilitation, and opioid treatment organizations around the world. Rich-McLaurin is the Chairwoman of the NASW National Ethics Committee, active within NAADAC as a member of the Critical Issues in the Black Community Committee, chair of the Ethics Committee, and a board member of the Michigan Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselors (MAADAC).

Bayete A. Sadiq

Bayete A. Sadiq is a native Washingtonian who grew up in the D.C. metropolitan area. Throughout his early years, Sadiq had multiple encounters with the criminal justice system which eventually resulted in his incarceration of 11 years and three months of a 30-year sentence for murder. While incarcerated, Sadiq began to embrace the mindset that his life had purpose and began his transformation while he was detained. Since his release, Sadiq turned his clothing line, #Never Going Back, LLC, into a life of service. As a community activist, Sadiq helps other returning citizens to gain employment, advocates for mental health services, volunteers with Farming for Hunger, and is the Vice President of Incarcerated Lives Matters. Sadiq is a modern day example of reform.

Karla Sapp, EdD, LPC-S, LMHC-S, MAC

Karla Sapp, EdD, LPC-S, LMHC-S, MAC, is a fierce social justice, legislative, and public policy advocate who has been practicing for 13 years specializing in general mental health and addictions counseling among the adult and criminal offender populations. Sapp is currently a member of the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia (LPCA-GA), a member of the Florida Counseling Association, and serves as the Public Awareness and Legislative/Public Policy Committee Chair. Sapp has experience working in a variety of settings including in-patient acute hospitalization, outpatient, and correctional settings. She is the founder of Project H.O.P.E of Coastal Georgia, Inc., located in Southeast Georgia. Sapp was the recipient of a Congressional One Minute by U.S. Congressman E. Buddy Carter (GA-01) on the U.S. House floor in February 2021.

Prechelle Shannon, LPC, MAC, CCTP

Prechelle Shannon, LPC, MAC, CCTP, holds a dual Master’s degree in Administration of Justice and Criminal Behavior. She is a licensed professional counselor, master addiction counselor, and certified clinical trauma professional. Shannon has over 18 years of clinical and criminal justice experience. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of 4TRUTH, a criminal justice consultant firm with specializations in the Prison Rape Elimination Act, gender and cultural specificity, diversity, equity and inclusion, and organizational and leadership transformation. She is the co-author of, “From Revelations, Vol. III: Prisoner of the New Jim Crow," an exploration of the human condition of confinement, touching every vestige of systemic discrimination and criminalization of race, gender, and economic station from a first-hand perspective that is raw, interpersonal, and provocative. Shannon is passionate about criminal justice reform, reentry initiatives, and ensuring communities of color receive culturally specific, holistic care and equitable representation.

Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS (Facilitator)

Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS, is a project team member for Paramount Consulting Group, PLLC. He has over 25 years of experience in criminal and juvenile programming, mental health, and children and youth services. Smith serves as Administrative and Program Surveyor for CARF International and adjunct faculty member for Union University. He is a retiree of the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and he held a variety of leadership positions during his civil service career. Smith serves as a community organizer, public policy activist, and advocate against poverty and racial injustice. He is the recipient of the 2020 Presidential Service Award and 2021 NAADAC Mel Schulstad Professional of the Year Award. Smith is an associate minister, certified coach/mentor, licensed counselor, and clinical supervisor, and is currently serving his second term on the Tennessee Community Resource Board for the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

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Addiction professionals, employee assistance professionals, social workers, mental health counselors, professional counselors, psychologists, and other helping professionals that are interested in learning about addiction-related matters.
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