WHO WE ARE

OUR VALUES

We build a broad anti-racist, feminist, and anti-capitalist movement led by the people most impacted by criminalization, economic injustice, and other forms of state control in LA County.

We believe in the importance of investment in community power that thrives on promoting health, wellness, love of our communities, transformative justice, and community accountability.

We approach our work through an abolitionist lens, and will not build things we will have to dismantle in the future.

We will not leave community members behind. We cannot accept positions that isolate or exclude certain members of our community, particularly we do not support positions that harden conditions or policies for those who are already among the most marginalized or oppressed.

We conduct our analysis and strategic movements with the understanding that white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy maintain the status quo.

We thrive on collaboration, inclusivity, and finding areas of joint struggle with allies who may not share all our same politics. We strive to make our work accessible, relevant, and inspiring to people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Meet OUR TEAM

Femme-led AND ABOLITIONISt

Our powerful, dynamic team has organizing & policy expertise in racial, gender & intersectional social justice fights. We harness our collective experience with Decarceration Policy, Budget Advocacy, Harm Reduction Policy, Grassroots Community Organizing, Campaign Communications, Labor Organizing, and Arts-based Organizing to fight for our communities. Click on the team member images below to read more about where we come from, and where our abolitionist dreams are leading us.

EUNISSES HERNANDEZ
Director of Campaigns and Policy, Co-Founder​
IVETTE ALÉ-FERLITO
Dignity and Power Now Director of Policy and Advocacy & Co-Founder of La Defensa​
TITILAYỌ RASAKI

Policy and Campaigns Strategist

GABRIELA VÁZQUEZ

Deputy Director

MEGAN CASTILLO

ReImagine LA Coalition
Coordinator

KAITLIN RUIZ

HR Operations Manager

Lauren Dela Paz Bollinger
LAUREN DELA PAZ BOLLINGER

HR Coordinator

BRYANNA SIGUENZA
Judicial Accountability Coordinator​
LEAH PEREZ
Media Coordinator
LAURA COHOLAN
Media & Communications Manager
JESS ESTES

Digital Media Specialist 

Leadership

Eunisses Hernandez

Director of Campaigns and Policy, Co-Founder

A native of Los Angeles, Eunisses Hernandez is a policy advocate and campaign strategist with nearly a decade of experience in working with communities most devastated by criminalization, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration. She has been a leader within the JusticeLA, a coalition that was successful in stopping Los Angeles County’s $3.5 billion jail plan. Eunisses has extensive experience in developing policies around alternatives to incarceration, and advancing successful budget advocacy campaigns around cannabis regulation and reinvestment of jail construction dollars. Most recently, she co-chaired the successful Measure J, a historic ballot initiative that will move millions of locally generated tax revenue into community reinvestment and alternatives to incarceration. Currently, she sits as the Chair of the Los Angeles Gender Responsive Advisory Committee and as a voting member of the Los Angeles County Measure J Advisory Committee.

Ivette Alé-Ferlito

Dignity and Power Now Director of Policy and Advocacy
& Co-Founder of La Defensa

Ivette Alé-Ferlito (they/them) is a queer, Latinx grassroots organizer and advocate leading abolitionist in California. Their history growing up in Southern California as an undocumented person and as the child of an incarcerated person, continues to inform their activism. As the Statewide Co-Coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget and Campaign Coordinator for JusticeLA, Ivette led the coalition to historic victories, including ending LA County’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan in 2019, the adoption of Los Angeles County’s groundbreaking Alternatives to Incarceration roadmap and the passing of Measure J in 2020.

They currently serve as Senior Policy Lead for Dignity and Power Now and Co-Founder of La Defensa. Ivette also serves as an LA County Commissioner on the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee and the Public Safety Realignment Team. Ivette is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Political Science, a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow and a UCLA Law Fellow.

ReImagine LA

Megan Castillo

ReImagine LA Coalition Coordinator

Megan Castillo (she/her) is a grassroots organizer originally from South Central Los Angeles, CA. Megan’s experience as a working-class, first generation college student, as well as a Black woman of color, has greatly informed her lens as an organizer.

Megan is highly committed to upending state sanctioned violence, fighting for liberation and building a better quality of life for all BIPOC identifying peoples, and has dedicated her career to improving the lives of our most vulnerable populations. This includes uplifting community-informed campaigns such as PUSH-LA, People’s Budget LA, and leading campaigns to amplify and support for over 100 Black-Owned businesses across the nation.

Currently, Megan serves as the Reimagine LA – Coalition Coordinator for Measure J, which passed November 2020, and requires L.A. County to spend at least 10% of its general funds on social services and jail diversion programs.

Most recently, Megan has served on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California and also served as the Co-Chair for the USC Black Social Work Caucus.

Megan is the cofounder of #BlackatLMU and in 2019, Megan was awarded the Black community impact award for her dedication and efforts to raise awareness amongst her community. Megan has earned both her Bachelors in Psychology and African-American studies and her Masters in Social Work, with an emphasis in Social Change and Innovation.

Organizing and Policy Department

Gabriela Vázquez

Deputy Director

Gabriela Vázquez (she/her) is the Deputy Director of La Defensa. She is an Angeleno and an organizer raised in the neighborhood of Highland Park. Prior to joining La Defensa, Gabriela was a union organizer for Workers United where she supported new-member campaigns and contract negotiations. She also worked as a legal assistant where she prepared U-Visa petitions, family-based petitions, and cases for unaccompanied minors. Gabriela’s passion for organizing and social justice stems from her parents, immigrants who met in the United States while working as union organizers. Gabriela credits her early exposure to the labor movement as what inspired her to pursue an internship with AFSCME Local 3299 while studying at UC Riverside where she earned a B.A. in Creative Writing, Non-Fiction, and a minor degree in Labor Studies. 

Gabriela joined our organization in 2020 as an organizer on the historic campaign to pass Measure J in LA County, a ballot initiative that earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars toward alternatives to incarceration and community-based services instead of law enforcement. Gabriela is on the Executive Team of the JusticeLA Coalition, working alongside other organizers toward abolition and racial justice. Gabriela was selected as a Social Justice Partners LA 2021-2022 cohort member. In her free time, Gabriela enjoys roller skating, spending time with loved ones, and traveling.

Titilayọ Rasaki

Policy and Campaigns Strategist

Titilayọ Rasaki (She/Her) works to make prisons obsolete through strategic political campaigns that spark critical awareness and champion collectively generated responses to harm. Titilayọ has nearly a decade of experience as a lawyer, organizer, and political strategist, who focuses on mobilizing people power to catalyze change in local, state, and federal governments.

Titilayọ has a breadth of legal experience, having represented clients in high stakes civil litigation, as well as criminal, landlord/tenant, and civil rights cases. Titilayọ has written testimony for the United State Commission on Human Rights, co-authored the Lives on the Line: Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones and the Impact of COVID-19 Behind Bars report, and raised over a million dollars to free Black Mamas from jail for Mother’s Day through the National Bail Out collective. Titilayọ currently leads campaigns to transform pretrial policy and increase judicial accountability through the Justice LA, Care First California, Budget to Save Lives, and Transforming the Judiciary coalitions. Titilayọ focuses on political education that demystifies law and policy and emboldens people to take back their power. 

Titilayọ graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Indiana University with B.A.s in Social Justice & Advocacy, as well as Arabic language. Titilayọ received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

Bryanna Siguenza

Judicial Accountability Coordinator

Bryanna Siguenza has deep experience in student organizing, federal and state advocacy work. She is a thoughtful and critical policy analyst and political thinker. Bringing leadership experience from her roles in student government and is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at USC Sol Price School. 

She plans on dedicating her life work to improving the lives of vulnerable, underrepresented populations in Los Angeles County to ensure equity and reparations are finally achieved. Bryanna joins us to move our Judicial Accountability and #TransformTheJudiciary work forward!

Leah Perez

Campaign Coordinator

Leah Perez (she/her) is a writer and curator based in Los Angeles, CA. Perez currently works as the La Defensa Media Campaigns Coordinator.

She holds a BA in Contemporary Latino and Latin American Studies from the University of Southern California and is currently in the second year of her Master’s Program in Curatorial Studies at the Roski School of Art and Design. Coming from the art world, Perez is interested in utilizing art as a medium for liberation, a way of highlighting Black and Brown narratives, and using art spaces as an incarceration alternative for youth of color. Her research is in the aesthetics used in Brown and Black communities of Los Angeles and the artistic language of communities like South LA and Boyle Heights.

Perez is interested in merging her interests in art and organizing together and aspires to some day start an art community space for Black and Brown youth to be educated in ethnic histories through art.

OPERATIONS

Kaitlin Ruiz

HR Operations Manager

Kaitlin Ruiz (she/her) has called Los Angeles her home for over two decades now. Her passions have been shaped primarily by her upbringing especially as a daughter of immigrants and as a close witness to the harsh realities of the injustice system. Determined to make a difference in the communities she is a part of, Kaitlin changed paths from her corporate world background and joined La Defensa bringing with her over 6 years worth of professional experience in administration, operations, and organizational development.

Kaitlin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and is currently pursuing a masters degree in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in HR management.

Lauren Dela Paz Bollinger

Lauren Dela Paz Bollinger

Executive Coordinator

Lauren Dela Paz Bollinger (she/her) is the Executive Coordinator of La Defensa and a grassroots organizer originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a graduate of Pomona College, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Asian American Studies. Lauren got her start in organizing in college when she joined GABRIELA Los Angeles, an international chapter of a historic women’s organization in the Philippines. She currently serves as the chapter’s Secretary General, connecting Filipino women in Los Angeles to the people’s struggle for genuine freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

Prior to La Defensa, Lauren worked in both student affairs and AAPI philanthropy. She is excited to bring her experience in administrative work and grassroots organizing to advance the movement to decarcerate Los Angeles.

MEDIA & COMMS TEAM

Laura Coholan

Media & Communications Manager

Bio TBA

Jess Estes

Digital Media Specialist

Jess Estes is a Los Angeles-based multimedia artist, organizer, and digital media specialist, who supports several statewide and local grassroots abolitionist coalitions. She has over 20 years of experience in UED development and implementation, creative direction, project management, and design. 

Jess joined the La Defensa team in December of 2021, bringing a strong commitment to abolition and accessibility work, a passion for organizing visual displays of quantitative information, and the goal of political education and narrative shift via spicy memes.