Lael Chester


Lael Elizabeth Hiam Chester is Director of the Emerging Adult Justice Project at Columbia University’s Justice Lab and leads the national and international research on Emerging Adult Justice. Lael is an attorney who has focused her career on juvenile, criminal and civil rights law and policy. After graduating from Barnard College and Harvard Law School, she was the Albert Martin Sacks Clinical Fellow at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard and then joined the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. For 12 years, she served as Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ), a statewide non-profit dedicated to improving the juvenile justice system. Lael led the successful Justice for Kids Campaign, ending the practice in Massachusetts of automatically prosecuting and sentencing all 17 year olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the offense. Her expertise on other advocacy campaigns include school-to-prison pipeline, parent-child privilege, racial disparities and over-use of secure confinement.