Avalon Betts-Gaston is a Chicago native, non-licensed attorney, ordained minister, and passionate advocate for dismantling, changing, and building a legal system focused on human justice and harm reduction, not just punishment. Avalon made her public debut as an advocate at a young age when she convinced her fellow congressional pages to protest apartheid outside of the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. This passion against various societal injustices continued throughout her life and was extra-charged and focused on the criminal legal system after she was wrongfully convicted in 2015. As a minister of Christ, Avalon is also committed to using this experience to educate the Church and public writ large about the carceral system. These efforts have the two-fold goal of dispelling the myths perpetuated by the carceral system and empowering the public and especially the Church to be on the frontlines of ushering in the much-needed changes to create an anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-carceral, and anti-ableist system.
Avalon received her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and her JD from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She currently serves as a board member for the Community Renewal Society; chairperson for the Restoring Rights Committee for the Board of the Community Renewal Society; supports the McCormick Theological Seminary Solidarity Building Initiative as a Community Advisor; is on the Advisory Board for the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls; and volunteers with anti-carceral system advocacy groups locally, statewide, and nationally. Avalon is currently the Project Manager for the Illinois Alliance for Reentry and Justice of the Safer Foundation.