Esther Lim (@EstherNMNLim) is director of jails and deputy director of advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California.
For more than 15 years, Esther has focused her career on advocacy and reformation of the criminal justice system. As the current director of jails for the ACLU SoCal, she works to defend the civil rights of incarcerated individuals in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. With the assistance of externs, interns and volunteers, she monitors conditions of confinement, overcrowding and excessive use of force on inmates; she has testified in open court and has worked with federal agencies regarding incidents she personally witnessed; and has been interviewed multiple times by national media orgs.
In January 2011, Esther witnessed two deputies assault an inmate at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, while yelling, “Stop fighting! Stop resisting!” at the unconscious inmate. This was the first time that an ACLU monitor had witnessed deputies beating an inmate first-hand, which strongly supported the hundreds of reports of deputy-on-inmate violence received by the ACLU.
In September 2011, Esther’s declaration describing the incident was one of dozens of accounts of deputy on inmate and violence that were filed in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Rutherford v. Baca and presented in the 2011 Annual Report, “Cruel and Usual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails.”
She sits on the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department’s Community Advisory Committee (2016), L.A. Sheriff’s Department’s Gender Responsive Advisory Board (2015), L.A. Police Department’s Custody Services Division’s Community Police Advisory Board (2012), and has served on the Corrections Standards Authority’s Executive Steering Committee (2011) for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
In addition to her jails work, she is also a deputy director for the advocacy department, responsible for many administrative and management duties to ensure a more effective and efficient focus on the affiliate’s integrated advocacy approaches to the work.
Prior to joining the ACLU SoCal, she worked in juvenile correctional facilities, where she conducted individual and group therapy sessions with sex offenders and has volunteered with the Orange County Probation Department’s Adult Sex Offender Unit.
Esther is also an adjunct lecturer at the USC School of Social Work, teaching management and organizational development. She has been a field instructor since 2012 andan external field instructor since 2014. In 2014, the School awarded her with the Jules Levine Distinguished Field Education Award.
She currently serves as president (2016-2018) of the Alumni Leadership Council.
She earned her B.S. from CSU Long Beach (2006) and graduated with high honors with a Masters in Social Work from USC (2010).