Legal Aid Society


LAS Joins Task Force for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary, Intersex People in Custody

Two experts from The Legal Aid Society, Dori Lewis, a Supervising Attorney in the Prisoners’ Rights Project, and Mik Kinkead, a staff attorney in Legal Aid’s Riker’s Island Civil Re-Entry Project, have been appointed by the Board of Correction to the Special Task Force to identify and address issues faced by transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and/or intersex people in custody.

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.

Dori Lewis has advocated for decades to keep people in 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.

Mik Kinkead is a 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). As the staff attorney for the Rikers Island Civil Re-Entry Project at The Legal Aid Society, Mik provides civil legal services weekly at RMSC and EMTC and 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.