As a senior researcher for the Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI), an interdisciplinary think tank of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Kesha uses research to support LDF’s litigation, political advocacy and community organizing efforts to challenge structural racism. Her TMI publications explaining the dynamics of racial injustice within the criminal-legal system and identifying public policy solutions include “When an Arrest Becomes a Death Sentence: Overpopulation of U.S. Jails Increases the COVID-19 Threat to Every Community”; “Pretrial Justice Without Money Bail or Risk Assessments: Principles for Racially Just Bail Reform”; and “Lies, More Lies, and the Truth Behind Crime Statistics: Avoiding Distortions and Improving Public Safety.” She is currently examining the harms of predictive policing and surveillance on Black and Latinx children and interventions in law enforcement to remedy racial bias. Kesha’s research on the intersections of the criminal-legal system and political participation includes a podcast episode on prison-based gerrymandering and her upcoming research on re-entry and jail-based voting.
Kesha has extensive experience working with marginalized communities to design innovative solutions to redress racial inequality. As a professor at Drew University, she helped build a transformative institutional infrastructure to promote social mobility and reintegration for incarcerated individuals (NJ-STEP), which facilitates students’ transition to college during and after incarceration. Kesha built this infrastructure in collaboration with higher-education colleagues, prison administrators, incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated people. This program has contributed both directly and indirectly to bolstering policy support for higher education in prisons across the nation.