2024 Awardee

Keith Wattley

Founder and Executive Director, UnCommon Law

Keith Wattley (he/him) is the Founder and Executive Director of UnCommon Law, which supports people serving some of the longest sentences in California state prisons who rely on the selective parole process for their release. Founded in 2006, UnCommon Law’s services include trauma-informed legal representation, mental health counseling, legislative and policy advocacy, and in-prison programming led by those who have been through the process themselves. UnCommon Law’s parole success rate is triple the state average and has had over 300 clients released to date. The impact of Uncommon Law’s services is life-changing for their clients: only 1% have returned to prison, 100% are housed, 52% volunteer in their communities, 91% are employed, and 95% report a high level of mental health.

Keith has been advocating for the rights of people in prison and on parole for more than 20 years. His work helps people transform their lives and demonstrate to the parole board that they can be safely released from their life sentences. Keith has trained hundreds of lawyers, law students, and advocates about the rights of incarcerated people. In 2018 he was selected as one of the inaugural Obama Foundation Fellows, in 2020 he was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, and in 2023 he was selected as an Akosha Fellow. Keith has served on numerous boards of directors, including the Prison University Project (San Quentin’s College Program), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and is Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

According to Keith, “A sabbatical offers a critical opportunity to rest so I can re-engage our work in a way that utilizes the strengths of this team to launch the next chapter of our advocacy.”