James Dold

James Dold

CEO, Human Rights for Kids

James Dold is the Founder & CEO of Human Rights for Kids (HRFK) a D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of children in the United States. HRFK uses research and public education, coalition building and grassroots mobilization, as well as policy advocacy and strategic litigation, to advance critical human rights on behalf of children. A central focus of HRFK’s work is advocating in state legislatures and courts for comprehensive justice reform for children consistent with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Under James’ leadership HRFK has successfully authored or co-authored Amicus Briefs in state and federal courts, including three in the U.S. Supreme Court, on human rights issues impacting children. In 2020, HRFK filed a historic Amicus Brief on behalf of children convicted by non-unanimous juries in Louisiana and Oregon in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that their 6th and 14th Amendment rights had been violated by a racist law designed to criminalize blackness. HRFK’s work and the stories of the children impacted were featured in CBS News, Bloomberg Law, and Slate Magazine.

Since its inception, HRFK has successfully advocated for the introduction of more than 40 child rights bills across the United States, including 7 new laws that reformed the way the justice system treats children. These laws ended mandatory minimum sentencing for children, increased due process protections for children at the point of arrest, ended life and de facto life without parole sentences, ended mandatory lifetime supervision, and restored the voting rights of formerly incarcerated children.

In October 2020, HRFK launched the first-ever National State Ratings Report on Human Rights Protections for Children in the U.S. justice system. The report rated states on twelve categories of law that are essential to establishing a basic legal framework to protect the human rights of system-involved youth. The report revealed that the United States’ treatment of children in the justice system is one of the largest government-sanction human rights violations against children in the world today.

Prior to launching HRFK, James served as Advocacy Director and Chief Strategy Officer at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth where he developed and implemented the advocacy strategy that led to the quadrupling of states that ban life without parole sentences for children in the U.S. Hundreds of people who were told as children that they would die in prison have been released due to his efforts. James also served as Senior Policy Counsel at Polaris Project where he led successful state legislative campaigns resulting in the passage of 40 new anti-human trafficking laws across the country. A survivor of child labor trafficking and sexual abuse himself, James was also the architect behind Nevada’s AB 146 in 2013 which criminalized involuntary servitude of a minor which was based on his experiences as a survivor.

James received dual baccalaureates in Criminal Justice and Psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Maryland School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland and is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. James was selected as a Halle Scholar with the Aspen Institute’s Justice & Society Program in 2016. He was also a finalist for the 2020 Grinnell Prize and 2021 Echoing Green Fellowship. In 2021 James was selected as one of the winners for the Paul H. Chapman Award for his positive contributions to the law on behalf of children.