Human Rights Lawyer, Writer, Organizer
Derecka Purnell is a human rights lawyer, researcher, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in community based organizations through an abolitionist framework.
As a Skadden Fellow, she helped to build the Justice Project at Advancement Project’s National Office, which focused on consent decrees, police and prosecutor accountability, and jail closures. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Purnell co-created the COVID19 Policing Project at the Community Resource Hub for Safety Accountability. The project tracks police arrests, harassment, citations and other enforcement through public health orders related to the pandemic.
Purnell received her JD from Harvard Law School, her BA from the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and studied public policy and economics at the University of California- Berkeley as a Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellow. Her writing has been published widely, including in The Oxford Handbook of Race and Law in the United States (forthcoming), The Harvard Journal of African American Policy, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York Magazine, Boston Review, Teen Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Purnell has lectured, studied, and strategized around social movements across the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
She is currently a columnist at The Guardian and a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School.