top of page

Our Team

Meet the Parole Prep team dedicated to our mission.

Our Team

Minahil Akbar

Director of Operations

Minahil Akbar 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.

Anthony Dixon

Deputy Director

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.

Iris Vazquez Howard

Program Manager

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.

Ray Huerta

Director of Programs

Ray Huerta was raised in New York, with family from both the Midwest and Mexico. They attended Middlebury College as a Posse Foundation Scholar and received their B.A. in Political Science. Ray first started working with incarcerated people while living in Montgomery, Alabama after undergrad. During this time, they were committed to deepening their understanding of anti-carceral liberation while working specifically with trans and gender nonconforming people in Alabama and Georgia prisons. It has been a great privilege for them to be able to come back to New York and continue the work in their home state. They are 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.

Kenny Jean-Baptiste

Community Engagement Specialist

Kenny Jean-Baptiste is a respected community leader and accomplished professional in career development and education. He has made notable contributions in the field of workforce development, career services, and organizational development. His expertise includes counseling, training, and assessment activities such as conducting focus groups and delivering presentations. Kenny's life took a significant turn while he was in prison, where he realized the importance of employment in breaking the cycle of recidivism for justice-impacted individuals. He plans to utilize his insights to offer guidance and direction in workforce development. Since his release, Kenny has worked with clients from the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) and Exodus Transitional Community to provide customized services related to career advisement, workforce development, and implementation of career pathway systems. With unwavering perseverance and dedication, Kenny utilizes his education and experience to pay it forward.

Frederick Willie Kearse

Arts Program Associate

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!

Michelle Lewin

Executive Director

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. As a 1L, she co-founded the Parole Preparation Project and is now the Executive Director, training volunteers and working alongside hundreds of 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. Michelle lives in Brooklyn with her wife and dog.

Elenie Lopez

Director of Development

Elenie Lopez is a first-generation Afro-Dominican born and raised in The Bronx, New York. Growing up, the lasting impact of navigating the system for family and community members instilled a commitment to building community-based solutions. Through her college career in Albany, at The College of Saint Rose where she received a Bachelors in Criminal Behavior & Law, Elenie worked on legislative and budget advocacy at labor unions, and the DA’s office. She then received her MPA from NYU Wagner in 2020, where she formalized her focus in building infrastructure for community mobilization. For the past decade, she has supported and led advocacy efforts, which has built a deep commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and championing community driven change. Her work at PPP will involve sustaining and growing PPP’s community of care.

Tyler Morse

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.

Leigh Taylor

Director of Special Programs

Leigh Taylor is a born and raised New Yorker with familial roots throughout the deep south and the Caribbean. Originally starting as a volunteer, Leigh comes to Parole Prep with personal experiences of familial incarceration and several years of working and organizing with currently and formerly incarcerated folks, domestic workers, and young people of color. She is deeply invested in liberation for all marginalized communities, most importantly Black and Brown folks. Leigh received her B.A. in Sociology from Bard College and an M.S.W from the Silberman School of Social Work with a focus in Community Organizing in Spring 2022.

Board of Directors

Parole Prep's Board of Directors provides oversight, leadership and governance to the Project.

More than 50% of Parole Prep's budget comes directly from individual donations. 

 

Your contributions help support our parole preparation program, community engagement work and so much more. 

Nora Carroll

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

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.

Jose DiLenola

Jose DiLenola was sentenced to 26 years-to-life for second-degree murder at the age of 16. He served 18 of those years in Attica Correctional Facility and other prisons. While incarcerated he worked as a rehabilitation peer educator in relapse prevention, anger management, and mental health, and mentored at-risk youth diversionary programs. Jose co-founded and served as President of the Attica Lifer's Organization and consulted several organizations. Jose was released from prison in December 2021 and is now working on clemency and parole reform in New York State. Currently, he is the full-time Clemency Campaign Director for the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP).

Issa Kohler-Huasmann

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.

Martha Rayner

Martha Rayner has been a clinical teacher at Fordham since 1998. She co-directs the Criminal Defense Clinic, which defends clients at the trial level, takes on the civil consequences of arrests, represents incarcerated persons seeking clemency, parole and in post-conviction matters, and engages in broad-based advocacy and litigation on behalf of clients indefinitely detained without charge by the United States military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  She began practicing law as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society and went on to be one of the founding members of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a community-based, model public defender office that redefined public defense from the traditional notion of working within the span of arraignment to conviction, to a broader demarcation of pre-arrest to post-disposition “after care.” At NDS, she developed a special unit that provided representation to clients facing the civil consequences of criminal accusations.  Areas of practice included family law, housing, civil rights, immigration, and forfeiture, from trial to appellate level. She is a proud member of the first graduating class of City University of New York School of Law and has taught in Fordham Law School’s Summer Ireland Program.

Alejo Rodriguez

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.

Roslyn D. Smith

Roslyn D. Smith is a Program Manager for V-day, a nonprofit organization that has vowed to end violence against women, girls and the planet. She is using her personal experience from long term incarceration as a vehicle for her work as a criminal justice reform advocate. Roslyn obtained her bachelor’s degree while incarcerated and created curriculum and taught parenting classes for and with other mothers in prison. She has written blogs on her experiences and been a featured speaker to individuals and groups in academic and business settings. She has collaborated in brainstorming sessions with the Osborne Association, Columbia University, the Brooklyn District Attorneys Reentry Program and various other criminal justice reform groups. She has also been featured in a documentary film titled “What I Want My Words to Do To You” from a writing workshop at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, conducted and led by the playwright and author V formerly known as Eve Ensler. Her current projects include co-founding a writing group “Right/Write to Heal” for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. Since her release after serving 39 years, she has devoted her time between her daughter and her advocacy work.

Jason D. Williamson

Jason D. Williamson is executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law. Prior to assuming his current role in June 2021, Jason spent more than 10 years as a staff attorney and deputy director with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, where he focused primarily on Fourth Amendment, police practices, and public defense reform litigation. Prior to joining the ACLU, Jason worked as a litigation associate at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York, and served as a law clerk for Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. in the Eastern District of New York from 2007-2008. He began his legal career in New Orleans in the months following Hurricane Katrina, first as a staff attorney for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, and later as a staff attorney and founding member of Juvenile Regional Services (now called the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights), which provides legal representation for indigent youth in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. Jason also serves as an adjunct clinical professor at New York University School of Law. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 1998, his MA from University of Chicago in 1999, and his JD from NYU Law in 2006. Jason is a devout Rastafarian, loving husband, and proud father of 14-year-old twin daughters.

Isaac Zaur

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.

Steven Zeidman

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.
bottom of page