1374671. This 7-digit number will forever be imprinted in the mind of extraordinary lawyer, Brittany K. Barnett-Byrd. It was assigned to her mother by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice when began serving time in prison in 2006. But the significance of this 7-digit number is much greater than an inmate number given her mother. This number sparked a heightened since of empathy and compassion in Brittany she never knew she had.
Combining her passion to help others with personal hardship of having a mother in prison, Brittany stepped out on faith and resigned from what some would call a posh corporate law job to follow her passion for criminal justice reform. As the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Brittany knows first-hand that the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching and devastates families and entire communities across the country.
Brittany’s reaction to the difficult experience of having a parent in prison is nothing short of inspirational. She is currently Executive Direcotr of a non-profit organization called Girls Embracing Mothers, Inc. (GEM). This organization is dedicated to empowering girls with mothers in prison to break the cycle of incarceration and lead successful lives with vision and purpose. GEM partners with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to take groups of girls to visit their mothers in prison for enhanced visitation sessions. During the visits, GEM facilitates discussions between the mothers and daughters that revolve around critical life issues while building the mother-daughter bond. Brittany’s vision for GEM is for girls with mothers in prison to fulfill the meaning of their own creation by using their stumbling blocks as stepping stones for a brighter tomorrow.
While working as a corporate attorney, Brittany showed a steadfast commitment to pro bono representation of clients in federal prison. She was personally responsible for obtaining freedom through the federal courts for several clients who had served decades in federal prison as nonviolent drug offenders. This life changing work also consisted of multiple successful pro bono clemency petitions, including the nationally reported cases of Sharanda Jones, who served 16 years of a life without parole sentence as a first-time nonviolent drug offender, and Donel Clark, who served 22 years in prison as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. Brittany’s latest case is working on clemency for Corey Jacobs, a first-time nonviolent drug offender serving his 17th year of a life without parole sentence. Corey's case was recently highlighted in the New York Times by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
In April 2016, Brittany received the Young Leader Award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation to recognize her breakthrough leadership in creating paths of opportunity for other women to follow. In 2013, Brittany was named one America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division; Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas by the Texas Young Lawyers Association; and Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers – all for her professionalism, commitment to serving the community and dedication to helping others through her pro bono work.
Brittany is a graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. She recently worked with the team at #cut50 to lead its #clemencyNOW campaign and continues to passionately represent and advocate for nonviolent drug offenders who are serving draconian sentences in federal prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws. Before following her passion for criminal justice reform, she was Associate General Counsel at ORIX USA Corporation focusing on mergers and acquisitions and general corporate matters. Prior to her legal career, she worked for an accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, and earned her license as a Certified Public Accountant. Brittany also holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Accounting.