Danny Murillo has been named the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s inaugural Smart Justice (SJ) Fellow. In this role, Danny will cultivate a coalition to create a bill of rights that centers the unique needs of justice-involved scholars as they persist and succeed in their higher education journeys. The Student Bill of Rights Coalition will result in policy recommendations for California to protect formerly and currently incarcerated students’ rights. Danny is currently a graduate student at California State University, Long Beach, whose research focuses on the social and cultural analysis of education in urban and international contexts.

Danny is a co-founder of the Underground Scholars Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley, a student organization and support program dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated and system impacted students in succeeding at the UC. As a Peter E. Haas, Public Service Leader at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Danny participated in a community-based research project focused on incarceration’s economic impact on communities of color. He was a media representative for the California Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition and an advisory council member for the Vera Institute of Justice Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative.

As a program analyst at the Vera Institute of Justice, Danny worked on a nationwide post-secondary prison education project. He was the research and program analyst at California Corrections to College, a project focused on educational equity and creating access to higher education for currently and formerly incarcerated people. Most recently, Danny was the program analyst at the Campaign for College Opportunity. He is the primary author of their latest report: “The Possibility Report: From Prison to College Degrees in California,” which was funded by a Michelson Spark Grant.

Danny received his Associate’s Degree from Cerritos College in Spanish and his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Ethnic Studies. He has been awarded the John W. Gardner Fellowship for Public Service, the Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship; the Returning Citizens Fellowship; and Just Leadership USA Leading with Conviction Fellowship. He has been featured in Decarcerated Podcast, GQ Magazine, National Public Radio (NPR), Option B Stories, The Appeal Podcast, The New Yorker Magazine, Univision, and 60 Minutes with Oprah.

“Danny’s unique lived experiences of persisting and succeeding in higher education from incarceration to graduate school embodies the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s highest potential for Smart Justice,” says Phil Kim, CEO of Michelson 20MM. “With this fellowship, we are both recognizing his leadership in the field and working in collaboration with his innovative perspective to promote policies that protect students in prison and support students in being successful post- incarceration.” 

In Danny’s words, he is passionate about Smart Justice, “Because higher education serves as a source of empowerment and self-determination for currently and formerly incarcerated students.”

Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Learn more at www.20mm.org.