Safety & Self-Determination for Currently & Formerly Incarcerated TGNC People

Posted on October 18, 2019 | Kimberly Mckenzie , Sylvia Rivera Law Project

SRLP’s Outreach Team during the No New Jails Rally at City Hall, March 2019

Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Equitable Justice grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.

Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to strengthen ongoing organizing work to ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people, specifically low-income TGNC people and TGNC people of color, can self-determine their gender identity and expression without facing harassment, discrimination, and violence. SRLP seeks to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, gender nonconforming, and/or intersex (TGNCI). SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities.

SRLP believes that the system itself is part of the problem, and that while we work to change laws and policies, we must also address the root causes of our conditions in seeking to shift narratives and our relationships to power. SRLP believes that those who are directly impacted are experts on their lived-experience and must inform strategies and solutions to address our overall work to decriminalize, decarcerate, and liberate. As abolitionists, we believe it is imperative to address the legal, systemic, institutional, interpersonal, internalized, and ideological barriers that the state has imposed to criminalize our communities. We know that the law is a tool that can help us advocate for our communities. Providing access to lawyers, legal support, and “Know Your Rights” information offers immediate support to our communities facing a multitude of oppression along with creating a political home where TGNC folks feel affirmed and invested in.

To increase safety and gender self-determination for currently incarcerated TGNC people, our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) and Prisoner Justice Project (PJP) organize campaigns to ensure that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) properly implements SRLP’s feedback and comments on the treatment of TGNC people. SRLP provides an entry point through PAC meetings that builds the leadership of formally incarcerated TGNC people of color through letter writing, legal support, and leadership development.

SRLP has provided critical support for TGNC leaders to speak, attend, and mobilize. SRLP will also develop curriculum and political education to support our members as they organize and strengthen our current campaigns. We have been instrumental in mobilizing TGNC people of color to testify, rally, and engage in movement building work. This past summer we brought folks together around the death of Layleen Polance and other black trans and Latinx women and girls killed in prisons, jails, and detention centers. SRLP will continue critical work involving the experiences of TGNC people of color in coalitions like No New Jails Campaign to decarcerate and address the city’s plan to build borough-based jails.

SRLP is working to improve DOCCS’ policy allowing TGNC prisoners in New York to access gender-affirming care, including hormones and gender-specific undergarments. We have already been in conversation with providers and DOCSS about the potential for this care with the city’s largest LGBT Health Provider, Callen-Lorde. As a part of the city’s new Task Force to Address TGNC People in NYC Jails, our staff and members will be providing crucial feedback as key decision makers and leaders who have faced criminalization and incarceration.

We’re working to finalize our work on “It’s War in Here,” a participatory research project and report sharing the experiences of TGNC people incarcerated in New York State. This report will help educate DOCCS officials about the issues faced by TGNC individuals who are incarcerated. SRLP will also release “In Solidarity,” a publication that includes writings, artwork, and policy ideas of our PAC members on the inside. We will increase our base by developing a new Prisoner Advisory Committee of ten members through paid internships and a variety of other opportunities. As our folks return home from behind the wall, this team will provide leadership development and advocacy support for ten to 20 folks.

To learn more about Sylvia Rivera Law Project, please visit www.srlp.org.


Kimberly Mckenzie is the Director of Outreach and Community Engagement at SRLP. Kimberly is dedicated to empowering the leadership and political voices of marginalized trans communities to focus on growing self-advocacy skills, political education, and sustainability of TGNCI community members of color facing poverty, violence, and discrimination. Kimberly supports the mission of ending mass incarceration within the intersections of woman, race, and gender to build community resources without the expansion of new jails. Kimberly also serves as board member to the Anti -Violence Project, whose mission is to end all forms of gender based violence.

Kimberly firmly believes that in order for TGNCI communities to contribute to the work of our liberation, they must be free from violence and discrimination.