Executive Director: Anita Desai
Year Started at SLSC: 2009
Anita joined St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in 2009, conducting research on integrated and cooperative approaches for successful community integration of people exiting prison with mental health problems and illness. As SLSC’s Research and Policy Advisor, she developed research initiatives on second-stage housing for former prisoners through work on the Homes for the ‘Hard to House’ project. Recent research projects include: developing a national strategy for life-sentenced people in Canada, examining trajectories towards homelessness for youth in conflict with the law, and utilizing peer mentoring approaches to address problematic substance use within Canadian prisons. Other research topics include: promising practices to avoid the criminalization of people with mental health problems and illness and social enterprise. Examples of policy initiatives at SLSC include topics such as youth justice, pardons, electronic monitoring, capital punishment, victims’ rights, human rights of prisoners, mandatory minimum sentences, aging and elderly prisoners, and research ethics.
In 2017, Anita became Executive Director of SLSC. She continues to oversee research and policy work, in addition to supporting SLSC’s member agencies and advancing collaborative relationships and communication among individuals and organizations dedicated to social justice. She is passionate about issues related to the intersection of homelessness and criminal justice. Anita holds a B.A. in Criminology and an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Windsor and wrote her thesis on homelessness in mid-sized cities.
Director of Operations: David Whiteley
Year Started at SLSC: 1999
David started at St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in 1999, based on the strength of his writing, editing and communicating skills. Though without a background in corrections, working for SLSC for over two decades has taught David to appreciate the contributions of NGOs, and the importance of research and evidence-based practices to community corrections.
David leads a double life as a theatre artist, holding a MA in dramatic arts and serving as Co-Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Plosive Productions. He is pleased and thankful that SLSC has given him the opportunity to balance contributing to community corrections while pursuing a career in the theatre.
Coordinator: Danielle Kouri
Year Started at SLSC: 2017
Danielle joined St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in May 2017, first starting as a volunteer, continuing as an University of Ottawa field placement student, and then she officially joined as SLSC staff in January 2018. Danielle has completed her Honours Bachelor of Social Science with Major in Criminology and Minor in Psychology. She has been accepted to begin a Masters in Justice Studies at Royal Roads University in January 2022. Since joining SLSC, Danielle has assisted with Life(r)’s Work: An Historical Analysis and Evaluation of a Program for Life Sentenced People in Canada (2017), Beyond Custody: Positive Pathways to Housing for Youth in Conflict with the Law (2018), Life(r)’s Work: Developing a Modernized Strategy for Life-Sentenced People in Canada (2019), and Life(r)’s Work: Supporting a Modernized Strategy for Life-Sentenced People in Canada (2020). She has also supported consultations with community and government stakeholders, the work of SLSC committees, the review of SLSC policies, and day-to-day office administration.
She is passionate about issues related to social justice and community corrections and integration, particularly in relation to homelessness and people with life sentences. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Millhaven Lifers’ Liaison Group where, alongside the group members, she meets with men serving life sentences in Millhaven Institution on a monthly basis.
Research & Policy Assistant: Dallas Dawson
Year Started at SLSC: 2020
Dallas joined St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in September 2020 as a Carleton University field placement student, before transitioning into her role as Research and Policy Assistant. In April 2021, she completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts (with High Distinction) in Criminology and Criminal Justice with a concentration in Psychology. Dallas has been involved in many SLSC projects and activities, the most notable include drafting SLSC’s Policy on Universal Basic Income, revising SLSC’s Policy on Restorative Justice, as well as analyzing and summarizing SLSC’s 2019-20 Annual Affiliate Data Survey. She continues to collaborate with committees and external working groups, provide research and writing support for various projects, and assist in SLSC’s office administration.
Dallas is interested in the intersectionality of social justice issues that often lead to involvement in the criminal justice system, with particular emphasis on mental health, substance use, and homelessness. This interest stems from her desire to end the criminalization of mental health and other social inequalities, as well as explore best practices for habilitation in community-based settings. She also volunteers with a local group, Books to Prisoners (B2P) Ottawa, where she engages in letter correspondence with people incarcerated, researches issues related to conditions of confinement, and assists in sending donated books to correctional institutions across Canada and the United States.
Students and Volunteers
SLSC greatly benefits from partnerships with various post-secondary schools including Carleton University, University of Ottawa, Humber College, among others, through their Student Placement programs. Many students take on the challenges of administrative duties, research, and policy work each semester and help with keeping SLSC on top of day-to-day operations. SLSC is extremely thankful to the students and volunteers who truly make a difference to our organization throughout the year.
The SLSC Team (left to right): Danielle Kouri, David Whiteley, Anita Desai, Mask (above), Pepper (below)