Task Force on Issues Faced by TGNCNBI People in Custody

Board of Correction Announces Task Force on Issues Faced by Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary, and/or Intersex People in Custody

October 1, 2019

Task force, bringing together stakeholders throughout government and the community, will focus on medical and mental health, culture, intake and housing, and programming.

New York – Today, the Board of Correction (BOC), the independent oversight agency for the New York City jail system, announced the creation of its Task Force on Issues Faced by Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary, and/or Intersex People in Custody. The task force consists of leading experts, including experts by lived experience, from City government and the community. Task force members will explore and make recommendations on a spectrum of issues, including medical and mental health treatment in jail and continuity of care upon release; culture change opportunities such as training and gender-affirming practices; targeted programming and resources for TGNCNBI people in jail; and the Department of Correction (DOC)’s intake and housing process.

“The task force is an excellent opportunity for the City to improve local standards for TGNCNBI individuals in custody and create a national model for culturally competent correctional practices and policies” said BOC Research Associate Heather Burgess. BOC Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Director Andrea Mufarreh said, “Jail is a turbulent time for all incarcerated people. The Board is honored to host this exceptional group of people to work on reducing the harm of incarceration faced by TGNCNBI people in custody.”

Per Local Law 2019/145, the task force will meet quarterly for five years and issue annual reports. We are working with the Department of Correction to host some task force meetings on Rikers and to involve currently incarcerated people in the task force.

The Board accepted member nominations from the community from August 30, 2019 to September 15, 2019. The task force is comprised of: Legislative Council to the Criminal Justice Committee at the New York City Council Alana Sivin, BOC PREA Director Andrea Mufarreh, NYC Unity Project Executive Director Ashe McGovern, Health + Hospitals Correctional Health Services Chief of Staff Benjamin Farber, New York City Anti-Violence Project Community Organizer Briana Silberberg, Princess Janae Place Program Coordinator Bryan Ellicott, ACLU LGBT Project Deputy Director for Transgender Justice Chase Strangio, Bronx Defenders Attorney and Client Specialist Deborah Lolai, Prisoners’ Rights Project Supervising Attorney Dori Lewis, DOC Director of LGBTQ Initiatives Elizabeth Munsky, DOC Assistant Commissioner Faye Yelardy, Osborne Association LGBT Liaison & Senior Peer Educator Grace Detrevarah, BOC Research Associate Heather Burgess, Exodus Transitional Community Associate Vice President of Strategy Kandra Clark, Brooklyn Defender Services Project Director of Jail Services Kelsey De Avila, Sylvia Rivera Law Project Director of Outreach and Community Engagement Kimberly Mckenzie, Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney on the Rikers Island Civil Re-Entry Project, Mik Kinkead, DOC Senior Institutional Administrator, Prechelle Shannon, NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Director of Policy Saloni Sethi, National Social Justice Advocate Shear Avory, Point Source Youth TGNCNBI Policy Advisor & Communities Organizer Sophie Rose Cadle, and NYC Commission on Human Rights Senior Policy Counsel Zoey Chenitz.

"I introduced legislation mandating this task force because New York City should be a leader when it comes to upholding the dignity of TGNCNBI incarcerated people. Nationwide and here in New York, TGNCNBI people have been overpoliced and over-incarcerated. They are often misgendered, denied appropriate healthcare, placed in unsafe housing conditions, and suffer sexual abuse at disproportionate rates. I am proud to join with the Board of Correction, City agencies, and community advocates in this critical step toward better protecting trans people in our custody and ensuring that tragedies like the death of Layleen Polanco never happen again,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women & Gender Equity.

Liz Munsky, NYC Department of Correction Director of LGBTQI Initiatives, said: “Through this task force, and other initiatives at our facilities, we are continuing our commitment to support and affirm transgender and gender non-conforming people in our custody.”

“Exodus Transitional Community looks forward to working collectively with leaders across NYC to transform the culture, programming, healthcare, intake and housing for TGNCBI people in jail. We are at a critical turning-point in history, where we have an opportunity to overhaul our broken systems and replace them with community, healing and love. As human beings, we must take care of each other. It is an honor to be a member of this task force, where we will be able to create and implement meaningful solutions by working together and learning from one other,” said Exodus Transitional Community’s Associate Vice President of Strategy, Kandra Clark

The task force builds on the Board of Correction’s regulations to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the City’s jails.  These regulations include provisions specifically targeted to the particular vulnerabilities and experiences of people in custody.  Since the Board adopted the rules in 2016, they have issued 14 compliance reports (including a 2018 assessment of the transgender housing unit), held a special public hearing in April 2019, and presented numerous updates at public meetings.

“It’s an honor to represent NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services on this groundbreaking task force. I look forward to working with our community and agency partners to discuss, recommend, and advance best practices in jail, but more importantly in the community to help ensure that people avoid incarceration in the first place,” said Benjamin Farber, Chief of Staff for Correctional Health Services.

“There is an urgent need for the vision and oversight in protecting transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex people held in our City jails.  Incarceration poses tremendous risks to these individuals, and for too long the jails have looked the other way. We look forward to seeing the results of this task force’s commitment and work and strongly recommend that the task force address the real issue of incarceration at all,” said Legal Aid Society Prisoner Rights’ Project Director Mary Lynne Werlwas.

“The Sylvia Rivera Law Project holds a strong belief that the people most affected by the systems of violence and oppression are the best people to lead that fight. The Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) is one way to overcome the enormous state-created barriers to communication and political participation for the people who are most affected by the prison industrial complex. As a part of the City’s new task force to address TGNC people in NYC jails our staff and members will be providing crucial feedback as key decision makers and leaders who have faced criminalization and incarceration,” said Sylvia Rivera Law Project Director of Outreach & Community Engagement Kimberly Mckenzie.



CONTACT: Bennett Stein, BOC Director of Policy and Communications -- bstein@boc.nyc.gov, 212 669 7992