Task Force on Issues Faced by TGNCNBI People in Custody

New York City Task Force on Issues Faced by Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary, and/or Intersex People in Custody

The Board of Correction, the independent oversight agency for the New York City jail system, has convened a task force with government and community representatives to identify and address issues faced by transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and/or intersex people in custody. Local Law 2019/145 commissions the Board to convene this task force to provide recommendations to the city (see the press release here).

Task force members will be asked to attend quarterly meetings and prepare an annual report on task force activities as required by Local Law. Local Law 2019/145 requires this task force to convene for five years. Task force members will be asked to serve for one-year terms and have the option to renew their membership each year.

The overarching goals of the task force are:

  1. Increased collaboration between community organizations, affected populations, the Board, and the Department;
  2. Establishing trust and communication between these groups;
  3. Becoming resources for one another; and
  4. Increased safety, humanity, and respect for people in custody and officers.

The task force will develop recommendations on the following issues:

  1. Medical and mental health treatment in jail and continuity of care upon release;
  2. Culture change opportunities such as training and gender-affirming practices; 
  3. Targeted programming and resources for TGNCBI people in jail; and,
  4. The Department of Correction (DOC)’s intake and housing process.

There are 20 members of the task force, including government and community organization representatives, all of whom are leading experts, including experts by lived experience. The Board is working with the Department of Correction to host some task force meetings on Rikers and to involve currently incarcerated people in the task force.

Alana Sivin (she/her/hers) serves as the legislative counsel to the Criminal Justice Committee at the New York City Council. In this role, she has helped craft legislation and policy focused on improving the lives of people who are incarcerated and charged with crimes. Prior to joining the New York City Council, Alana spent four years as a public defender and trial attorney at New York County Defender Services, where she represented hundreds of people charged with felonies and misdemeanors. During that time, she represented both cis and TGNCNBI clients and gained intimate knowledge of the particular challenges that TGNCNBI folks face when they are held in DOC custody. Alana majored in political science with a concentration in education at Columbia University and earned her Law Degree at Brooklyn Law School.  She is eager to join the Board of Correction taskforce and to work together with directly-impacted members of the LGBTQIA+ community to improve policies that affect people in the custody of the Department of Correction who are transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary, and intersex.

Andrea Mufarreh is the Director of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) at the NYC Board of Correction. Andrea, along with her colleague, Heather Burgess, led the Board’s work to convene this task force. At the Board of Correction, Andrea works to ensure the Department of Correction’s and Correctional Health Service’s compliance with PREA standards for safer jails. Prior to her time at the Board, Andrea trained and supervised a team of counterterrorism analysts to proactively create and build existing terrorism cases at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Andrea is currently pursuing her PhD in Criminal Justice: Policy, Oversight, and Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY Graduate Center in which her research is focused on understanding the use and impact of technology in prison. Andrea holds a B.A. in an Individualized Major (Counterterrorism and Religion) from New York University and an M.S. in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Ashe McGovern, JD (they, them, theirs) is the Executive Director of the NYC Unity Project and Senior LGBTQ Policy Advisor in the NYC Mayor's Office. The NYC Unity Project is an interagency initiative, launched in September 2017 by First Lady Chirlane McCray, focused on supporting and empowering LGBTQ communities in NYC through innovative, citywide policy change and program development. Before joining the Mayor's Office, Ashe was the Legislative and Policy Director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School and LGBT Policy Analyst at the Center For American Progress (CAP) in Washington DC. Prior to CAP, Ashe was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) where they started the LGBTQ Health and Economic Justice Initiative, a project focused on providing free legal services to low-income LGBTQ New Yorkers. They are a graduate of Cornell University and Cornell Law School and co-author and co-editor of Intersecting Injustice: A National Call to Action Addressing LGBTQ Poverty and Economic Justice for All (2018) published by the City University of New York Graduate Center. 

Benjamin Farber is the Chief of Staff for NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services. Providing strategic planning and project management oversight to the CHS leadership team, Benjamin ensures cross departmental and agency collaboration. He holds a Master of Health Care Administration degree from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences.

Briana Silberberg is the Community Organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Briana is an advocate whose work has largely centered on issues affecting TGNC communities. She works on campaigns that focus on improved healthcare, housing, and employment outcomes for TGNC communities, as well as work to decriminalize sex work and advocate for the rights of those who trade sex. 

Bryan Ellicott (he/him or they/them) is the Program Coordinator at Princess Janae Place Inc. Princess Janae Place is to here to help people of trans experience maximize their full potential as they transition from homelessness to independent living. We also assist with housing for people who have been previously in custody. Princess Janae Place fulfills our mission by offering a safe space for people of trans experience to connect with the community, access gender-affirming support, as well as engage in educational and recreational activities. Princess Janae Place serves as a critical referral source for our members to secure housing navigation, substance use and mental health resources, legal assistance, job training/placement, and health care.

Chase Strangio is the ACLU LGBT Project Deputy Director for Transgender Justice and a transgender activist in New York City. Chase’s work includes impact litigation, as well as legislative and administrative advocacy, on behalf of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV across the United States. Prior to joining the ACLU, Chase was an Equal Justice Works fellow and the Director of Prisoner Justice Initiatives at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, where he represented transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in confinement settings. In 2012, Chase co-founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, an organization that provides direct bail/bond assistance to LGBTQ immigrants in criminal and immigration cases. Chase is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and Grinnell College.

Deborah Lolai (she/her/hers) is a public defender at The Bronx Defenders, where she serves as the first ever LGBTQ Client specialist. Deborah founded the LGBTQ Defense Project, where she represents LGBTQI people in criminal cases and related legal matters, in addition to working on policies impacting the LGBTQI community. She conducts trainings to improve the representation of LGBTQI people by direct service providers and improve their treatment in legal systems, jails, prisons, and detention centers. Deborah brings a decade of experience in community organizing, policy making, and direct legal services in a broad range of social justice issues with a focus on policing, mass incarceration, and gender and sexuality.

Dori Lewis is a Supervising Attorney at the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aid Society. For decades, she has advocated to keep people in the City jails and State prisons safe from sexual abuse and harassment, and to house people respectfully and consistently with their gender identity. She was one of the leading voices in pressuring NYC DOC to open and maintain the Transgender Housing Unit, and for it to be moved to the women’s jail. She has filed a complaint with the NYC Human Rights Commission on behalf of a transgender woman who was discriminated against while in DOC custody.  She has brought substantial litigation challenging the New York State prison systems’ policies and procedures that enable the sexual abuse of women by male correctional staff. She has long been involved in work around the Prison Rape Elimination Act, having served on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s Standards Development Expert Committee and having submitted congressional testimony concerning the proposed PREA standards. 

Elizabeth Munsky is the Director of LGBTQ Initiatives at the NYC Department of Correction. Elizabeth works to ensure that all people in custody who hold an LGBTQ identity are respected, affirmed and provided programming and supportive services that are responsive to their identities.  Elizabeth comes to the task force with years of LGBTQ specific program, policy and curriculum development, community coordination and direct service work.  Prior to her role at the DOC, Elizabeth worked at the Mayor’s Office To End Domestic and Gender Based Violence.  Within that role Elizabeth provided LGBTQ Gender Based Violence education and policy analysis to agencies around NYC. 

Faye Yelardy is the Assistant Commissioner, Office of Sexual Abuse and Harassment Prevention at the NYC Department of Correction. Faye was appointed to the position in December 2016. She has overseen the DOC’s PREA-compliance efforts since 2014.  She started with the Department in 2007 as an Assistant General Counsel in the legal division. In 2014, she was promoted to Director of Special Projects/PREA Coordinator. Before coming to DOC, she served as a prosecutor in the Bronx DA’s office from 1999 to 2005, where she worked in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes bureau, grand jury division, and the felony trial bureau.  From 2005 to 2007, she was an attorney at the NYPD Advocate’s Office, where she prepared and prosecuted disciplinary cases. She received her bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University and her juris doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. 

Grace DeTrevarah is the LGBT Liaison & Senior Peer Educator at The Osborne Association - A Social Justice Organization providing Re-Entry services for people with histories of incarceration, HIV, and Mental Health diagnoses.  In 2017, Osborne created the LGBT component to serve LGBTQ individuals. Grace has been an important asset to this work with great experience, dedication, and love for her LGBTQ community. Grace works to ensure that LGBTQ people are able to progress in climates not always open for inclusion. Grace has spoken at The National Trans Day of Visibility March 9-28-19, where she spoke open the importance of "Visibility" of Trans folks in the work force, as a post incarcerated Black woman of Trans experience.  HIV and Homelessness. Grace continues to speak at NYS and National forums, panels and conferences on incarceration, health and inclusion.

Heather Burgess (she/her/hers) is a Research Associate with the Board of Correction (BOC). She specializes in PREA and the Board’s Elimination of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment standards. Prior to joining BOC, Heather was an LGBTQ+ Affairs Intern at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services in Pittsburgh, PA where she helped support the efforts to improve cultural responsiveness and service provision to the LGBTQ+ community. She also served as a Program Coordinator for THRIVE Southwest PA where she worked to create and sustain LGBTQ+ – inclusive environments in educational settings. Heather received her Master of Social Work from The University of Pittsburgh and her B.A. degrees in Sociology and Criminology & Law from the University of Florida, and is a certified Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) and Safe(r) Spaces trainer.

Kandra Clark is the Associate Vice President of Strategy with Exodus Transitional Community, a preventative, reentry and advocacy organization located in East Harlem. She is on the Beyond Rosie’s, Close Rikers and Free NY Campaigns, is a Just Leadership USA 2018 Leading with Conviction alumna, and a Board Member with the Women’s Community Justice Association. She received the Julio Medina Freedom Fighter Award in 2016, and was a 2018 NY Nonprofit Media 40 Under 40 Rising Star. Kandra earned an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from LaGuardia Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities and Justice (summa cum laude) from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Administration and is scheduled to graduate in June, 2020.

Kelsey De Avila is the Jail Services Project Director at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS). At BDS, she coordinates a team advocating for the rights and welfare of individuals held in the custody of the NYC Department of Correction. She is an active member of various coalitions dedicated to ending the use of solitary confinement in New York state and addressing the impacts of incarceration on those with serious mental health needs, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kelsey is a graduate of the Silberman School of Social Worker at Hunter College, where she focused on Community Organizing, Planning and Development.

Kimberly Mckenzie is the Director of Outreach and Community Engagement at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Kimberly is dedicated to empowering the leadership and political voices of marginalized trans communities filling many different leadership roles that focus on growing the self-advocacy skills and political education and sustainability of TGNCI community members of color facing poverty, violence, and discrimination. Kimberly supports the mission of ending mass incarceration within the intersections of Woman, Race and Gender and building community resources without the expansion of new jails.  Kimberly also serves as board member to the Anti -Violence Project who's mission is to end all forms of gender based violence. Kimberly firmly believes that in order for TGNCI communities to contribute to the work of our liberation, they must be free from violence and discrimination. Kimberly continues the powerful work of advocating, supporting, and uplifting the voices of our communities in the broader work for social justice and long-term systemic change.

Mik Kinkead (he/him/his) is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Rikers Island Civil Re-Entry Project. Mik is a transgender man who has worked as staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York and as the Director of Prisoner Justice at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). Mik currently is the staff attorney for the Rikers Island Civil Re-Entry Project at the Legal Aid Society. In addition to providing civil legal services weekly at RMSC and EMTC he has taught a weekly Know Your Rights class in the Transgender Housing Unit (THU) since it opened in 2015. Mik has also taught CLEs across the US on working with transgender and non-binary people as colleagues and in prison and jail contexts and has authored or co-authored six publications on transgender, non-binary, and/or intersex people and their rights in prison and jail contexts. Mik is a member of the New York City Jails Action Coalition and the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.

Prechelle Shannon is a Senior Institutional Administrator at the NYC Department of Correction. She joined NYC DOC January 2019, to ensure proper enforcement of department-wide PREA operations in pursuit of full PREA compliance for the agency. Her experience with PREA implementation and infrastructure development directly contributed to the successful PREA audit at RSMC. Before joining NYC DOC, she served as a Certified DOJ PREA Auditor and as the PREA Coordinator for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (DCDOC) where she led the agency in achieving full PREA Compliance for all of DC DOC adult facilities during the first audit cycle, and at that time, becoming one of (1) only 9 jails in the nation to gain 100% PREA Compliance. Ms. Shannon holds a dual Master's degree in Administration of Justice and Criminal Behavior, a Bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science with a concentration in Counseling Psychology and an Associate of Applied Science in Chemical Dependency.  She's a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and paneled Mental Health Professional, Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP).  She continues to use her experience and knowledge to inform and influence change in correctional settings to ensure the safest environment for incarcerated citizens.

Saloni Sethi is Director of Policy at the New York City Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender Based Violence (ENDGBV, formerly the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence). She works to strengthen the safety net for survivors and ensure inclusion and access through the development and implementation of policy initiatives. She is a social worker by training, and an advocate and educator by nature. Saloni is passionate about anti-violence and anti-poverty work, and has dedicated her career to addressing intersecting issues of power, privilege, and oppression, and to promoting social justice for the most vulnerable in our communities. Prior to her work at ENDGBV, Saloni worked as the Deputy Director of Economic Empowerment Programs at Sanctuary for Families . She received her Master’s in Social Work from New York University, and Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Chicago.

Shéár Avory (they/them/ theirs) is a National Social Justice Advocate. Shear is committed to social, economic, racial, gender, and disability justice with extensive experience in grassroots advocacy, advising policy recommendations and public education initiatives, and integrating research with compelling storytelling to impact change. Rooted in the empowerment of young people, their advocacy has been at the forefront of youth activism since the age of thirteen through national participation in movements for liberation - evolving since into an all-encompassing purpose to empower marginalized communities to envision solutions for social change.

Sophie Rose Cadle is the TGNCNBI Policy Advisor & Communities Organizer at Point Source Youth. Sophie is an Afro-Latina women of Transgender experience raised in the City of New York, born in the Dominican Republic, born a natural leader, driven to make a change in the world, her passion is advising on local law changes & city programming funding that affect TGNCNBI folks and her goal in doing so, is to shine a light in a systemic/social problem that in due time affect us all, in addition to brightening solution in hopes to make the necessary changes to protect and fairly represent the underrepresented and marginalized TGNCNBI community. While advocacy for her community is very important, she is always open to learning about the issues others around her and her community may be experiencing and advancing those interests, as well. Although she maintains a professional and stoic exterior, she still manages to remain very warm to everyone.

Zoey Chenitz is Senior Policy Counsel at the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She has helped to issue new rules about discrimination based on gender identity and worked with city and external partners to improve city policies on issues of gender identity, including with respect to housing of people in DOC custody. Before joining the Commission, Zoey worked in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York. She is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former clerk for the Honorable Michael H. Dolinger, U.S.M.J.