JENNIFER M. JOYCE
Vera Causa Group, LLC
A former elected prosecutor, Jennifer M. Joyce knows firsthand that the right leadership and communication skills can help any law enforcement leader achieve their goals. Jennifer served as the Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis from 2001 until she made the choice to retire as a prosecutor in 2017. As Circuit Attorney, Jennifer led an office of 150 professionals who prosecuted thousands of felony criminal cases each year, and yet were early adopters of a progressive approach to criminal justice. Jennifer was ahead of the times in her aspiration to achieve a transparent, accountable and fair approach to public safety.
Leader in Conviction Integrity Review
As Circuit Attorney, Jennifer became one of the first prosecutors in the nation to proactively dedicate internal resources to conviction integrity.
She founded the Circuit Attorney’s Justice Project in 2002 that reviewed the convictions of nearly 1,400 inmates who
were convicted prior to the advent of modern forensic DNA technology. In 2002, such a project was controversial, but
Jennifer believed that the justice system should be accountable for proactively identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions. Jennifer also proposed legislation for restitution for the wrongly convicted in Missouri.
Leader in Community Outreach and Education
An her desire to bring a new level of transparency to the criminal justice system, Jennifer established a ground-breaking website in 2003 that served as a window into her office and the St. Louis criminal courts. The website, which still serves as a national model today, allowed citizens to search criminal cases by neighborhood in order to see charges, recommendations and sentences in all cases handled by the office. She also was one of the first prosecutors in the country to utilize social media as a way to interface with and educate the public.
In her first term, Jennifer established the Neighborhood Justice Project, which would later become the Community Affairs Bureau for the Circuit Attorney’s Office, in an effort to bring the office into the neighborhoods to engage with the citizens directly. During her tenure, neighborhood offices were established in high-crime areas and prosecutors were assigned to be liaisons with multiple neighborhoods around the city. Jennifer and members of her team attended hundreds of community meetings each year, fostering confidence and trust with the community.
Leader in Best Practices and Alternative Sentencing Programs
Prior to the current national conversation about mass incarceration, Jennifer elected to defer prosecution of thousands of low-level, victimless offenses in the belief that the community was better served if these minor cases were handled in the lower municipal courts where offenders would be spared life-altering criminal convictions. Jennifer established numerous felony and misdemeanor diversion programs in her office, including the first-ever gun possession diversion program which was awarded the competitive Smart Prosecution Grant by the Bureau of Justice Assistance in Washington, D.C. When concerned about the unintended consequences of “hot spot” and “stop and frisk” policing, Jennifer created an intelligence-based Crime Strategies Unit designed to precisely identify the truly dangerous offenders as opposed to utilizing a dragnet approach to crime fighting. Jennifer also worked closely with law makers
to draft St. Louis’ Good Samaritan law to encourage people to report drug overdoses without fear of prosecution.
A former Missouri Prosecutor of the Year, Jennifer was a member of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Best Practices Committee, which was the second such committee to be established in the United States. In addition to her work at Vera Causa Group, Jennifer serves as Senior Attorney and Communications Director for the Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence based in Manhattan, New York. She is regularly invited to speak at conferences across the country where she shares valuable lessons learned throughout her 16 years as Circuit Attorney, and more specifically in the areas of leadership best practices, system transparency, staff development and communications.
Jennifer earned her law degree from St. Louis University in 1990. She enjoys a nomadic lifestyle with her husband Kevin and their two dogs in their 40-foot motorhome.