Roopal Patel

Former Counsel/Katz Fellow

Roopal Patel was a Counsel/Katz Fellow* in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. Roopal focuses on ending unnecessary incarceration, and has specialized expertise in promoting policies to end debtors’ prisons. She has brought much need national attention to this issue and has documented the national trend of incarceration of the poor due to inability to pay criminal justice debt, and proposed reforms. She also researches and devises reforms to sentencing laws and works to improve the quality of legal representation in criminal defense, immigration proceedings, and civil legal aid. She seeks to improve justice for marginalized communities and end racial disparities.

Prior to joining the Brennan Center, she was a legal intern at the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, Brooklyn Family Defense Project, and U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. At DOJ, she focused on improving detention conditions. While in law school she was a legal fellow in the Immigrant Rights Clinic where she gained litigation experience. She has also done legal support work for a water rights movement in South Africa and a displaced people’s movement in India. Prior to law school, she worked as a community organizer in the South Bronx and taught students in prisons. She holds a B.A. from Harvard (2003) and J.D. from NYU School of Law (2012).

*bar admission pending


Sentenced to a Life of Criminal Debt, A Barrier to Reentry and Climbing Out of Poverty, Clearinghouse Review, 8/2012  

Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action, 7/2012


A Legislative Model for Dismantling Debtors’ Prisons, The Crime Report, 8/7/12

Human Dignity is Not A Joke, New America Media, 4/6/12

New York Must Keep Helping Homeowners, Long Island Newsday, 12/28/11

Charging for Probation, New York Times, 7/9/12

Public Defender’s Office Needs Better Funding, The Times Picayune, 6/10/12