Kelly Orians, an expert on helping formerly incarcerated people reenter society and prevent recidivism, directs the Decarceration and Community Reentry Clinic at the Law School. Her scholarship has focused on the collateral consequences of arrests, convictions and incarceration, as well as the history and impact of sentencing reform and prisoner reentry reform.
In 2015, she was awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship to help launch The First 72+, a holistic reentry services organization serving formerly incarcerated people in New Orleans, and Rising Foundations, a community development corporation dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated people become business owners and homeowners. Today, Rising Foundations is a division of The First 72+ promoting economic empowerment services. Orians served as the co-executive director of The First 72+ until June 2021, and she now serves on their board of directors.
Orians graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she focused her studies on public policy and the rise of mass incarceration. After graduating, she worked at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana in New Orleans, managing a statewide advocacy campaign to end the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole (JLWOP). She helped create public policy and impact litigation strategies, including the implementation of the Graham v. Florida decision, which made JLWOP unconstitutional in non-homicide cases. Orians worked on the legal team that secured the release of the first two people in the country under Graham, drove them home from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and supported them through their reentry. Through this work, Orians was exposed to the many barriers people and their families face when someone returns home from prison and began taking innovative approaches to combat the lack of reentry resources in New Orleans.
In 2012, Orians was accepted into the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, where she specialized in critical race studies, and business law and policy.
Orians has received the Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Manhattan Institute, a fellowship from the Global Good Fund, and the Michael Rubinger Fellowship for Community Development from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. In 2019 she was named a “Leader in Law” by New Orleans City Business, and in 2020 she was awarded the J.M.K Innovation Prize from The J.M. Kaplan Fund. Orians is a member of the Louisiana State Bar, where she continues to practice in the areas of post-conviction, parole, and civil rights.
‘I’ll Say I’m Home, I Won’t Say I’m Free’: Persistent Barriers to Housing, Employment, and Financial Security for Formerly Incarcerated People in Low-Income Communities of Color