Southern Center For Human Rights to get new leader

The Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta will have a new director at the beginning of next year.

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.

"Our office takes the cases no one else will take," Totonchi said in a recent interview. "Our alliance with the underdog is always something that has deeply moved me."

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