Legal Aid Society


LAS and Paul, Weiss Launch Litigation Campaign to Free TGNCNBI New Yorkers

The Legal Aid Society and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP have officially launched a litigation campaign to secure the release of transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and intersex (TGNCNBI) New Yorkers from state prison who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, as reported by The Appeal. Legal Aid and Paul, Weiss also announced the filing of two separate lawsuits for two transgender clients currently incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Facility and Groveland Correctional Facility, respectively.

TGNCNBI people are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 because they are at an increased risk of a weakened immune system due to discrimination in healthcare, employment, education, and housing, leading to higher rates of HIV, additional chronic conditions such as hepatitis B and C, substance use, and poorly controlled pre-existing medical conditions. These vulnerabilities are compounded by DOCCS’s harmful and discriminatory practice of housing the vast majority of transgender women in men’s prisons. Transgender women, in particular, are subject to frighteningly high rates of sexual abuse and assault in prison, conduct that is likely to increase as the anxieties and tensions increase due to the pandemic.

This announcement comes on the heels of a letter recently sent by members of a Task Force created by the New York City Council, and signed by a number of elected officials that called on New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and New York City’s five District Attorneys to request the immediate release of TGNCNBI people and all other vulnerable populations from jail and prison custody.

“From having to address structural discrimination in all aspects of health, education, housing, medical care certainly, that leads to them having particular medical vulnerabilities. This campaign really got started because of [Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s failure to meaningfully think about who needs to be released from the state prisons for their protection and their medical well-being,” said Erin Beth Harrist, Supervising Attorney of the LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit at The Legal Aid Society.