Meet our 2017-18 Beyond the Bars Fellows
Our current Fellows come from many schools across Columbia (Social Work, Teachers College, Columbia Law School, and Columbia College), other colleges (Union Theological Seminary and New York University) and a variety of different community and government organizations (the Fortune Society, the Ford Foundation, the Safe Passage Project, the Sex Law and Policy Center, the Mayors Office of Criminal Justice, and Vocal New York). We are honored to be working with such a powerful group of people and look forward to seeing the work of the Fellowship continue to grow.
Delia Addo-Yobo (she/her) is currently a student at Columbia Law School. Before law school, Delia graduated with Honors from Stanford University where she majored in African & African- American Studies and minored in History. Dedicated to service and social justice work that prioritizes vulnerable communities, Delia has been involved with various organizations that champion the rights of marginalized peoples, such as the First-Generation and/or Low-Income Partnership (FLIP)—a group dedicated to advocating on behalf of the first-generation, low-income students. During her summers, Delia has worked as an intern for the US Bankruptcy Court, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Clark County Public Defender’s Office. She is also a staff editor for the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, a guide dedicated to helping pro se prisoners understand and assert their rights. Her work primarily focuses on racial and gender justice within the criminal legal system. Delia hopes to have a career as a public defender after graduating from law school.
Marilyn E. Alvarado is the daughter of a Salvadoran mother and a Honduran father. She is a first generation college graduate from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has earned a degree in Forensic Psychology and an honors minor in Latin American studies and Human Services. During her time in college, she became a recipient of the Pinkerton Fellowship and worked with court-involved youth throughout New York City. In her senior year, she was selected for the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program that allowed her to take courses alongside incarcerated students providing her with an insight on the U.S. criminal justice system and education. Her work with Safe Passage Project began as a U-LAMPER (Unaccompanied Latin American Minors Project), which led to her current position as a paralegal. In December 2016, she traveled 80 miles southwest of San Antonio to the small town of Dilley, Texas, to volunteer at the South Texas Residential Facility; a detention center that houses immigrant mothers and children. There she and other colleagues provided legal assistance and bore witness to the stories of Central American women and children who were victims of intimate partner violence, child abuse, extreme poverty, and state neglect, in their home countries. In May 2017, she was accepted as a Humanity in Action Fellow and spent time in Poland and Germany to develop her understanding of human rights outside of the United States. Her experiences while working with both the immigration and justice system have inspired her to pursue law school.
Zudaydah Rivera was raised in Newark, NJ. Currently, her place to call home is New York, New York. She was raised by her Puerto Rican grandparents who spoke no English, and had no education. Regardless of this fact, she was first generation graduate in her family. In 2003, she received her AA in Liberal Arts from Hudson County Community College, 2006 BA in Criminal Justice at Kean University, and in 2013 an MBA at Keller Graduate School of Management. In 2014, she joined the sisterhood of the first Latin sorority, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.” Because they believe in social justice and equality. Their focus is on raising awareness, and bringing reform and accessible opportunities for everyone. Even though she has accomplished all of this, nothing compares to the pride she has for her children Marquis and Lord. Zudaydah is a member of JustLeadership USA (JLUSA) and their campaign is to close Rikers Island by 2030. She is also a 2017-2018 Fellow with The Beyond the Bars Fellowship at Columbia University Center for Social Justice to work towards ending mass incarceration and creating a safer and just environment. She felt it would be a great opportunity to learn more on how to understand social changes while collaborating with activists and social justice organizers. To transcend punishment programs is very important to Zudaydah. She and her children are directly affected by mass incarceration. Her father has been in prison since she was a child. She remembers visiting her father, going through metal detectors and being intimidated by officers with bullet proof vest and shot guns. Her father was her pen pal and that was how they developed their relationship. Wrong. This was all wrong. Unfortunately, her children are facing the same dilemma. Zudaydah wants better societies for her children and everyone else’s. She feels the only way is to start somewhere, anywhere, at any time.
Jonathan Domenic Bonaiuto is the Senior Director of Evaluation and Quality Improvement at The Fortune Society where he is responsible for performance management of the agency’s portfolio of programs. He also works with outside partners to leverage Fortune’s data and experience to produce meaningful research to assist in advocacy and program design. In a former life, Jonathan spent 10 years in the corporate sector working in finance and as a strategy consultant before experiencing his own criminal justice involvement. This was a transformative experience for him. Since his release, he has worked to improve the lives of those formerly incarcerated, while trying to change the hearts and minds of the general public to help facilitate acceptance and reintegration of those with criminal justice involvement. Jonathan’s first experience working with those with criminal justice involvement was during his time atColumbia Business School assisting formerly incarcerated individuals with resume writing and interview training, and he is very excited to be back at Columbia University at the Center for Justice as a 2017 / 2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow. He is also very happy to be back in NYC and finally be able to eat well again.
David Booth is a social justice advocate and activist dedicated in the movements for prison abolition and sex offense policy reform. He is the Executive Director and founder of the Sex Law and Policy (SLAP) Center, a nonprofit working to educate about and advocate for sex offense policy reform. Recognizing that registries are ineffective policy tools, SLAP Center works to break down stigmas and change the narrative around people convicted for sex crimes- especially those surrounding queer and trans registrants. He also volunteers his time serving on the Leadership Circle for Black and Pink, which supports and uplifts the voices of currently and formerly incarcerated queer and transpeople, and for the National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group advocating for policy reform. David believes no one is disposable and strives to uproot all forms of oppression so that queer and transfolk can live safe, full, and beautiful lives free from the grasp of the prison industrial complex. In his free time, he enjoys wine, laughter, trivia nights, camping and hiking.
Sarah Cassel is a Program Associate at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, where she focuses on diversion and reentry initiatives, including Alternative to Incarceration and Detention programs and expanding opportunities for higher education and pathways to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. These activities are in service of the Mayor’s ultimate goal of closing the Rikers Island jail complex. Sarah is committed to helping change the criminal justice system through human-centered, evidence-based policy. Sarah’s work in the criminal justice field began during her undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University, when she volunteered as a writing tutor for incarcerated students in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education. Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, UK, where she wrote her dissertation on the Learning Together prison education program at HMP Pentonville in London. Sarah is honored to be a 2017-2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow.
CHIPAMONG Chowdhury is a 2015/2016 Beyond the Bars fellow at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. He is an independent researcher, writer, interpreter, and teacher of Buddhist studies and Asian humanities. He comes from an ethnic minority in Chittagong Hill Tracts/Bangladesh known as the Marma. Bringing praxis-based experience to the field of Religious studies and with a specific focus on Buddhist studies, his main academic research interests are Theravada Buddhism, Buddhist ethno-nationalism, Buddhism and politics, Buddhism and Cinema and monastic migration. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Journal of Contemporary Buddhism, Buddhist Studies Reviews, Studies in Religion, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Journal of Religion and Culture, and Fair Observer, among other publications. He was visiting scholar and taught courses on Buddhism, Gender and Sexuality, Contemporary Buddhism, and Modernity in Buddhist Asia at Tallinn University and University of Tartu Estonia. As a Buddhist monk in Theravada tradition, he teaches Relational Mindfulness and Vipassana/ Insight Meditation at the Chautauqua Institute NY and Mindfulness to kids at local Burmese monastery in Buffalo NY. Besides dharma/academic teacher and researcher, he also a socially engaged monastic activist advocating and working for social justice and human dignity. He holds two Master degrees in Religious/Buddhist Studies and South Asian Studies/Anthropology from Naropa University USA and University of Toronto Canada. Defining himself as a digital/global citizen he travels extensively in North America, Europe and Asia teaching “Relational Mindfulness” “Active Love,” and “Social Meditation.” Currently, he is working on two projects (with Michael Britton) editing a book Human Dignity: Discourses, Practices and Transformation and a paper on Buddhism, Prison and Punishment. Defining himself as a digital/global citizen he travels extensively in North America, Europe and Asia teaching “active love,” and “social meditation.”
Albert Fermin is a social justice advocate, concentrated on mass incarceration, and is currently working at Ford Foundation—Business Associate, Informational Technology. He is a first-generation Dominican, born and raised in Upper Manhattan, NY. Albert is a Bard College Alumni, Bard Prison Initiative. As a student at Bard, Albert studied computer science and earned his Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. He was part of the first dance company in an all-male correctional facility, Figures-in- Flight 5, and a member of the long-standing arts program, Rehabilitation Through the Art—RTA. Albert has performed, directed, and stage-managed such as, Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, classical, and original plays. Albert is a fellow of the 2017/2018 Beyond the Bars at the Center for Justice at Columbia University.
Sarah Hamza is a second-year graduate student at Columbia School of Social Work with a focus in contemporary social issues. She currently interns at Federal Defenders of New York in the Southern District, providing mitigation and social work support, and is one of the Criminal Justice Caucus leaders at CSSW. The child of immigrants and a proud Muslimah, she is committed to fighting against mass criminalization and racial oppression. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 2012 with a BA in Ethnic Studies and Social Welfare and spent most of her undergraduate career organizing against policies like Secure Communities, assisting on legal cases, and doing direct-service work with immigrants and refugees at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. Before beginning grad school, she served as an antitrust paralegal and volunteered at The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, experiences that deepened her understanding of the (in)justice system and tools needed to challenge it. Sarah is excited to be a 2017-2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow.
Robert Jackson is completing his master’s degree in Data Science in Learning Analytics at Columbia University Teachers College. Having seen the impact of a supportive community and loving family first hand, Robert’s mission is to unlock the capacity of other in his community. He sees his life’s work focusing on issues of education equity and correctional justice. He is a recipient of the Education Pioneers Fellowship, which helps promising professionals launch careers as leaders in education. Through this fellowship, Robert served as a Data Science Consultant for the NYC Department of Education this past summer. Robert is currently a Beyond the Bars Fellow at the Columbia University Center for Justice. The Beyond the Bars Fellowship offers students and community members an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of mass incarceration and social change; and to collaborate with social justice organizers, activists, and academics to plan the annual Beyond the Bars Conference. Robert’s academic work aims to bridge the intersection between social justice advocacy, data analysis, and community capacity building. Before returning to school for his Master’s degree, Robert was part of a research team at CEB who partnered with the Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. During this 12-month pro bono project Robert led a team who designed a non-profit Best Practice guide and engineered actionable insights through a combination of executive interviews & research. Robert is a proud Gates Millennium Scholar, Georgetown Hoya, amateur chef and lover of all things Philadelphia Eagles related. When he finds a free moment he’s either cooking for those he loves or working on his podcast.
Michelle Jones is a first-year doctoral student in the American Studies program New York University. She is a Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for American Studies at Harvard University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Ball State University. Following graduation, Michelle completed a four-year seminar ministerial diploma from the University of the South. Her interest in history, women, race, and prisons led her for the last four years to participate with a group of incarcerated scholars in challenging the narratives of the history of women’s prison. Incarcerated for twenty years, Michelle made the most of the academic platform given to publish and present her research findings and dispel notions of about the reach and intellectual capacity of justice-involved women. Michelle’s advocacy extends beyond the classroom. She is currently on the board of Constructing Our Future, a reentry alterative for women, created by incarcerated women in Indiana, wherein they are given access to rehabilitative programming, carpentry job skills and the means to earn their own home. Michelle is also the Entrepreneurship Development Director for The Ladies of Hope Ministries. In addition, she has presented legislative testimony on a reentry alterative she created for long-term incarcerated people that was approved by the Indiana State Interim Committee on the Criminal Code. Michelle is also an artist and is interested in finding ways to funnel her research pursuits into theater and dance, including writing an original play, “The Duchess of Stringtown,” produced in fall 2017 in Indianapolis and New York (selected scenes).
Rogelio Headley is a social justice advocate and reformer with nearly two decades of experience working in criminal justice. Rogelio has broad range of professional experience. His current work with Vocal NY includes outreach, community engagement and legislative advocacy. Rogelio also does work with New York Communities for change, including working on issues including housing, and direct action. Rogelio has a track record of working with directly impacted people to create change. Rogelio worked as group facilitator on a program called PACE (Prisoners for Aids Counseling and Education) as well as the ART (Aggression Replacement Training) at Fishkill and Sing Sing Correctional Facilities in upstate New York. Rogelio is a proud 2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow.
Jasmeen Nijjar is a graduate student working on her MSW at Columbia University School of Social Work (CSSW class of 2018). Motivated by her own personal experiences, Jasmeen has developed a strong passion for advocacy and social justice work. She currently interns as a program coordinator for the Rikers Education Program at the Center for Justice at Columbia University and as a case management intern at Common Justice. Jasmeen also does legal observing with the NYC chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild. She previously interned at the Legal Aid Society and the Vera Institute of Justice. At Columbia University, Jasmeen is a student leader for the Southern Poverty Law Center chapter at CSSW as well as a member of the Directly Impacted Group (DIG). She has previously been an advocate at New York Presbyterian for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and facilitated workshops at RMSC on Rikers Island. Prior to Columbia University and living in NYC, Jasmeen lived in California where she attended San Jose State University and received her undergraduate degree in child and adolescent development with a minor in human rights. There she also conducted research with children and advocated for undocumented members of her community through DACA and DAPA assistance and workshops that her human rights cohort hosted. She also worked with youth, including those who were justice impacted, before she moved to NYC. Jasmeen looks forward to graduating this coming May and continuing her work after graduation in NYC.
Ty Parks is a junior at Columbia University who is double majoring in history and political science. His areas of interest within these fields are focused on race, poverty, and inequality. Ty is currently interning with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School in their Justice Program. As an intern, Ty supports the institution by researching, analyzing, and writing about various issues connected to mass incarceration. Ty is currently working on an article that will outline the issues and reforms for juveniles in the American justice system. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Ty has interned with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Hillary for America, and Councilwoman Helen Gym in the City Council of Philadelphia. In addition to this work, Ty regularly tutors math and english with Harlem Lacrosse at P.S. 76 A. Philip Randolph School. After completion of his undergraduate degree, Ty Parks is looking forward to attending law school in order to study the intersection of law and policy. As a Philadelphia native, Ty plans on returning to his hometown to positively change the institutions that oppress his local Philadelphia community.
David Patino is a first-year graduate student at Union Theological Seminary focusing on Latino and LGBT Ministries. Prior to attending Union Theological Seminary, David graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Comparative Government and went on to work as a sales account manager at Google Inc., a database and communications associate at Transgender Law Center, a substitute teacher in rural California, and a youth counselor at Marimed Foundation Kailana Program, a residential program for high-risk Hawai`i adolescents. David hails from Medellin, Colombia from where they immigrated to Massachusetts at the age of nine. From an early age, David considered himself a serious and unrelenting feminist with a passion for advancing racial, economic and gender justice through personal and communal healing and spirituality. He is especially interested in issues facing low-income people of color and LGBT communities such as immigration, prisoners’ rights, and access to education, shelter, health care, and healthy, affordable food. Through his work in ministry and theology, David hopes to engage faith communities and religious leaders in these social justice issues through advocacy, community building, and political engagement. David is honored to be a 2017-2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow.
Mikayla Petchell is a 4th year BA candidate at Columbia University studying 20th & 21st Century American History. A native of rural Missouri, Mikayla hopes to pursue social justice work in the Midwest following her graduation in May. She is particularly concerned with criminal justice reform, anti-poverty efforts, mental health advocacy, and food sovereignty. She has been involved in community organizing for three years, working primarily with Columbia Divest for Climate Justice on a reinvestment campaign which aims to move funds from Columbia University’s endowment to local communities directly impacted by Columbia’s expansion. She also interned briefly with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), a broad base social justice organization based out of St. Louis, Missouri. While there she worked on the Pay Up Peabody Campaign and designed a suite of oral histories documenting the lives and organizing experiences of three community members, with a particular emphasis on their experiences during the Ferguson Uprising of 2014. She is currently working on her senior thesis concerning the criminalization of mental illness in New York City’s homeless population.
Leonard Rollock is a 2018 Beyond the Bars fellow at Columbia University’s center for Justice. Leonard is a multi-disciplined, professional with over 20 years of cross-functional legal, case management and natural health experience within educational and prison settings. In addition to his broad professional experience, Leonard uses his leadership skills to advocate for policy changes and justice system reforms, especially for returning citizens. He also facilitates efficient group meetings on substance abuse, motivational aspects and natural life science, financial educational literacy with adults and youth at risk.
Melissa Springs-Mozumder is a social justice advocate for formerly incarcerated women in New York City. She holds a Master Degree in Public Administration. She is an accounting manager for the Quaker Organization serving them over a decade. Melissa received her training at Columbia University working in the Accounts Payable Department. Rest assure every coin and dollar is accounted for on her watch. Melissa started RWT Consultant LLC bookkeeping services earlier this year. She sits on the Junior Board of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA), and mentor women returning home from serving a sentence. Melissa is currently a board member at Houses on The Moon Theater Co, helping communities come together and share their untold stories. Melissa received a Community Service Award in 2014, from the New York Missionary Baptist Association along with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, from Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and Certificate of Congratulations from President of the Borough of Brooklyn, Eric L. Adams. Different women organization request Melissa as a guest speaker for many events. She tries to accommodate them all. Melissa is waiting for a release date to drop her book that has been in the making for over twenty years. Melissa is excited to be a 2017/2018 Beyond the Bars Fellow at the Center for Justice at Columbia University.
Durrell Malik Washington Sr. is a second-year advanced standing student at Columbia University School of Social Work. At Columbia, Durrell Interns in the Safe Lab which is a research initiative focused on examining the ways in which youth of color navigate violence on and offline. Under the supervision of Dr. Desmond Patton, Durrell supports ongoing qualitative research using social media and other forms of technology to: predict community violence in urban settings, as well as understand the context behind online language use as it pertains to words and emoji’s; help outside organizations learn to understand the context behind the way young people communicate on and offline; and develop linguistic algorithms to help artificial intelligent technology understand the way urban youth deal with anger and grief. Durrell plans to enroll in a PhD program in the fall of 2019 to study the extent to which family reunification can limit recidivism rates among black men. Durrell is working on publishing an article he wrote entitled: The “Privilege” of Being Black at an Ivy League Institution, and is beginning to write a non-fiction book entitled “Sentenced to Life at Birth.”
Halimah Washington is a Social and Criminal Justice Reform Activist and Advocate from New Yorj City. Halimah was directly impacted by the Criminal Justice System. She served 4 years in the Juvenile Justice System in places such as Spofford and various other Division for Youth secure and non-secure detention centers. Halimah was released on her 18th birthday. Since her release Halimah has made it her mission to be a Social Change Agent. Over the last 15 years she has worked in the Human Service field in many different roles. Some of the roles included Substance Abuse Counselor, Group Facilitator, Intensive Case Manager and Medical Case Manager. In the last 5 years. Halimah has been Action Oriented and made several trips to Albany for Advocacy Day as an Advocate fighting for HIV/AIDS, Housing, and Criminal Justice Reform related issues. Halimah most recently completed Justleaderships Breakthrough Action Leadership Training for Emerging Leaders and continues her Advocacy and Activist efforts with the CloseRikers campaign. Halimah has an Associate’s Degree in Chemical Dependency from Columbus State Community College and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science Health Service Administration at Mercy College. Halimah is a mom of 4 and currently lives in the Bronx.
Stephanie Zhang is a Probation Officer living and working in New York City. She graduated from Pace University with a Bachelors in Political Science. While in college, Stephanie interned for a Civil Court Judge and was intrigued by civil law issues such as housing and mental health guardianships. After visiting Manhattan Psychiatric Center and Kirby Forensic Institution, Stephanie knew that her heart belonged to social service work. Being a first-generation Chinese American woman, Stephanie believes in advocating for others that may need a voice within society. She strongly believes that her role is to promote social justice for all marginalized populations and groups. While working with formerly incarcerated individuals, she believes that many individuals were not given a proper first chance at life. As a Probation Officer, Stephanie’s primary job is an employment and education specialist, providing proper resources and opportunities for individuals looking to create a career or to go back to school. Her other projects include working with District Court Judges in creating a system within the Bureau of Prisons and halfway houses where individuals coming home can obtain their identifications before starting their supervision sentence. Stephanie is also a leader of the Criminal Justice Caucus at Columbia School of Social Work. Stephanie believes that there is good in everyone and that all people should deserve the best chance at life.