Our GOSO Justice Transformer of the Month series continues, recognizing individuals from our community who are working to create a more equitable and vibrant world. Sean Nuttall is a public defender who took his passion for swimming and social justice to new lengths, by swimming across the English Channel.
Sean is a Supervising Attorney at the Office of the Appellate Defender, in New York. He joined the GOSO Action Board in 2018. He also sits on the New York City Bar Association’s Criminal Advocacy Committee and the Federal Bar Council’s Committee on Sentencing & Alternatives to Incarceration.
How did you get involved with GOSO?
In 2018, the then-head of the Action Board, Sarah Wolf, invited me to a GOSO event. I was blown away by the energy in the room and inspired by the work GOSO does and decided to sign up for the AB on the spot.
How do you work to be inclusive and work towards a more equitable society for all?
Aside from my involvement with GOSO, I try to fight against society’s inequities in my work as a public defender, handling appeals for clients convicted of offenses in the Bronx and Manhattan.
How do you feel society can move past the stigmas of incarceration?
The best way for America to move past the stigmas of incarceration is to stop incarcerating people! Short of that, we need to eliminate the collateral consequences that accompany criminal convictions and that stop justice-involved people from moving forward with their lives.
How can we level the playing field, so that people with justice involvement can see a future for themselves in any career?
In addition to eliminating collateral consequences, we should pour resources into rehabilitation instead of punishment. If we spent a fraction as much helping justice-involved people as we did over-policing and warehousing them, the playing field would quickly level.
When did you develop a passion for long-distance swimming?
I did my first open water swim 8 years ago. I’ve been pretty hooked since then.
You are swimming across the English Channel to raise money and visibility towards the work GOSO is doing, does long-distance swimming have lessons in perseverance that serve you in your activism work?
There’s definitely a “I’m going to bash my head against the wall as long as I can” feeling to both! But mostly I find swimming really helps my work: I use the long stretches in the pool and ocean to think about my cases and process the stresses of the day.
Do you have a personal motto that guides you in your daily life? What keeps you focused and motivated during challenging times?
Knowing that my clients are counting on me to do my job well is a huge motivator.
What does justice transformation mean to you?
It means recognizing the carceral system for what it most essentially is—a system of racial control—and fundamentally reimagining it, along with all the other entwined systems that lead people to become justice-involved.
Congratulations Sean on completing the swim across the English Channel and Thank You for raising over $15,000 on behalf of GOSO!