Safety for LGBTQ Survivors of Violence During COVID-19 Requires Shrinking the NYPD

Safety for LGBTQ Survivors of Violence During COVID-19 Requires Shrinking the NYPD

What Budget Justice for LGBTQ Survivors Looks Like and How to Get There

The combination of the COVID-19 health crisis and police violence against Black people has put many LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, at greater risk for infection than the general population, and in even greater financial precarity than times of relative economic prosperity. 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project serves low-income LGBTQ and HIV-affected people (including the unhoused and homeless); transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people and youth; undocumented immigrants including those seeking asylum; people of color (including Black and Latinx New Yorkers who have some of the highest COVID-19 related fatalities in the city); individuals who are incarcerated or entangled in the criminal legal system; sex workers; and those at the intersections of these identities. 

During this crisis as needs deepen for communities of color, Mayor de Blasio has proposed  a budget for New York City that drastically cuts millions of dollars that should go into services and resources for communities of color, while leaving the New York City Police Department (NYPD) virtually untouched. 

We know there is a better way forward during this moment of crisis: New York City must defund the NYPD by at least $1 Billion and reinvest that funding in health care, housing, education, and workforce development programs that affirm LGBTQ and HIV-affected people’s sexuality and gender identities.

THE FY21 BUDGET & #NYCBUDGETJUSTICE CAMPAIGN 

New York City’s fiscal year for 2021 starts on July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2021. The budget will be finalized over the coming week by the City Council, and our communities are fighting to ensure that funds are redistributed from the NYPD to services. 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project, as a member of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), is calling for a budget that includes significant cuts to the NYPD’s nearly $6B budget in order to protect and strengthen crucial services, programs and infrastructure the actually keep LGBTQ survivors safe and secure in the COVID-19 crisis. 

Black LGBTQ survivors are most affected by state violence and police violence. Black and working class and poor LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use illegal substances. These LGBTQ people are disproportionately criminalized, arrested, and/or detained. Policing does not create more safety for survivors, but instead, often leads to more trauma and harm. 

The uprisings led by Black people and Black LGBTQ people and survivors have created the conditions for a transformative shift in the way we envision safety, and have drawn attention to the ways in which Black communities in particular are under attack by state violence. The City can use this opportunity to invest in real safety for Black LGBTQ communities and LGBTQ communities of color instead of continuing to pour billions into policing and corrections. The City’s budget is a moral document, and those with budgetary power must reflect the priorities of our communities instead of protecting powerful interests and property over people. 

OUR DEMANDS 

As an organization that serves and works to empower LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, we’ve heard first-hand experiences of the harms of increased policing. The community we serve has historically been profiled and targeted by law enforcement, and we believe in a different approach to create safety, one that doesn’t include policing as the means to achieve safety. We need an adopted budget that prioritizes the safety of all New Yorkers, especially Black LGBTQ survivors of violence, and therefore a budget that defunds the NYPD. 

We demand the following cuts, aligned with CPR’s #NYCBudgetJustice Campaign: 

  • #DefundNYPD by at least $1 billion in the FY21 expense budget – and for those monies to be redirected to core needs in Black, Latinx and other communities of color. This means the following cuts should be considered: 
    • NYPD hiring freeze – Many City agencies are facing hiring freezes in FY21, but there is no freeze proposed in the executive budget for policing.
    • Cancellation of cadet classes – There is no justification for cadet classes when schools are understaffed in nurses, guidance counselors, and social workers.
    • Cuts to NYPD’s expansion into non-police activities/social services – Cuts should prioritize getting cops out of schools, homeless outreach, mental health response, the new “youth initiative”, and social distancing outreach/enforcement. 
    • Cuts related to abusive policing – The NYPD routinely keeps officers who have brutalized and even unjustly killed New Yorkers on payroll for years after incidents without any movement on disciplinary processes.
    • Cuts to other non-essential areas, including NYPD public relations/media budget and expansion of costly (& legally dubious) surveillance infrastructure. 
  • Require increased NYPD budget transparency – by including transparency-related terms and conditions in the budget that is passed for FY21. The NYPD’s budget is arguably the most secretive and opaque of any New York City agency. 
  • Block increases of any NYPD expense budget lines in FY21 – and deny and cancel any new policing-related initiatives in the NYPD expense budget, other agency expense budgets, NYC general fund budget and in the capital budget plan. 

We recommend investment in the following areas:

    • Increased funding to community-based organizations that promote the safety of LGBTQ people of color through discretionary funding. This includes increasing funding of the Hate VIolence Prevention Initiative, with a priority on funding community based organizations focused on non-carceral solutions like community-based reporting, outreach and bystander/upstander intervention, counseling and support services, and restorative approaches to healing the impacts of hate violence in communities.
    • Increasing funding to programs that serve LGBTQ youth of color. This includes fully funding DYCD’s Summer Youth Employment Program as well as Unity Works, a workforce development program announced in October 2019 that would support deep investments in workforce development for LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth.
    • Increase funding for TGNC immigration legal direct services. There is a lack of free legal services providers that are affirming of TGNC people, and understand the complexity of TGNC peoples’ immigration cases. These organizations have seen an increase in their client loads of TGNC people seeking immigration legal services over the last several years. Council Members have been provided with plans for funding five organizations to serve this community, which has been especially hard-hit by COVID-19.

 

  • Provide LGBTQ people, and people all around New York City, housing with dignity: increase the value of rental vouchers, fund supportive housing at the model level set by State policymakers, and ensure creation of LGBTQ and especially TGNC-affirming supportive housing service providers. COVID-19 emphasized the need to stop warehousing populations and provide private settings, for homeless peoples’ dignity; to guard against the violence that homeless people, and especially homeless LGBTQ people face in the shelter system; and also provide for improved public health. Unfortunately, current rental vouchers provided by the City are not equal to the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for apartments in the NYC metropolitan area. Given the increased homeless rates faced by LGBTQ people, especially TGNC BIPOC, the City has an obligation to house people, and it can provide more deeply affordable housing that is both linked to supportive affirming services by (1) funding rental vouchers for a one-bedroom apartment at $1,951, at all vouchers at FMR; (2) raising the budget for supportive housing scattered site locations to the rates set by the State’s NYC 15/15 program; and (3) ensuring that there are supportive housing providers who are particularly affirming of LGBTQ and (given their especially high homelessness rates) TGNC people.
  • Fund worker coops, which allow under-resourced and highly-discriminated against people an opportunity to create their own jobs. NYC has some of the most advanced infrastructure for creation of worker cooperatives in the US. Worker coops, where workers both work, own, and manage their companies, are a great model employment and resource-allocation model for people–such as BIPOC TGNC people–who lack resources and are frequently targets of employment discrimation. This can be accomplished by fully funding the existing Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative. Worker coops are also a means of spreading knowledge about business development and ownership to youth and adults alike, and thus is a means of meeting a need that the City has yet to fulfill: programming to connect adult TGNC people with jobs.
  • Assistance for undocumented workers. The LGBTQ community includes undocumented workers, and we need to push every opportunity to provide resources to our community. Undocumented people are blocked from receiving public benefits, whether due to legal limitations or strong disincentives (e.g., recent public charge rule changes). Thus, we join a call to provide cash assistance to every undocumented worker who lost a job during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE 

The unprecedented economic and health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has put ordinarily marginalized communities into even greater precarity. LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities are disproportionately represented in informal and gig economies, including sex work and other illicit work, because of the discrimination they face in mainstream employment. 

  • Contact your City Council Member today and demand that they commit to $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD budget for FY21.
  • Look up your City Councilmember here: https://council.nyc.gov/districts/ and then check to see where they stand here on the #DefundNYPD Public Commitment Tracker. 
  • Call, tweet, or email them before June 30 to let them know where you stand as their constituent.

ABOUT NEW YORK CITY ANTI-VIOLENCE PROJECT 

For 40 years, the New York City Anti-Violence Project has worked to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy. AVP is the largest anti-LGBTQ violence organization in the country. We are deeply trusted within the LGBTQ communities and by survivors of violence, and we have earned that trust by showing up for our community day in and day out.

 

City and State Lawmakers Must Commit to #JusticeForLayleen

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

City and State Lawmakers Must Commit to #JusticeForLayleen

The NYC Anti-Violence Project is calling on city and state officials to take concrete steps towards ending the criminalization and abuse of transgender women of color in New York’s carceral system. Last week, the Bronx District Attorney released the results of their investigation into the death of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco Xtravaganza at Rikers Island which confirmed that “correction officers failed to follow the Department of Correction’s (DOC) directive that every inmate housed in Punitive Segregation shall be observed at least once every 15 minutes, at irregular intervals.” Instead, a deadly 47 minutes went by without anyone checking on Layleen. The video footage released by the family, puts the guards’ disregard for Layleen’s life on full display. 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project calls for:

  • The NY State Legislature to pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Act and end solitary confinement in New York City jails.
  • The State to repeal #WalkingWhileTrans ban 
  • The State to stop implementation of 2020 bail reform rollbacks  
  • The Department of Corrections fire correction officers and their captain involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island

 The following is a statement from Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project: 

 “The neglect and utter disregard for Layleen’s life by prison officials, which is confirmed by both the Bronx DA’s report and the released video showing the guards’ inaction outside her cell around the time of her death, is a travesty. Thousands of transgender people are regularly subjected to neglect and violence and stripped of their humanity within our nation’s jails and prisons. These acts of state violence have to stop and we are calling on our city and state officials to take action now to ensure accountability for Layleen’s tragic death, and to end the criminalization and disproportionate incarceration and abuse of transgender New Yorkers.”

An AVP spokesperson is available for comment.

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Statement From Layleen Polanco’s Family On Newly Released Footage Of Inside Rikers

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications at AVP
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

David Shanies, Attorney representing Polanco family
david@shanieslaw.com
212-951-1710

The following is a statement from Layleen’s mother, sister, and brother, Aracelis Polanco and Melania Brown, Salomon Polanco respectively: 

“The Rikers video shows the world just how little these officers cared whether Layleen lived or died. Layleen’s supposed caretakers knew something was wrong with her, but they ignored her until hours after knowing she was not responsive.  When they finally opened her cell, they stood there laughing next to Layleen’s dead or dying body.

That laughter marked the end of Layleen’s inhumane treatment at Rikers, but there was so much more. It included doctors and high-ranking jail officials ignoring Layleen’s medical conditions and throwing her in solitary where no one would see her.  It included officers who were supposed to confirm she was alive every fifteen minutes at a minimum, who went for hours without actually checking on her safety. 

Layleen was our daughter and our sister.  She was a light not just to us but to her many friends, including her second family, the House of Xtravaganza.  We have tried to mourn her loss for over a year now, but we are still so angry.  Last week we learned that the Bronx District Attorney would not bring criminal charges against any of the people whose job it was to protect Layleen.  Her decision is wrong, but we never believed that justice would come from the same system that took Layleen’s life.  

Justice will come from changes made in Layleen’s name.  With her memory shining a light on the world, we will fight the system that took her life.  We encourage everyone in the community, in Layleen’s name, to call their legislators and demand they pass the HALT Solitary Act and end the Walking While Trans Ban.  With the community’s help, we will make our voices heard in every corner of the government, and we will fight in Layleen’s memory so that no other family has to experience the pain we have endured over the past year.”

Layleen’s family has asked members of the media and the public to respect their privacy in this time. 

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Take Action To Demand #Justice4Layleen

One year ago our community lost Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx trans woman, who was pronounced dead in a solitary confinement cell at Rikers. We mourn the loss of Layleen, a sister, daughter, mother, friend, and community advocate. We are angry and stand with her family as they seek justice for her death.

AVP demands #JusticeForLayleen. We demand that:
  • The State Legislature pass HALT Solitary Confinement Act and end solitary confinement in New York City jails.
  • The State repeal #WalkingWhileTrans ban
  • The State stop implementation of 2020 bail reform rollbacks
  • The Bronx DA issue a public apology for dead-naming Layleen Polanco in a press release announcing the decision not to pursue criminal charges of officers in connection with Layleen’s death
  • Fire correction officers involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island
Take action to demand #Justice4Layleen:
  • Contact, call or tweet at your state senator (@NYSenDems) and assembly member (@NYSA_Majority) to 1) pass #HALTSolitary Act to restrict solitary confinement’s use in New York State, and 2) stop implementation of 2020 bail reform rollbacks.

  • The #WalkingWhileTrans repeal has the votes needed to end Stop and Frisk of trans and gender non-conforming people. Contact, call or tweet at your state senator (@NYSenDems) and assembly member (@NYSA_Majority) to pass the bill to make it law in New York State.

  • Contact or tweet at Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor), contact your New York City Council Member, and/or contact or call the Board of Corrections (212-669-7900) to demand that they end solitary confinement in City jails immediately.

  • Tweet (@BronxDAClark) or call (718-590-2000) the Bronx DA Darcel Clark to demand she issue an apology for dead-naming LayleenPolanco in a press release announcing her decision not to pursue criminal charges of officers in connection with Layleen’s death

  • Contact or tweet at Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) and or contact, call (718-546-1500), tweet at Department of Corrections (@CorrectionNYC) to release publicly the names of and immediately fire correction officers involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island.One Year of #Justice4Layleen

LGBTQ Anti-Violence Organizations: #BlackLivesMatter and We Must Reallocate Government Budgets from Policing to Survivor Services

Contact:

Ericka Dixon, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs edixon@avp.org
Audacia Ray, New York City Anti-Violence Project aray@avp.org 

As anti-violence organizations that provide direct services for and advocacy with LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of hate, intimate partner, and sexual violence, we affirm that #BlackLivesMatter and demand that city, county, and state governments commit to reallocating funding from police departments to human services agencies, including LGBTQ and survivor-centered services. In this moment of deep unrest and uncertainty, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in the wake of the police killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Florida, we demand that police funding be reallocated to organizations that prioritize Black lives and support survivors.

As anti-violence organizations, we work to support LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals in reducing harm, and healing from the trauma those harms cause, as survivors of violence. For Black, indigenous, and people of color survivors, surviving homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic violence from a partner, acquaintance, family member, landlord, roommate, employer, coworker, or other individual is often paired with and compounded by racist and anti-Black violence they experience from the state. LGBTQ Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) survivors are not safe when our city, county, and state budgets prioritize the expansion of policing and continue to starve social services. Survivors are often criminalized for acts of survival, and instead of getting the care necessary to survive and thrive, their trauma is increased by harassment and violence they experience at the hands of the police. In order to work toward solutions that truly end violence, we must stand up against policing as a solution, and push for the reallocation of police funding to support community-based, trauma-informed organizations that support survivors, especially organizations that are led by BIPOC community leaders.

Our organizations operate with a survivor-centered framework, and this means supporting survivors in exploring all their options for healing and justice. For many survivors, this looks like receiving counseling support from our organizations, peer support from other survivors, and developing political education to connect their individual experiences with their communities and  building power with other survivors. Some survivors want to work with the government or state agencies to get an order of protection or even to bring charges against a person who has done them harm. We support these survivors in doing what they need to do to feel safe. 

We also believe that long-term, our communities are not safer when government budgets prioritize policing over human services that include health care, housing, education, and services for survivors of violence. During a pandemic in which LGBTQ people of color are vulnerable to illness, job loss, and housing instability, and in which Black people are dying at disproportionately higher rates, it is unconscionable for governments to fund police departments at the same or higher levels, while cutting social services. It’s time for budgets to prioritize people and social services over policing.

If you would like to add your organization to statement, sign on here.

Current Signatories:

  1. Advocacy Center of Tompkins County
  2. ALIVE
  3. Barrier Free Living Inc.
  4. Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition
  5. Brooklyn Community Pride Center
  6. California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
  7. Catholic Charities
  8. Center for Safety & Change
  9. Center for Survivor Agency & Justice
  10. Chosen Family Law Center, Inc.
  11. City University of New York School of Law
  12. CUAV
  13. Day One
  14. Diverse and Resilient
  15. Domestic Violence Project
  16. Equality New York
  17. Fenway Health — Violence Recovery Program
  18. GAPIMNY — Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders
  19. Gender Equality New York
  20. Haven Partners Group
  21. Human Rights at Home Clinic Mass Law
  22. Illinois Accountability Initiative
  23. Jane Doe Inc. MA Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence
  24. Legal Aid Society
  25. Los Angeles LGBT Center
  26. MenChallenging
  27. North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence
  28. NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse
  29. NYC Anti-Violence Project
  30. OutFront Minnesota
  31. Pacific Coast Counseling
  32. Positive Sum Consulting
  33. Pride Center of Vermont
  34. Rachel Weiss
  35. Rainbow Community Cares
  36. Safe Horizon
  37. Sakhi for South Asian Women
  38. Self
  39. St. Loui Anti-Violence Project
  40. Legal Aid Society
  41. The Legal Project
  42. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
  43. LGBTQ Center Long Beach
  44. The Montrose Center
  45. Trans Pride Initiative
  46. Violence Recovery Program of Fenway Health
  47. Willow Domestic Violence Center NY
  48. WINGS Foundation
  49. YMCA of Genesee Count
  50. ZA’AKAH

AVP Demands Divestment from Policing and Investment in Services for LGBTQ and HIV-affected Survivors

As Pride month begins in New York City with protests against anti-Black police violence and an ongoing global pandemic, the New York City Anti-Violence Project demands divestment from policing and investment in social services and resources for low-income New Yorkers of color. The last fifty years of LGBTQ lives in NYC were marked by protest: the Stonewall Riots, civil disobedience around the AIDS crisis, and vigils and rallies supporting the lives of trans women of color and mourning those lost to an epidemic of violence. In this moment, we must remember our history and stand up for what our community needs to survive and thrive.

The LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence who AVP serves, especially Black people and trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color, have historically been profiled and targeted by law enforcement. AVP believes in a different approach to create safety, one that doesn’t include increased policing, but relies on communities to know what they need to be safe, and includes funding and implementing creative solutions. 

Over-policing of communities of color was already in full-force as NYPD began enforcing COVID-19 social distancing measures. Policing is not an effective public health tactic, and it does not build safety for our communities. Over the last few days as our City erupted in protests of the death of George Floyd, and the deeply entrenched racism that allows Black lives to be ended without consequence by state violence, police violence has been on full display in New York City and around the country, in the deaths of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky; and Tony McDade, a Black trans man killed in Tallahassee, Florida. In order to fulfill our mission of ending all forms of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, it is imperative that we speak out against police violence and work to end state violence against our communities.

As an organization that centers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, we know first-hand of the harms of increased policing, particularly on queer, trans, and non-binary people of color, and over the last few days we have been providing support to LGBTQ community members who have experienced violence at the hands of the NYPD. The people AVP serves includes: low-income (including homeless) individuals; transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) communities; undocumented immigrants including those seeking asylum; people of color; individuals who are incarcerated or entangled in the criminal legal system; sex workers; and those at the intersections of these identities. During this time of crisis, AVP’s core client base are even more in danger and are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and over-policing. 

The City must: 

  • Invest in social services that support survivors, including counseling and legal services for survivors, housing, education, and health care (including mental health). 
  • Divest from the New York Police Department. As a member of Communities United for Police Reform, we support the #NYCBudgetJustice campaign and advocate for significant reductions in funding for the NYPD. This includes an overall NYPD hiring freeze, cuts to NYPD’s expansion into non-police activities/social services (e.g. homeless outreach, mental health response, the new “youth initiative”, and social distancing outreach/enforcement); as well as cuts related to abusive policing. 
  • Suspend all policing of and arrests for low-level offences during the pandemic. This includes a moratorium on illegitimate and abusive targeting of Black and brown folks, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, and sex workers as well as others in informal economies.
  • End “pandemic policing” and resource and empower social services and health agencies to address social distancing guidelines and public health concerns around COVID-19.
  • End the criminalization of LGBTQ survivors and HIV-affected people of color by divesting from the NYPD’s VICE (which is used by police to harass those suspected of committing “public-order” crimes including prostitution) and MARCH operations (a “multi-agency response to community hotspots” that conducts planned raids on nightclubs which are often in LGBTQ and/or communites of color).
  • End criminalization of unhoused people, who include LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors.
  • Deescalate militarization of police by ending curfew restrictions. Increased restrictions to people’s movement paired with increased police presence is violence.

The State must:

  • Repeal Police Secrecy Law 50a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey), which is routinely used to shield police misconduct and failed police disciplinary processes from the public.
  • Repeal the Walking While Trans ban (A654-Paulin/S2253-Hoylman), which is a loitering law that police routinely use to target and harass trans women of color.
  • Cease the implementation of 2020 bail rollbacks that expand the categories of bailable offences and put thousands more in jail pre-trial and pre-conviction. 
  • Reduce unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) to end harmful and needless arrests for violations, which are minor, non-criminal, ticketable offenses.

Black New Yorkers are twice as likely to die from COVID, and fatalities among Latinx New Yorkers are the second highest in the city, and both these communities are disproportionately policed in relation to their non-Black, non-Latinx counterparts. It is unacceptable that we are using policing to address both protests against anti-Black police violence and the worst health crisis the city has seen in more than a century.

Safety in a time of pandemic doesn’t mean more officers and harm, but it should mean more investment in social services and public health — a priority that the FY21 City budget does not currently reflect, but must in the coming weeks before adoption. 

 

AVP OPPOSES NEW YORK STATE’S BAIL ROLLBACKS

AVP opposes New York State’s recently passed bail rollbacks which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized and criminalized LGBTQ survivors of violence. 

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) opposes the actions of Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature to rollback 2019 bail laws, which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized LGBTQ survivors like Layleen Polanco, a Black Afro-Dominican trans woman who died in Rikers jail complex nearly one year ago. 

AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of all forms of violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV), each year in New York State, through our hotline, counseling, support and legal services, and advocacy. As an organization that serves survivors of IPV and hate violence, AVP opposes these rollbacks on the basis that it will harm and jail many more in our community. 

Layleen Polanco was arrested on misdemeanor charges in April 2019 and taken into custody because she missed court dates as part of an alternative to incarceration program stemming from prostitution charges. She was sent to the jail complex because she could not afford $500 bail. Layleen was found unresponsive in her cell on June 7, and pronounced dead, after spending 8 days in solitary confinement, despite jail officials knowing she suffered from epilepsy. Her death in 2019 sparked protests and provided yet another example of why bail laws had to be reformed.  Earlier that year, AVP joined other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by social justice advocates, survivor advocates, and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. 

Yet this year, just months after the law went into effect, the Governor and legislature pushed a rollback proposal in the 2020 state budget that will perpetuate the practice of unfairly jailing many in our state who are poor and already marginalized. Pre-trial jailing can be deadly, and tragic deaths such as Layleen’s are likely to be repeated. Under rollbacks, anyone arrested who has a prior charge of misdemeanor will automatically be subject to bail, resulting in thousands of low-income people like Layleen languishing in jail due to their inability to pay bail. 

Contrary to the arguments of those who oppose bail reform, rollbacks will not make survivors of violence safer. In fact, rollbacks will harm marginalized survivors of violence. The proposed rollbacks will harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Gendered assumptions in law enforcement‘s assessment of violence in LGBTQ relationships contributes to higher rates of survivors being arrested in police responses to LGBTQ IPV. When race intersects, the rates of survivor arrest are even higher. A fourth of all survivors are arrested or threatened with arrest during an incident or report. In New York City, the majority (66%) of survivors who were arrested alongside or instead of their abusive partner were Black or Latinx. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal system, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks, which include expanded bailable categories around misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Now any repeat charge of misdemeanor automatically becomes a bailable offense, which means low-income LGBTQ survivors of violence will continue to languish in jail, as in the case of Layleen Polanco. Working class and poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use illegal substances. Marginalized survivors left out of legal economies and social safety nets often become entangled in the criminal legal system for these reasons, and the state has historically used profiling, policing, prosecution, and pretrial detention to criminalize these survivors instead of aiding them.

Especially as the rollbacks expand bailable categories of misdemeanor charges, the capacity for these new regressive bail laws to entangle thousands more in the criminal legal system has greatly expanded. AVP stands with other social and racial justice-oriented organizations to call for the Governor and legislature to stop these rollbacks from going into effect before the 90-day period of enactment ends, especially as jails are being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tips for When Staying Home Isn’t The Safest Plan

While being at home is best practice to avoid the spread of this virus, for some it may carry other risks. Many survivors are navigating a difficult reality: staying home to keep themselves and their community safe may keep them isolated with the person(s) causing them harm. This could be a partner, a roommate, or a family member.

If you’re unsafe, try to consider what your options are and remember AVP is here to help with navigating available resources. 

Call AVP’s 24/7 hotline 212-714-1141, other hotlines, or contact service providers from a separate room.

  • Going to the bathroom can provide an added layer of privacy.

  • If you are on the phone and unattended, you can run the shower or faucet to make some noise during the call if you need to and feel comfortable doing so.

  • If you have private access to the internet, you can submit an online report form to us and someone will reach back out to you via email within the first 24-48 hours.

If going outside is accessible, social distancing still permits walks, while maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from other people.

  • Going outside can give you a break from a tense situation,

  • It can also remove you from and/or deescalate an unsafe situation or interaction.

  • Take this time to ground yourself, call a social support, reach out to a hotline, or have a counseling session.

  • You can also use this time to use safety apps such such as Circle of 6 and/or grounding apps such as Calm.

Identify your Pod, your network of people in your building or digital community, for continued support.

  • Create a code word/sentence with people in your support network to indicate that you need an immediate interruption or immediate help.

  • Discuss with your support network what you would like that help to look like if you use the code word/sentence (i.e. deescalation, calling a specific individual, calling 911 etc.)

  • Create scheduled check-ins with people in your support network.

Hide some of your resources in safe places & create a plan:

  • Stash a portion of your medication, money, drugs, or food that you can take with you if you leave, or can access on your own time.

  • Keep your ID on you as much as possible.

  • Create a go-bag of essentials including your medication, money, phone charger, food, drugs, and IDs.

  • Think about the easiest and safest routes for you to get out of your home quickly.

Learn more about safer drug use and harm reduction here.

We understand not all of these tips will work for, or apply to, everyone. Ultimately, AVP believes survivors know what they need, and we trust you to use the strategies and tools that work best for you. Please remember that you don’t have to go it alone, and we are here for you, to listen, to create a personalized safety plan, or for other support at 212-714-1141.

Coronavirus Update: AVP Office Closure

UPDATE 9/21: AVP’s offices will remain closed until at least January 2012.

UPDATE 7/1: AVP’s offices will remain closed until at least through September.

UPDATE 4/21: Under continued guidance from government and medical agencies, AVP’s offices will remain close through the end of May. We are continuing to monitor the situation.

ORIGINAL POST 3/16: 

We hope you are all taking care of yourselves and each other in these times that are stressful for all of us. We are writing to let you know that due to the escalating situation around coronavirus, and in the interest of our collective community’s health and well-being, AVP has decided to close our offices for in-person appointments and walk-ins, beginning Monday 3/16/20 and extending at least through 3/31/20. 

We know this is a difficult time for our communities locally and across the globe, and that many of you may have been personally impacted by the spread of coronavirus, and the violence and bias that often accompanies crises like this. We understand that taking precautions around avoiding getting sick can often create heightened stress and anxieties .

We also know that our communities are strong and resilient, and that we come together to lift each other up during times like these. At AVP, we are committed to remaining a resource for you during this challenging time.

Despite closing our offices for appointments, we are still here for you. As always, our 24/7 English-Spanish hotline (212-714-1141) is up and running—and we will support you with counseling, safety planning, and finding resources, including medical care, and take reports on any violence you experience.

If you are a current client at AVP, you can remain in touch with the staff member with whom you are working (e.g. Advocate, Attorney, Clinician, Paralegal, etc.):

  • If you are in email contact with the staff member, reach out via email.  We can set up phone sessions and provide resources via email, as needed.
  • If you do not have email access, or are not in in email contact with the staff member, please call the office 212-714-1184. Follow instructions to leave a message for the staff member and they will return your call.
  • If you are experiencing an emergency, call the hotline 212-714-1141 and let the person you speak to know which staff member you are trying to reach. They will get the message to that staff member, who will reach out to you with the means you provide for safe contact.

AVP is aware that the current pandemic is resulting in racist bias, disrimination, and violence, particularly against those who are or perceived to be Asian or Asian-American, and that for LGBTQ folks who hold these identities, the bias may be compounded.

If you’re experiencing or witnessing any violence, including in relation to coronavirus, you can report to our hotline (212-714-1141) or online.

No one should experience bias, discrimination, or harassment around any parts of their identity, including their race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, but we know it continues to happen, and may increase in times of crisis like this one.

AVP is still here for you: anyone can reach out to us, even if you have never received services with us before:

  • CALL OUR HOTLINE at 212-714-1141: Our 24/7 English-Spanish hotline is up and running—and we will support you with counseling, safety planning, and finding resources, including medical care, and take reports on any violence you are experiencing.
  • Report bias, discrimination, or other violence you witness or experience online at avp.org/get-help.  You can remain anonymous or give us contact information for a counselor to reach out to you via phone or email to offer additional support.

During uncertain times, it’s important to find our grounding in what we do know and can do:

  • Everyday precautions can help protect you and your loved ones from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.  Don’t touch your face.

  • If you are at higher riskof getting very sick from COVID-19, it is incredibly important that you reduce your risk of being exposed–stay home if you can, and avoid crowds.

  • Keep a 30 to 60-day supply of all necessary medications, particularly those who are living with HIV and/or have autoimmune deficiencies.

For continued updates: 

  • Call Department of Health 24/7 Hotline: 1-888-364-3065.
  • Go to nyc.gov/health/coronavirus and cdc.gov/coronavirus for regularly updated information.

  • Text COVID to 692-692 to receive NYC updates and guidance.

Please take care of yourselves and each other. 

AVP Says No to Rollbacks Against Bail Reform

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) joins NYC Against Hate Coalition and communities facing hate violence and intimate partner violence to demand “No Rollbacks” to the current New York State bail laws. AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ people every year, who as LGBTQ, Black, Latinx, immigrant, working-class, and low-income survivors of violence, were often themselves criminalized and detained because of the discriminatory nature of cash bail and pretrial detention. 

Last year, AVP joined many other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by criminal justice advocates and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. The Senate is now considering a rollback proposal in the state budget which would unfairly jail many more people than under current bail reform laws. As an organization that serves survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and hate violence, AVP supports the existing bail reform laws and opposes proposed rollbacks. 

We’ve seen firsthand the negative impact criminalization, cash bail, and pretrial incarceration have on LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. The proposed rollbacks would continue to harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • The regressive, rollback proposal greatly expands the potential for bias and discrimination to influence pre-trial decisions. The proposal would rely on a deeply discriminatory expanded judicial discretion system, more opportunities for electronic monitoring, and the equivalent of a ‘dangerousness’ clause that allows judges to use defendants’ previous interactions with the criminal legal system to keep them in jail. LGBTQ survivors entangled in the criminal legal system are often discriminated against by judges because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or other identities. Increased judicial discretion likely means increased opportunities discrimination against LGBTQ survivors in the criminal legal system.
  • Pretrial jailing, expanded under the Senate proposal, can be deadly. The proposal is based on the federal system, which jails roughly 75% of people charged, compared with 10% in New York currently.  These rollbacks would return New York State to a system that led to the deaths of Layleen Polanco and Kalief Browder who languished in jail after being charged with minor offenses because they could not afford bail. Layleen died from an epileptic seizure while being held in a solitary confinement cell in Rikers Island. Kalief was held at Rikers for three years, two of those in solitary confinement. After the charges against him were eventually dropped, he returned home, only to later die by suicide.

Opponents of bail reform are using intimate partner violence and hate violence to rail against bail reform, arguing current bail laws jailing less people put survivors in danger. But rollbacks would actually make survivors less safe. In fact, LGBTQ survivors of violence can become entangled in the criminal justice system because of their status as survivors, as:

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal systems, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Especially as there are no “perfect survivors” of violence, working class poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use substances. This is because marginalized survivors have been left out of legal economies and social safety nets, and the state has historically used the criminal legal system and pretrial detention to criminalize instead of aiding them.

AVP asks that the State reject rollbacks on bail reform, and find more ways to invest in measures that will actually help LGBTQ and other survivors of violence live in safety and dignity. This includes increasing the State’s social safety net by investing in housing and services for trans and gender non-conforming people, passing laws like Good Cause Eviction and Home Stability Support, and repealing discriminatory policies like the ”Walking While Trans” loitering law. Investing in communities that experience hate violence and intimate partner violence protects communities, sends a strong message that all New Yorkers are important and valuable members of our society, and will go a long way toward changing the attitudes that lead to violence.

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