Sara Totonchi, 33, will be the first non-lawyer to head the non-profit, although she has long been immersed in some of the center's most high-profile causes -- improving the state's indigent defense system and legal attacks against Georgia's sex offender registry law. The Southern Center, founded in 1976, represents inmates on death row and files lawsuits to improve prison and jail conditions.
Totonchi, a graduate of Berry College, joined the Southern Center eight years ago after working for the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. In recent years, she has been the center’s public policy director and chaired Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Totonchi said one of her main goals as the center's new director will be trying to enhance transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system.