Elisabeth Epps, who in 2018 established a revolving community bond fund for those Coloradans who are unable to pay cash bail, has received the University of Virginia School of Law's award for public service.
The Colorado Freedom Fund has raised in excess of $1.3 million and has paid bond for the pretrial release of more than 1,000 people. Epps, a 2011 graduate of UVA law, is one of the three alumni recipients of this year's Shaping Justice Award for Extraordinary Achievement.
“The work of those of us who chart our own course is important, and I appreciate that being recognized," she said. Last year, Epps, who leads the Denver Justice Project, also received an award from the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.
She worked as a public defender in Jefferson County, where she said she saw Black, indigenous and poor communities bearing the disproportionate burdens of drug crime policing.
"The Denver Justice Project exists for three reasons, all of which are directly related to how drug use and abuse are handled in the criminal legal system," Epps said in 2018. "(1) to transform the culture of law enforcement; (2) to end mass incarceration; and (3) to achieve racial justice. Our work at DJP is aimed at dismantling and replacing the systems that allow racist drug laws to harm our community."