Melody Ermachild Chavis
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As a private investigator for 20 years, Melody Ermachild Chavis works to defend people charged with capital crimes or who have been sentenced to death. In her fascinating career, she has worked on behalf of Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, who was exonerated in 1999, and she investigated the tragic events in Jonestown, Guyana. She has worked on the defense teams of 25 prisoners on California's death row, and for others on the Federal death row. She is the author of a memoir, Altars in the Street, acclaimed by Bell Hooks, Joanna Macy, and many others. Chavis has published essays in Sierra, Yoga Journal, Shambhala Sun, Turning Wheel, The Sun, and numerous anthologies. She wrote the foreword to death row prisoner Jarvis Masters's moving book Finding Freedom. A community activist, Chavis founded an urban gardening project for youth-at-risk, and chaired her city's substance abuse prevention program. She devotes her time to the movement to abolish the death penalty. Her work is sustained by her Zen Buddhist meditation practice, and she has served on the Board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.