Master of Liberal Arts alumna featured on Undisclosed podcast as criminal behavior expert

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Celeste Trusty with Chester Hollman, III
February 12, 2018

“I take their phone calls, e-mail them, organize birthday card drives, look into their cases, help them find legal aid and advocate for them in any way I can. I want them to feel human,” shares K. Celeste Trusty (Master of Liberal Arts ’17), a criminal justice activist for Philadelphia’s wrongfully incarcerated. Throughout her studies and her professional life, Celeste has investigated the social, political, racial and environmental factors in how crime happens, and who gets punished for it. She is currently featured in the Undisclosed podcast as a lead researcher and assistant producer of the Philadelphia-focused case State vs. Chester Hollman, III. With more than 200-million listens, Undisclosed examines wrongful convictions by taking a closer look at the perpetration of a crime, its investigation, the trial and verdict—and finding new evidence that never made it to court.

Celeste adds, “I shared a post from my blog, the jury room, on social media and it featured a case that was being looked into by the Undisclosed team. A friend who was connected to them reached out, and they soon asked me to help them produce their series on Philadelphia. It was an invigorating experience.”

During her time in Penn’s Master of Liberal Arts (MLA), Celeste explored the fields of neuroscience, political science and environmental sciences to get a broader perspective on how and why marginalized populations have such high rates of incarceration. For her final capstone project, she studied the impact of heavy metal environmental poisoning on violent crimes. Celeste explains, “I looked at data from across the country. There was a significant relationship between violent crime, especially murder and robbery, and exposure to elements like lead and manganese,” she continues, “Often these industries are located in poor minority neighborhoods, and we can see this pattern repeated in Philadelphia.”

“For my master’s, I wanted to look at a lot of different aspects of criminology, which is why I chose the MLA program instead of a traditional criminology program. I was able to create my curriculum and study precisely what I wanted to study. There was nowhere else I’d be able to have that, especially in Philadelphia,” she notes.

During her final semester, Celeste took David Koppisch’s course Political Social Work in the School of Social Policy & Practice. She shares, “It was transformative. I was able to learn a lot about the political process in Philadelphia and it gave me the final push before I graduated to start getting involved. Every course I chose lent itself to the overall capstone experience, and is helping me now in what I do for the wrongfully convicted.”

With her robust and well-rounded academic background and on-the-ground experience, Celeste adds first-hand accounts of what criminal justice reform looks like today in Philadelphia on Undisclosed.

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