Debra Mendoza is a non-attorney legal advocate and mitigation expert at D Mendoza Consulting. D Mendoza Consulting helps and protects justice-involved youth and adults by creating community based solutions and alternatives to incarceration. Using insider knowledge, they champion for justice, offering a holistic approach and convincing options to decision makers, resulting in better outcomes for clients. They do this through direct advocacy and independent court assessment aimed to reduce the use of harsh penalties and over-incarceration.

(Photo Courtesy of Debra Mendoza)

(Photo Courtesy of Debra Mendoza)

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Mendoza graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts in English. It opened the door for jobs that shaped her career and provided economic sustainability. Years after receiving her degree, Mendoza became certified in as a violence prevention strategist at the community college (Peralta) level, combining education, workforce development and best practices for direct service providers in the field.

What are the scope and responsibilities of your current role?

“I partner with criminal defense attorneys and individuals; every unique justice-involved youth or adult is provided a customized in-depth assessment and analysis of social and mitigating factors as well as a range of rehabilitative options which impacts the outcome of the case. This translates into opportunities for change and second chances, instead of strictly punitive measures, which is ultimately more cost-effective and better serves long-term public safety.”

What is your favorite part of your daily duties?

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“Bringing dignity and hope to those inside the jails, juvenile halls or facing the system.”

Do you feel your education prepared you for your current role?

“My education laid the foundation and structure for the work, however it was the on the job training and professional development that really helped to make me an expert and increase my knowledge, competency and effectiveness in this work.”

Do you have any advice for people who desire to pursue a similar career?

“Get out on the front lines through an internship or entry-level job where you are pushed out of your comfort zone. What you lack in experience, make up for in effort. Be humble and constantly curious. Work in a group home, after school program, youth serving agency, mentor or become a court appointed special advocate. As we see the dismantling of the prison system and a shift away from corrections, law enforcement and incarceration, it becomes critical to be creative and unconventional in how we approach and view criminal justice.”

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Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of and Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of cities, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on