Kelly Orians graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder where her thesis addressed the effect of public housing policy on the lives of mothers in Brooklyn, New York whose children were involved in the criminal justice system. After graduating she worked for three years at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana coordinating public policy campaigns, impact litigation, and direct services for juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In conjunction with this project, while at JJPL Kelly assisted four men returning home after 30 – 50 years in prison with issues related to housing, employment, education, health care, social services, parole compliance, and in parole revocation proceedings.
In 2012 Kelly was accepted into the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law where she has focused on the collateral consequences of incarceration, community and economic development, criminal procedure, and social entrepreneurship. In 2013, Kelly co-founded the Communal Re-Entry Fund (a project of Voice of The Ex-Offender), a $3000 fund providing 0% loans to people leaving prison in Louisiana after being sentenced as juveniles to life without the possibility of parole (a sentence found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2010, see Graham v. Florida). Kelly will be graduating with her Juris Doctorate in May 2015.