Legal Aid Society


The Fight For Trans+ Lives in Our Prisons and Jails

As part of Trans Awareness Week, The Legal Aid Society’s LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit will host a virtual event on November 16th to raise awareness of the inhumane and life-threatening treatment of the trans+ community in the criminal law system and encourage all advocates to join our fight.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021 | 1:00 PM | 30-minute discussion followed by Q & A

While the current Rikers crisis has brought the overall state of city jails into the public’s eye, the trans+ community’s struggle within our city jail and state prison system remains largely hidden. Just last month, NY’s governor announced that incarcerated transgender people will be transferred from Rikers to state prisons which have grossly inadequate protections for trans+ people, leading to daily abuse and discrimination.

Register today to reserve your spot. Space limited. Zoom details sent upon registration.

Our Discussion

Join experts from The Legal Aid Society’s LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit, Prisoners’ Rights Project, and Rikers Re-Entry Program for a moderated conversation with Judy Yu, an LGBTQ+ advocate and senior program officer of Wellspring’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify and Expression (SOGIE) program, to cover:

  • Why are trans+ individuals especially at risk for engagement with criminal law system?
  • What issues and threats does the TGNCNBI community face when incarcerated?
  • Why is New York, a state that prides itself on standing with the LGBTQ+ community, failing the trans+ community? What legal protections do trans+ people have that can be leveraged? What changes are needed?
  • How can re-entry programs support the trans+ community

Watch Full Webinar

Meet your Moderator and Panelists

Judy Yu, Senior Program Officer, SOGIE, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

Judy Yu (she/her/hers) is a senior program officer in the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) program at Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. She has over 20 years of experience working to create a more just and humane world through supporting the leadership of LGBTQ youth and adults of color. Judy has led and overseen a variety of innovative youth justice advocacy, youth leadership, and arts programs serving LGBTQ and BIPOC communities. Previously, Judy was the Director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), where she oversaw and managed the CA’s youth justice advocacy reform efforts in New York, including its legislative campaigns, community organizing and engagement, and youth leadership development programs. She also served as Director of Programs at APEX, an Asian American youth organization in NYC, and Associate Director of the youth program at the NYC LGBT Community Center, where she managed the health education, arts, and training programs. Among other affiliations, Judy was a member of the Equity Project Advisory Committee, an initiative to ensure that LGBTQ youth in juvenile delinquency courts are treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. She also served on the School Climate Working Group of the New York City Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, a task force charged with developing policy recommendations to enhance the well-being and safety of students and reduce harsh discipline responses and arrests. Judy currently serves on the board of directors of Funders for LGBTQ Issues.

Erin Beth Harrist – Supervising Attorney, LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit

Erin Beth Harrist (she/they) is the Supervising Attorney of The Legal Aid Society’s LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit where she leads strategic litigation and policy efforts to advance LGBTQ+ liberation. She also trains and educates The Legal Aid’s Society over 2,000 staff members in supporting and affirming LGBTQ+ clients. Prior to joining Legal Aid, Ms. Harrist was a Senior Staff Attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union where she litigated civil rights cases involving the rights of farmworkers to organize, police use of chokeholds and tasers against youth, and the rights of TGNCNB people when interacting with the criminal law system, among other issues. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 2007.

Jasmina Chuck – Paralegal II, LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit

Jasmina Chuck (She/They/Jas) is dedicated to amplifying the experiences and voices of marginalized and oppressed communities and advancing racial and LGBTQ+ equity. She has been a part of the Legal Aid Society’s LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit for over nine years, during which time she has worked to enhance the Society’s cultural humility to better serve clients. Jasmina has developed, revamped, and provided over 100 training to attorneys, social workers, investigators, managers, directors, and external organizations. Her trainings focus on cultural humility, affirming communication and language, understanding intersectionality and compound oppression, and raising consciousness around how transphobia, homophobia, and racism affect communities. She also supports clients in need of affirming resources and services such as public benefits and reentry services. Reviewing and enhancing internal organizational policies and practices is a vital part of her expertise and commitment to equity and social justice. She has recently received her Master of Social Work from Hunter College and is excited to spread the joy of intersectional activism through education and art.

Mik Kinkead – Staff Attorney, Rikers Island Re-Entry Project

Mik Kinkead (he/him) is a white transgender man who has worked as a staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York and as the Director of Prisoner Justice at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). He currently works as the staff attorney for the Rikers Island Civil Re-Entry Project at The Legal Aid Society. In this capacity Mik provides civil legal services to reduce the collateral consequences of detention and incarceration on all people in the NYC jails, but with a special focus on trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and intersex peoples. He has taught a weekly Know Your Rights class for TGNCNBI people in the NYC jails since 2015 and taught CLEs across the US on working with TGNCNBI people as colleagues and in prison and jail contexts. Mik has authored or co-authored seven publications on TGNCNBI people and their rights in prison and jail contexts. Mik serves on the city-appointed Taskforce on TGNCNBI Issues in the NYC jails and is a member of the New York City Jails Action Coalition and the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.

Sophie Gebreselassie – Staff Attorney, Prisoners’ Rights Project

Sophie Gebreselassie (she/her) is a Staff Attorney with the Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project. Using direct advocacy, policy reform, and strategic litigation Sophie works to protect and advance the constitutional and other rights of people incarcerated in New York. Her work focuses primarily on those conditions affecting individuals incarcerated in New York State prisons. Sophie has a background in criminal justice reform and international human rights, most recently working to challenge death penalty regimes throughout the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.