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avatar for Regina Kelly

Regina Kelly

Client Advocate, Hearne, TX
NLADA Board of Directors
A mother of four by age 24, Regina Kelly worked multiple jobs to support her family and provide a safe environment in the midst of the tough neighborhood in which they lived. Despite her efforts, she became entangled in an ironic twist of fate when she was arrested at work right before her double shift started. What she thought was just traffic tickets turned out to be something far worse. She was jailed for 17 hours before knowing what her charge was – accused of “delivery of a controlled substance in a drug free school zone.” Even with no prior drug record, no evidence or any drugs found on her, Regina was offered a hellish choice: plead guilty with a 10-year deferred sentence and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison for 15-25 years for a crime she did not commit. After a long legal battle, she fought and won justice against a biased justice system in Hearne, Texas. Regina’s story was featured in the award-winning movie, American Violet, in 2009 and featured in countless magazines across the nation, including “O,” Essence, and Rolling Stone. Regina has continued her fight by working with civil and legal organizations to help change the laws in Texas and across the country regarding the rights of people wrongfully accused of a crime. She has been a keynote speaker at numerous colleges (where they use her story as part of their curriculum) and other organizations throughout the United States. She speaks passionately about her experience for anyone facing a wrongful arrest. Her goal is to enlighten the public at large in every city and state throughout the country. Regina does trainings for defense attorneys to show them how to connect on a better level with their minority clients. She also addresses the mental health of formerly incarcerated individuals and encourages them to seek professional counseling as soon as they are released. Regina also works aggressively in her community with school board and city council issues that affect the entire community. Regina has received a host of awards and recognition for her efforts, including the Rodger Baldwin Medal of Liberty from the ACLU. She currently serves on the board of directors for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, where she is also chair of the Client Council. Regina also works as staff for Lone Star Legal Aid of Texas.