Dunwoody native Alex Joseph knew early on at the Woodward Academy that she would fulfill her role in tikkun olam. She won the Ray Kroc (McDonald’s founder) Youth Achievement Award for volunteerism; was president of the Key Club, a service organization; and coordinated bringing a portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Atlanta to raise AIDS and HIV awareness. Fast forward to her current career as an attorney at the Gray, Rust, St. Amand, Moffett & Brieske law firm and making time to volunteer to effect change.
After attending Wellesley College, she returned south to put down personal and professional roots. She attended the University of Georgia law school and married David Martin, the “nicest guy in the class.” Alex then served as a state-level prosecutor before being hired as an assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of Georgia.
After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office last year, Joseph was motivated to use her years of experience working in the criminal justice system “for good.” She said, “One in 13 people in Georgia are under some sort of supervision: in jail or prison or under probation or parole supervisions. Think about how large the criminal justice system is and how many people it impacts. And yet we just don’t talk about it. It’s like it’s invisible.”
To kickstart a conversation about the criminal justice system and to educate the public about important criminal justice issues, Joseph founded Informed Georgians for Justice, aimed at educating Georgia voters about sheriff and district attorney state elections. She explained, “Sheriff and district attorney elections are hugely important. They hold much power and influence. Yet these races simply don’t get enough attention.”
Informed Georgians for Justice now has over 20 volunteers who update the organization’s website and social media accounts, and cold-call state sheriff and district attorney candidates, asking them to respond to questions outlining their positions on criminal justice issues. Candidates’ responses to these questionnaires are posted on Informed Georgians for Justice’s website, www.informedgeorgiansforjustice.com/.
“Our first goal is just to convince the public that criminal justice issues
matter. Then we work to educate voters about elections. We want every voter to know where their local sheriff and district attorney candidates stand on the issues.”
Working within the criminal justice system impacted Joseph. “When I was a state-level prosecutor, I handled many cases involving children victims. I got to know these kids and be their champion, and it was the most satisfying part of my work.” She knew from that point onward that she wanted to continue advocating for abused and neglected children. So Joseph asked her husband on a whim if he would consider becoming a foster parent, and to her surprise, he agreed without hesitation. They are now enrolled in foster parenting certification classes through DeKalb County. They hope to open their home to foster children by the end of the year.
There are thousands of children in Georgia’s foster care system but only 15 percent are eligible for adoption, Joseph said. The goal of the foster care system is family reunification. Most children (typically older teens) are reunited with their families or adopted by family members, she said.
“When I tell people that we are becoming foster parents, most exclaim, ‘That’s brave’ or ‘good for you.’ I look at foster parenting as just another way to parent. I wish more people would consider it. You can tell the Division of Family & Children Services exactly what type of placements you can or cannot accept, and your caseworker strives to find appropriate placements. The entire system is set up for success because they want you to continue being a foster parent for as long as possible. By becoming foster parents, we create a safe home for a child in need, and there’s really no greater gift that one can give the world!”
Joseph is an avid runner and volunteers with Back on My Feet, which assists homeless people in gaining independence, life skills and connects them with community resources leading to employment and stable housing.
She concludes, “It’s our responsibility as Jews to volunteer and improve the world. I encourage everyone to follow their passion and use their expertise to give back in any way they can.”