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Southern Center for Human Rights

AKA SCHR

Atlanta, GA

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Southern Center for Human Rights

Also Known As:
SCHR
Physical Address:
Atlanta, GA 30303 2122
EIN:
62-1025326
Web URL:
www.schr.org
Leadership:
Ms. Sara Totonchi
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Legitimacy Information

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Fiscal Year Starting: Jan 1, 2012
Fiscal Year Ending: Dec 31, 2012
Revenue
Total Revenue $3,668,105
Expenses
Total Expenses $2,060,091

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Basic Organization Information

Southern Center for Human Rights

Also Known As:
SCHR
Physical Address:
Atlanta, GA 30303 2122
EIN:
62-1025326
Web URL:
www.schr.org 
NTEE Category:
R Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy 
R20 Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups 
I Crime, Legal Related 
I01 Alliance/Advocacy Organizations 
R Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy 
R01 Alliance/Advocacy Organizations 
Ruling Year:
1978 
How This Organization Is Funded:
Foundation Grants - $1,027,167
Individuals & Organizations (Unrestricted) - $346,417
Sptecial Events Net - $247,496

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Mission Statement

The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing the civil and human rights of people in the criminal justice system in the South. Founded in 1976 in response to the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the death penalty that year and to the horrendous conditions in Southern prisons and jails, SCHR mission is to safeguard the civil and human rights of people of color, poor people, and other disadvantaged people confined to prisons and jails in the South and those facing the death penalty. SCHR uses litigation of all kinds --class action lawsuits, individual representation, impact litigation --as its primary tool for challenging unconstitutional and unconscionable practices within the criminal justice system. Alongside litigation, SCHR also uses media advocacy, coalition building, legislative education, and community organizing to challenge the misuse of the criminal justice system in the South.

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Financial Data

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Revenue and Expenses

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Balance Sheet

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Forms 990 Provided by the Nonprofit

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Leadership (GuideStar ExchangeThe GuideStar Exchange allows nonprofits to regularly update key information directly to GuideStar. It provides richer and broader information about their programs, impact, finances, people and more. November, 2013)

Ms. Sara Totonchi

Term:

Since Jan 2010

Profile:

Sara Totonchi joined Southern Center for Human Rights in 2001 as the Public Policy Director and became the Executive Director in January, 2010. She represents SCHR at the Georgia General Assembly on a full range of criminal justice and public safety issues including indigent defense, capital punishment, sentencing, prison and probation privatization, sex offender registry restrictions, and alternatives to incarceration and reentry. She collaborates with attorneys to galvanize public support of SCHR's litigation through strategic media outreach. Sara has lead coalition efforts and legislative advocacy for criminal justice reform with concerned citizens including family members of people in prison, attorneys, faith-based communities, survivors of crime and mental health advocates. Sara is the Chairperson of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, our statewide anti-death penalty coalition, and also serves on the Steering Committee of the International Arab Women's Solidarity Association. Prior to coming to SCHR, Sara worked at the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, an organization that employs a coordinated community response to reduce domestic violence. She has been recognized as a Woman of Achievement by the Georgia Commission on Women. Sara grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of Berry College in Rome, Georgia.



Officers for Fiscal Year (IRS Form 990)

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Highest Paid Employees & Their Compensation (IRS Form 990)

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Program: Death Penalty Representation

Budget:
--
Category:
Population Served:

Program Description:

The Southern Center for Human Rights represents over 20 people on death row in Georgia and Alabama, while advising dozens of attorneys outside of SCHR on their death penalty cases. While staff attorneys represent our clients through the long road of appeals, our investigators research their case, often unveiling evidence of inadequate defense or prosecutorial misconduct, as well as mitigating evidence which was never previously presented (e.g., histories of abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, mental illness, and mental retardation). SCHR represents individuals facing the death penalty at trial, on appeal and in the post-conviction review process.

Program Long-Term Success:

The goal of our death penalty work is to not only represent the dozens of individuals who are our clients, but to undermine and ultimately end forever the inhumane practice of capital punishment in the United States. In this work, success in the short term (though it may take decades) is getting a client off of death row and free from the fear of being executed. For many of our clients, who have become scholars, poets, jailhouse lawyers, and mentors while on death row, this means that they would spend the rest of their lives (though incarcerated) making positive contributions to the prison community and even the free world.

Program Short-Term Success:

Program Success Monitored by:

Program Success Examples:

Program: Civil Litigation

Budget:
--
Category:
Population Served:

Program Description:

SCHR brings class action lawsuits as well as other high-impact cases to force systemic change in the prisons and jails of the South. The cases we have brought and continue to bring allow us to address the severe overcrowding, lack of medical and mental healthcare, violence and abuse, and illegal practices in prisons and jails. In addition, we challenge illegal or unfair criminal justice practices (such as illegal fines and fees, or unconstitutional restrictions on certain groups).

Program Long-Term Success:

Because SCHR accepts no local, state, or federal funding, we are able to take on the toughest cases against the government that many other legal service organizations cannot. Our reputation as an independent, aggressive advocate for constitutional, civil, and human rights within the criminal justice system allows us to play a critical role in enforcing these rights through both litigation or simple advocacy / public education.

Program Short-Term Success:

Program Success Monitored by:

Program Success Examples:



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Impact Summary from the Nonprofit

This organization has not provided an impact summary.

Expert Assessment

The Southern Center for Human Rights has been involved in litigation that has bettered the lives of individuals accused of capital crimes in Georgia and Alabama. Read More »
The Southern Center for Human Rights is praised highly by experts as one of the most influential non-profits in the nation working to improve prison conditions, provide adequate legal representation to indigent defendants, and reduce the use of capital punishment as a response to crime. Read More »

Expert Reviews and Comments

2011 Philanthropedia Top Nonprofit

This organization is a 2011 Philanthropedia top nonprofit, recommended by experts as having high impact.

These expert reviews were generated through Philanthropedia's research methodology to identify high-impact nonprofits. Learn more


Evidence of Impact

The Southern Center for Human Rights is praised highly by experts as one of the most influential non-profits in the nation working to improve prison conditions, provide adequate legal representation to indigent defendants, and reduce the use of capital punishment as a response to crime.

Strong National Leader in Legal Representation and Advocacy
As the nation's foremost advocate for the rights of prisoners and, more broadly, poor persons enmeshed in the criminal justice system, it sets a leadership standard for other organizations. Through cutting-edge advocacy and litigation, SCHR drives system reform as well as bringing justice to individuals facing incarceration and, especially, capital charges. Nonprofit Senior Staff
After the ACLU National Prison Project, the Southern Center for Human Rights is the most important criminal justice organization in the country. They have exceptional leadership and staff, and important mission, critically important work. Other
The SCHR has been a forceful voice for justice in the death penalty area since I began practicing law in 1983. I can only think of the old commercial and paraphrase: When SCHR talks, people listen. Nonprofit Senior Staff
The SCHR is the leading organization addressing issues of race and class injustice in the criminal justice system in the South, where the problems are perhaps most acute. It has a tremendous track record in fighting capital punishment, supporting increased funding for indigent defense, and challenging practices that reinforce race and class inequities. Researcher and Faculty
The Southern Center has a nationwide impact on the standards of capital representation and on adequate funding for indigent defense. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Effective Litigation
SCHR focuses on enormously important issues, is a leader in the field, and successfully identifies and litigates issues that will have a broad impact. Other
SCHR has a long, honorable history of litigating prison conditions in the south and of representing poor people in capital cases. Their work attacking the inadequacies in indigent defense in capital cases has been extraordinary and groundbreaking. Other
The center has conducted high impact litigation around prison healthcare provisions in Alabama, fine payment procedures in Georgia, and method of execution in Alabama. Researcher and Faculty
The Southern Center for Human Rights has been effective in reducing the number of people sentenced to death in Georgia, Alabama, and other southern states. They have won reversals of death sentences in these cases and have raised the standard of practice for capital defense attorneys in these states through training, consultation, and leading by example. This group has also helped improve prison and jail conditions, as well as access to the right to counsel, through impact litigation. Other
High-Quality Legal Representation
SCHR provides incredible representation in cases that have a national impact, helping to shape legal strategies across the nation. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Strong Advocacy Programs
The SCHR has been a central agency in highlighting disparities in race in criminal justice issues and influencing community voices and local organizations in the work. Researcher and Faculty
This non-profit has been very successful in improving the lives of disadvantaged and voiceless people throughout the south for thirty years. By legislative advocacy and filing lawsuits, the Center has ended unfair practices such as jailing people because of their poverty, illegally banishing sex offenders from communities, executing people without lawyers, segregating HIV prisoners in prison, and forcing prisoners to live in unsanitary and dangerous prisons all over Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Other
This organization stands on the forefront, often alone, on issues of indigent defense, prison conditions, and the death penalty. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Skilled in Litigation and Advocacy
The Southern Center has provided top notch litigation and advocacy on the leading criminal justice issues of the day. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Talented and Inspiring Staff
The Southern Center for Human Rights has been the pre-eminent national organization working on bringing fairness and adequacy to legal representation in the areas of conditions of confinement, death penalty cases, racial discrimination in jury selection, and other issues. Several attorneys and advocates received their training on these issues while interning with or being employed at the Southern Center early in their careers, These individuals have gone on to establish their own non-profits organizations working on these issues, especially in the South. Southern Center staff have also gone on to develop training programs for attorneys at some of the most prestigious law schools in the country. Foundation Professional

Organizational Strengths

According to experts, SCHR’s main strengths are its top-notch leadership and staff and its holistic approach to addressing criminal justice issues such as minority representation and legal assistance in death penalty cases.

Unwavering Commitment to Justice
Its commitment to social and racial justice are an inspiration to other organizations and individuals. Nonprofit Senior Staff
This organization has a long history of fighting for an unpopular cause. While founder, Stephen Bright, is not always popular, he is always respected. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Great Leadership and Staff
SCHR has strong leadership and dedicated staff. Other
Leadership and staff have always been and continue to be a great strength. Other
Its strengths are its leadership and staff. Researcher and Faculty
SCHR has been brilliantly run by Steve Bright for many years. He has chosen his staff wisely, and now there are many community leaders working for SCHR. Their name is deceptive - the Southern Center has spoken profoundly about many conditions of injustice in all areas of the country. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Steve Bright, its former director, is a godsend to the abolitionist community and to the cause of social justice in criminal justice. There is no better advocate in the country. He has inspired dozens of highly talented law students from the nation's best law schools to follow him in his work, often through internships or fellowships with SCHR. It is a seedbed for progressive lawyering in the criminal justice field. Researcher and Faculty
Leadership and staff are committed, talented, and have more successes than anyone could possibly have predicted. Nonprofit Senior Staff
The organization has tremendous leadership with the ongoing involvement of Stephen Bright and a deep staff of talented and committed litigators. An additional strength is that its brand name is synonymous with excellence in this field, which in turn allows it to spread best practices in a manner trusted by other players. Other
Its strengths are the leadership of the organization in the field, the quality of their litigation work, and their training of new attorneys. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Effective Multi-Faceted Approach
They are multi-channel: they provide legal representation, produce research and reports, and engage in policy advocacy. Whereas other organizations specialize in one niche, they work across silos to achieve lasting change. They also have brilliant leadership in their former Executive Director, Steve Bright, who has stayed involved. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Strong National Leader
The Southern Center is the national leader in challenging inadequate legal representation especially in death penalty cases and in fighting discrimination in the criminal justice system, especially in areas of jury selection and disproportionate minority representation at all levels of the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Foundation Professional
Positive Work Environment
The Center is very good at maximizing their talent and financial capacity and provides a healthy and supportive work environment that fosters longevity in a difficult and stressful career. Other

Areas for Improvement

The main areas in which the SCHR can improve are in their outreach to communities across the United States and in their pay and retention of staff members. Experts have also mentioned that the group could improve by engaging in more collaborative efforts with grassroots groups.

More Attention to Staff Well-Being
They have some difficulty retaining staff because of perhaps overly high expectations. Nonprofit Senior Staff
They could use on-site leadership and training and give better pay for employees. Other
I'm not sure how the staff at the Southern Center would feel about this, but staff there have worked for years with minimal financial resources and really minimal compensation. They have been able to overcome these limitations with dedication and commitment to their issues, but additional funding could likely allow expansion of their work. Foundation Professional
Less Focus on Money
Well, they have a lot of money. But they care more about money than about criminal justice, particularly the capital defendants they abandoned for more popular causes. Researcher and Faculty
Stronger National Presence
SCHR's work is centered in Georgia but needs to expand to other states. Larger staff and branch offices would help greatly. Other
They could do more to promote their work nationally. Researcher and Faculty
More Collaboration with Local Organizations
In their local work, they could be better coordinated with the grassroots organizations that are also working on those issues. Their policy work is not buoyed by grassroots organizing. Nonprofit Senior Staff
They have only moderate success of ensuring that their young lawyers stay in this field. I’m not sure why that is. They could also probably make more inroads within Georgia to get more local buy-in for the reforms they advocate. They could do more legislative advocacy. They do the last two things but could do more. Other
Increase Scope
The quality of their work is without parallel. The only suggestion I can think to make is that they somehow be able to do more of it. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Greater Access to Resources and Funding
First, funding is always tenuous and staff is underpaid, especially given that this is a nonstop and tremendously stressful job. Second, as a result, turnover can be high, and expertise is lost. Nonprofit Senior Staff
SCHR could be improved with a larger staff and capacity to take on more cases and training. It appears that the organization could also use a more reliable and consistent funding sources. Other
Focus More on Litigation
They could place a greater emphasis on capital litigation. Nonprofit Senior Staff
Continuity of Leadership
Since Bright stepped down as the head of SCHR they have missed his prestige. Fortunately, he is still active with the organization. They definitely need to develop a voice for the next generation. Nonprofit Senior Staff

From the Nonprofit

In the past year, SCHR has made significant strides in criminal justice policy reform in both Georgia and Alabama, celebrated several victories through litigation settlements and reducing individual application of the death penalty, and brought new cases on behalf of people challenging illegal criminal justice practices. With your support, SCHR will be able to continue to carry out difficult, high-impact campaigns that challenge the misuse of the criminal justice system in the South. Some recent highlights and SCHR victories include:

  • SCHR catapulted Georgia’s public defender crisis into the national spotlight by representing Jamie Weis, a young man who went 3 years without a lawyer while facing capital charges, then ultimately winning a life sentence for Jamie at trial (Jamie Ryan Weis v. Georgia);
  • SCHR exposed the Georgia Department of Corrections shady and illegal practice of purchasing lethal injection drugs from a fly-by-night shop behind a driving school in London, which ultimately compelled the DEA to raid and seize the black market drugs (SCHR Complaint re: Dr. Carlo Musso);
  • In the campaign to save Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, SCHR joined with a Georgia Senator to appeal to the basic humanity of individuals who play roles in carrying out executions, encouraging them to refuse to participate in the execution of a possibly innocent man;
  • After prevailing in a lawsuit following the Atlanta Police Department’s paramilitary, SWAT-type raid of a gay bar without a warrant, SCHR forced the police to transform the way they carry out searches, seizures, and arrests of citizens (Geoffrey Calhoun, et al. v. Richard Pennington, et al.);
  • SCHR has put a spotlight on archaic debtors’ prison practices through civil rights litigation that seeks to secure lawyers for indigent parents who have been jailed without counsel for being too poor to fulfill their child support obligations (Miller, et al. v. Deal, et al);
  • After 9 years of zealous representation, SCHR won the reversal of a death sentence for Alabama death row prisoner, LeSamuel Gamble (State of Alabama v. LeSamuel Lee Gamble);
  • SCHR settled a class action lawsuit on behalf of men incarcerated at Donaldson Correctional Facility, Alabama’s highest security prison. When SCHR filed suit in February 2009, over 500 men at Donaldson were triple-bunked in cells measuring 7 x 10 feet; applications of excessive force on prisoners went uninvestigated; assaults with knives occurred roughly once every ten days; and men were regularly rushed to the hospital with serious injuries (Hicks v. Hetzel);
  • Immediately following the settlement of the Donaldson case, SCHR filed a new prison lawsuit challenging officer assaults on handcuffed men incarcerated at Georgia’s Hays State Prison. The lawsuit seeks to end the practice of excessive force and retaliatory beatings such as the assault on SCHR Plaintiff Miracle Nwakanma who was punched, stomped on, kicked in the groin and face, struck with a flashlight, hit with batons, and beaten until he was unconscious (Nwakanma, et al. v. Clark, et al).
— Submitted October 21, 2011 at 8:27 PM

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