FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2021
CONTACT: Press Office
EAST ELMHURST, NY - June 29, 2021 - The New York City Department of Correction is proud to announce the launch of our new “Pride Ambassadors” program, LGBTQIA+ hotline, and related initiatives in support of LGBTQIA+ people in custody. Our goal is to provide individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community with well-rounded programming, resources, and access to LGBTQIA+ affirming services from the moment they enter our facilities, to their discharge, and beyond.
At front and center of the new initiatives are DOC’s Pride Ambassadors, a volunteer cadre of uniform and non-uniform personnel in each facility who provide additional support to LGBTQIA+ individuals. While all DOC staff receive training in relation to the specific needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, the Pride Ambassadors receive extra instruction specific to programming and re-entry, which are critical when it comes to preventing recidivism. The Ambassadors are easily identifiable to individuals in custody by a distinctive LGBTQIA+ inspired insignia (pictured above).
We’ve also launched a targeted hotline providing LGBTQIA+ people in custody with direct access to a trained staff member dedicated to addressing their needs. The hotline is available from Monday – Friday, with voicemail available at all other hours. Individuals can call from their housing area phones and speak to a staff member who can provide immediate support and information about available services. In addition to the hotline, in some of our facilities LGBTQIA+ individuals can contact a trained staff member via a tablet-based messaging system that allows for direct and discreet communication.
To support the growth of these efforts, DOC has also recently hired 3 full-time LGBTQIA+ Coordinators who have joined the Director of LGBTQIA+ Initiatives in serving this population. The creation of these new positions further strengthens our commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of every individual in custody.
“We’re excited to announce the launch of our new PRIDE initiatives, which is part of our commitment to providing impactful and inclusive programming and services tailored to the specific needs of the people in our custody,” said Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “We want to not only improve their experience while they’re incarcerated, but also ensure that when they return to their communities, they’re doing so with the kind of precise support that will help improve their future. Our plan is to keep building on these initiatives and keep exploring new ways we can help.”
“As a Department we must continue to go beyond affirming the LGBTQIA+ community and work towards being responsive and supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Director of LGBTQIA+ Initiatives, Elizabeth Munsky. “The initiatives announced today have been developed to reflect the needs discussed by LGBTQIA+ people in custody, community advocates and LGBTQIA+ community-based programs. It is through those voices and collaboration that we have been able to build meaningful initiatives that assist LGBTQIA+ people in their success while in custody and when back in the community. We will continue to listen and turn needs into action.”
To date, 59 uniform and non-uniform staff have signed up to volunteer as Pride Ambassadors. All of our Pride Ambassadors share a desire to support the LGBTQIA+ community and have demonstrated excellent communication skills with people in custody as well as with their peers.
“Being a progressive leader in society and in our agency, I am proud to fully support our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Pride Ambassador Captain Cowen. “Moving our agency forward with open hearts and open minds was the reason why I became a Pride Ambassador.”
We have also partnered with The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Correctional Health Services, and the Emergency Release Fund to issue pre-paid cellphones to LGBTQIA+ individuals to help expedite access to reentry services and resources immediately upon an individual’s return to their community. This includes a comprehensive resource guide listing community-based organizations that serve the LGBTQIA+ community. Any individual in custody can request the guide from their Social Services Correctional Counselor, via tablet messaging, or through the LGBTQIA+ hotline. The guide is also provided to the counseling staff in all facilities.
“LGBTQIA+ individuals experience high rates of gender-based violence, and need access to supports that are affirming of their gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Cecile Noel, Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. “As a City, it is critical that we support these survivors and meet their needs no matter where they are—criminalization should not negate experiences of survivorship. Programs like DOC's newly launched Pride Ambassadors will help ensure that LGBTQIA+ survivors can stay connected to vital care and resources while in custody."
"Incarceration exacerbates existing structural inequities and discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people face, particularly among Black and Brown individuals," said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “City agencies must listen in order to effectively respond to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and we commend our partners in government for introducing this worthy effort."
For more information on our continued efforts, visit our LGBTQIA+ webpage here: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/pdf/doc-lqbtq-support-plan-061421.pdf
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) is dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment while providing individuals in our care with a path to successfully re-enter their communities. The Department provides for the care and custody of people ordered held by the courts and awaiting trial or who are convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. DOC manages 8 facilities housing people in custody, 7 of which are located on Rikers Island. The Department also operates two hospital wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court facilities in each borough. Our dedicated workforce of both uniformed and non-uniformed staff members represents the city’s BOLDEST.