Michelle Lewin is an attorney in New York State and a graduate of CUNY School of Law. Born and raised in Atlanta, Michelle has been active in anti-incarceration work since 2005. Prior to law school, she worked for the Fortune Society in their Alternatives to Incarceration program, and as a 1L she co-founded the Parole Preparation Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She is now the Executive Director of the Project, training hundreds of volunteers and working alongside people serving life sentences in New York State prisons in their struggle for parole release. She is the co-author of “Collaborating Across the Walls: A Community Approach to Parole Justice,” which was published in 2017 in the CUNY Law Review.
Director of Community Engagement
For the past three decades Anthony Dixon has helped secure the release of people serving long sentences in New York State. He has prepared people for their transitions home from prison, and supported them in the months and years after their release. His critical advocacy work includes pushing key policy reforms and building strategic partnerships. As an activist and organizer, Anthony is also a prominent national speaker on issues of long and life sentences. While in prison, Anthony received commendations for developing an anti-violence program, Breaking Free from Criminal Thinking, and a therapeutic anti-drug program called ASAP Life Areas. The former has had a zero percent recidivism rate in the last seven years. For his extraordinary efforts on behalf of marginalized groups, Anthony was issued the 2015 RISE Award by the Community Minded Organization. He is also a recipient of the 2018 Freedom Fighter Award issued by Citizens Against Recidivism. He is also a National Lawyers Guild distinguished scholar. Anthony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Claudia Huerta was raised in New York, with family hailing from both the Midwest and Mexico. Prior to returning to the city, Claudia worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center as an outreach paralegal for their LGBTQ Rights practice group. During her time living and working in Montgomery, Alabama, she was committed to deepening her understanding of anti-carceral liberation while working specifically with trans and gender nonconforming people in Alabama and Georgia prisons. She attended Middlebury College as a Posse Foundation Scholar and received her B.A. in Political Science. She is dedicated to fostering an approach to volunteer training and relationship building that pushes our collective imaginations beyond punitive practices while centering the autonomy, dignity, and self-determination of those struggling to be freed.
Minahil Akbar Khan is an editor and organizer living in Brooklyn on occupied Lenape land. Raised in NYC, they have roots in Afghanistan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Iran, and India/Pakistan, where she was born. Before joining PPP as the Operations Manager, Minahil worked in publishing and bookselling, and organized with Cosecha NYC and Covid Bail Out. They currently organize with the mutual aid library collective Library of Study, and work as an assistant editor with Apogee Journal, a digital magazine building a radical community of marginalized artists, including our inside comrades. Minahil is committed to the liberation of all people from white supremacist capitalist systems of oppression, and believes deeply in building communities of care.
Social Work Intern
Leigh Taylor is the Parole Preparation Project’s Social Work Intern. Leigh is a born and raised New Yorker with familial roots throughout the deep south and the Caribbean. Prior to enrolling at the Silberman School of Social Work, Leigh worked for several years as a youth educator where she developed, facilitated, and managed programming that centered the experiences of young people of color and tackled issues such as environmental justice, prison abolition, and gender equity. Outside of working directly with youth, Leigh has organized with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Voices of the Experienced (VOTE), and most recently the Central Brooklyn Food Co-Op, a group of community members organizing for the creation of a Black-led member-owned grocery store in the neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. She is invested in liberation for all marginalized communities, most importantly Black and Brown folks. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Bard College and will receive a M.S. in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work in Spring 2022. Leigh can be reached at email@example.com.
Iris Vazquez Howard
Iris Vazquez Howard was born and raised in the Bronx and from a young age experienced the impact of the legal system on her immediate family, writing letters to and visiting loved ones in prison weekly. For the past decade, Iris has lived, worked, and organized harm reduction and abolition-centered mutual aid up and down the West Coast, and eventually back in New York. During that time she has experimented with and developed community-based solutions to addiction, policing, and mental health treatment. Her work is rooted in deep relationship building, learning from those most impacted by oppressive systems, and theological explorations of love, justice, and radical hope.
Arts Program Associate
Frederick Willie Kearse
Frederick Willie Kearse was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is a BPI graduate and mentor with a commitment to rebuilding communities. The effects of urban renewal, the crack era, and being wrongfully convicted compelled him to study law and use an ink pen to fight for freedom. He has organized and facilitated numerous anti-violence and mentoring programs. Frederick is a published author as well as a public health and criminal justice reform advocate. He is a Survivor of the System (SOS) member--it’s on this social network platform where you can learn more about his roots, character, and simultaneously meet wonderful people who helped him reach wholeness. His goals are to contribute to society by inspiring youth to be great, protecting the elderly, and creating a multicultural and diverse program that’ll accommodate people who struggle with literacy!
Arts Program Associate
Tyler Morse is a 2020 Larry J. Hackman fellow with New York State Archives and, in collaboration with Nia Nottage and Steph Christ Collective, a 2021 Research Resident with The Kitchen. She’s the co-founder of Porosity Press and BAILFRONT, a donation-based bail fundraising operation. As spring 2022 Wendy’s Subway Residents under their auspices, she and Rider Alsop have developed a collaborative workshop series and forthcoming publication project with incarcerated and non-incarcerated writers, titled Rewriting the Given. With funding from CRNY, she is currently an Arts Program Associate alongside collaborator Willie Kearse at the Parole Preparation Project, co-developing a series of archive-based creative workshops. She’s the author of Hearing/s (No, Dear 2020), and lives and writes poems about her friends in Brooklyn. She's been a volunteer with the Parole Preparation Project since 2014.
Board of Directors
PPP’s Board of Directors provides oversight, leadership and governance to the Project.
Nora Carroll is a public defender, National Lawyers Guild member and co-founder of the Parole Preparation Project. Nora is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law in Boston and she worked for over three years defending accused parole violators at the Rikers Island jail complex as part of The Legal Aid Society’s Parole Revocation Defense Unit. Since then she has been working at Legal Aid’s trial office in Brooklyn.
Paul Cates is the communications director of the Innocence Project. He previously worked at the American Civil Liberties Union as a Senior Communications Strategist and as Director of Public Education for the LGBT & AIDS Project. Before beginning his career in communications, Paul was a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia School of Law. He is the co-author with Leslie Cooper of the second edition of the ACLU publication, Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting.
Issa Kohler-Hausmann is an Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School and Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale. She joined the Yale Law School faculty in 2014. Her primary research interests are in criminal law, criminal procedure, empirical legal studies, tort law, sociology of law, and legal theory. Before coming to Yale, she was a Law Research Fellow at Georgetown University. Admitted to the New York Bar in 2009, she previously worked in solo practice and has been an associate with Ilissa Brownstein & Associates. Kohler-Hausmann has been most recently published in the Stanford Law Review, the American Journal of Sociology, and has work represented in many other journals and books. Her most recent publications focus on misdemeanor arrests in New York City and their use as a form of social control, and she has won awards for her writing from the American Sociological Association and the Law and Society Association. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University, Yale Law School, and New York University.
Alejo Rodriguez is a formerly incarcerated person and a former applicant of the Parole Preparation Project. He served 32 years in prison and was released in June 2017. Today, Alejo is the Mentor and Alumni Coordinator at the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College. Alejo’s previous criminal justice experience includes peer education, community organizing and mentoring. He was also the former vice-president of the Otisville Correctional Facility’s Lifers & Long Termers Organization. He enjoys supporting the success of formerly incarcerated college students and looking for creative ways to engage students in community building relationships as the Mentor Alumni Coordinator. Alejo received his Bachelors of Liberal Arts degree from Syracuse University and Masters of Professional Studies degree from New York Theological Seminary.
Andrea Yacka-Bible, Esq., MSW, began working with people charged with crimes in 1996 as a social work intern. For eight years, she served as a legal advocate at the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. She also spent six years in California working with women serving indeterminate life sentences (“lifers”). As Co-Coordinator of the California Habeas Project, she trained attorneys to represent incarcerated domestic violence survivors in state habeas proceedings and parole hearings. As Coordinator of Free Battered Women, she coordinated media and public education campaigns to generate community support for incarcerated survivors’ parole release; engaged in legislative advocacy around parole; regularly visited and advocated for people serving indeterminate life and Life Without Parole sentences; and provided ongoing support to formerly incarcerated survivors released from prison. Now a staff attorney in The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Appeals Bureau, she represents clients on direct appeal and in post-conviction litigation, including clemency and parole preparation and appeals. She is a 2014 graduate of CUNY Law and has a Master of Social Work degree and Bachelor’s degree in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Minnesota.
Isaac Zaur is a commercial litigator and a partner in the firm Clarick Gueron Reisbaum LLP. Isaac works primarily on disputes arising from major transitions in the corporate life-cycle, such as securing control of critical start-up assets, the departure of a co-founder or senior executive, the aftermath of a merger or acquisition, or a bankruptcy. Isaac believes that, as a lawyer who practices in and benefits from the civil court system, he has a special responsibility to the experience of those impacted by the closely adjacent criminal courts.
Professor Steven Zeidman, Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at CUNY School of law, has spent the last 30 years working in the area of criminal defense. A graduate of Duke University School of Law, he is a former staff attorney and supervisor at the Legal Aid Society. He has taught at Fordham, Pace, and New York University School of Law and was awarded the NYU Alumni Association's Great Teacher Award in 1997 and CUNY’s Outstanding Professor of the Year honor in 2011. Professor Zeidman is a member of the New York State Appellate Division Indigent Defense Organization Oversight Committee and the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section Council, and serves on the Board of Directors of Prisoners' Legal Services and the Parole Preparation Project. He is also a member of an Advisory Council created to implement the remedial order in the Floyd v. City of New York federal court stop-and-frisk litigation. His published work has been cited in many law reviews and journals, as well as by the New York Court of Appeals.
PPP’s Board is composed entirely of formerly incarcerated people and their family members. The Advisory Board ensures that PPP’s staff and volunteers are accountable to the wishes, needs and objectives of those directly impacted by incarceration.
Lawrence Bartley is a Communications Associate at The Marshall Project. He holds an advanced degree in Professional Studies from New York Theological Seminary and a B.S. from Mercy College. Previously, Lawrence co-founded Forgotten Voices and its successor Voices From Within, which now seeks to address mass incarceration. Lawrence has provided multimedia content for the NY Emmy-winning three-part series “Drama in the Big House", WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money podcast, and his “Power of a Parents Voice” TED talk. Wipf and Stock, The Marshall Project and Vice have published his writing.
Mujahid Farid was a 2013 Open Society Soros Justice Fellow and the Lead Organizer for the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign, which is designed to impact policy accelerating the release rate of elderly people in New York State prisons. Farid himself was confined for 33 years in New York State and released in 2011. While confined, Farid earned four college degrees including two Master’s. During his time confined Farid litigated many cases which effected changes in conditions of confinement. In 1987 Farid was part of a trio that created and proposed the first HIV/AIDS peer education program in New York State prisons (PEPA), which later developed into the widely acclaimed state-wide program called PACE (Prisoners AIDS Counseling & Education). Farid participated in the creation of a college certificate program sponsored by New York Theological Seminary, and taught introduction to sociology courses for people training for Alcohol & Substance Abuse (ASAT) counseling certification. Farid’s articles have been published in a number of journals and media sources. Since his release, Farid initiated two programs designed to have an impact on dismantling mass incarceration: The RAPP Campaign and the Rise & Shine Small Business Coalition, the latter of which provides support for the creation and start-up of community businesses operating on principles of social entrepreneurship. In November 2018, only seven years after his release, Farid passed away.
Donna Hylton has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the country. She draws upon her experience imprisoned in a women's correctional facility for 27 years, with some of that time spent in solitary confinement. Now released, Donna emphasizes the importance of building communities through economic, racial and gender justice. Donna is a founding member of From Life to Life, a national initiative dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. She is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to a prison system that preys upon the weak and victimized; she urges communities to think seriously about the school to prison pipelines. Donna is a key member of the Correctional Association’s “Violence Against Women Committee on the Inside.” During her incarceration, Donna earned an Associate of Science degree, a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Social Psychology and a Master’s of Arts degree in English Literature from Mercy College. Donna is also on the Advisory Board of the Parole Preparation Project, a 2015 JustleadershipUSA Fellow, a key member of the Women and Justice Project that is “reimagining” the former Bayview Correctional facility into a Women’s Resource Building, and a Board Member of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. Donna is the Senior Justice Fellow for the Women and Girls Project at Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice. She is also the author of her memoir “A Little Piece of Light” published by Hachette Books in June 2018.
Ismael “Ish” Igartua is a mediator of change, and a criminal justice and parole reform advocate. He is currently a bi-lingual Group Facilitator at multiple NYC Department of Corrections sites for the Housing Works SMART Program, which is part of the 14-point violence reduction reform plan emanating from the NYC Mayor’s office and implemented by NYC DOC. Ismael served 29 years in New York State prisons. As a “returning citizen” he has experienced firsthand the shock of re-entry and the life-changing impact that occurs when opportunity meets one’s own creative initiative. He desires to leave a better legacy than he inherited. Ismael is on the advisory boards of The Osborne Association for Justice Across Generations (OCJAG) and the Parole Preparation Project (PPP). He is a founding member of the OCJAG’s Speakers Bureau and is a member of The Moth, an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.
Joe Robinson refused to let prison define or limit him. Instead, he transcended the harshness of prison life. Born and raised in East New York Brooklyn, Joe was released in October 2016 after serving nearly 25 years in prison. In 2005, Joe married Sheila Rule, then a Senior Editor at The New York Times. Together they self-published his book Think Outside the Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated; co-founded the Think Outside the Cell Foundation; published the Think Outside the Cell book series; convened two Prison to Prosperity Entrepreneurship Fairs; convened a major criminal justice symposium at Riverside Church; and launched a parole reform campaign. Joe is a Re-entry Program Associate at Appellate Advocates in NYC.
Sheila Rule is co-founder of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, which works to end the stigma of incarceration and the discriminatory barriers that block formerly incarcerated people from full citizenship and productive lives. The foundation and its publishing arm, Resilience Multimedia, have received grants from the Ford Foundation for the Think Outside the Cell Series—anthologies that feature real-life stories by the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their families—and for a national symposium on issues affecting this population. Sheila was a journalist at The New York Times for more than 30 years, including a seven-year stint as a foreign correspondent in Africa and Europe; she was a senior editor at the newspaper when she retired to fully embrace her passion for criminal justice reform. She is a board member of several organizations, including the Center for Community Alternatives, which is in the vanguard of community-based alternatives to incarceration; the Human Rights Defense Center, which works to protect the human rights of people held in U.S. prisons and jails and also publishes Prison Legal News; and Good Shepherd Services, a leading New York City social services agency serving vulnerable children and families.
Mark Shervington is a New York City native and a former Parole Preparation Project applicant. During Mark’s 29-year prison odyssey he earned Paralegal and Legal Research Specialist certifications. An experienced jailhouse lawyer, Mark was instrumental in, among other things, successful challenges to the New York State Parole Board’s policies, practices and determinations denying parole to deserving candidates. With the assistance of the Parole Preparation Project, Mark was finally granted parole in June 2015 at his tenth parole release interview. Mark worked with the Parole Preparation Project as a 2016 NLG Haywood Burns Fellow and currently serves as a member of the Project’s Advisory Board.