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Soffiyah Elijah is the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York. She is the first woman and the first person of color to lead this extraordinary organization in its mission to create a fairer and more humane criminal justice system. Under her leadership, we now celebrate our 170th anniversary. Ms. Elijah has dedicated her life to human rights and social activism, and is a frequent presenter at national and international forums on criminal justice policy and human rights issues. An accomplished advocate, attorney, scholar, and educator, Ms. Elijah has practiced criminal and family law for more than 30 years. Prior to leading the Correctional Association, Ms. Elijah served as Deputy Director and Clinical Instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. Before moving to Harvard, she was a member of the faculty and Director and Supervising Attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. Ms. Elijah has also worked as a Supervising Attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a Staff Attorney at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, and in private practice.
Michelle Lewin is a 2L at CUNY School of Law. Born and raised in Atlanta, Michelle has been active in prison abolition and racial justice work since 2005. Prior to law school, Michelle worked for the Fortune Society in their Alternatives to Incarceration program, and in 2013, she co-founded the Parole Preparation Project of the NLG’s Mass Incarceration Committee. She has been part of the Project’s Coordinating Committee ever since, training volunteers and working alongside incarcerated folks in New York State in their struggle for parole release. She has also organized workshops on facilitation, group process and alternative decision-making skills and is active in her Brooklyn women’s group. Michelle believes strongly in movements for collective liberation that prioritize collaboration, grassroots leadership and love.
Daniel L. Meyers, a 1966 graduate of Brooklyn Law School, recently retired after serving on the Criminal Justice Act panels of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York for 37 years. While in law school, he interned with the President’s Task Force War on Poverty under Sargent Shriver, which lead to the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity’s Legal Services (known by its acronym, “OEO Legal Services.”) Danny was an original member of the Guild’s Mass Defense Committee in 1968, under the leadership of Mary Kaufman.
Awarded a “Reggie” fellowship, Danny began work at South Brooklyn Legal Services in 1968. In his long career, he represented members of the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and other political prisoners. In 2000, he and five other Guild lawyers, Dennis Cunningham, Michael Deutsch, Elizabeth Fink, Joseph Heath and Ellen Yacknin were given the Lawyer of the Year Award by the Trial Lawyers for Justice for their 26-year battle to secure justice for the prisoner victims of Attica. The prisoner’s 1971 uprising against brutality and racism was violently suppressed by Governor Rockefeller who ordered state troopers to retake the prison, killing 29 unarmed prisoners and torturing and brutalizing scores more. The state finally settled in 2000, paying out $12 million for civil rights violations. This was after the Second Circuit nullified their trial victories, including a $4 million jury verdict awarded to Frank BB Smith in 1997.
As Chapter President from 2006 – 2009, Danny facilitated intergenerational participation and leadership.
Michael Steven Smith is a New York City attorney and author. For the last 10 years he has been a co-host with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian of the radio show Law and Disorder which is heard on WBAI and 71 stations across the country. Smith is the author or editor of a number of books including most recently with Michael Ratner “Who Killed Che: How the CIA Got Away With Murder” and with Frances Goldin and Debby Smith “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA”. The Cuban publishing house Ciencias Sociales translated and published his book on Che, which was featured at the 2015 Havana International Book Fair, where it was presented at the University of Havana Lae School by Ricardo Alarcon, the former President of the Cuban National Assembly, who also contributed the introduction. The book is dedicated to his friend Len Weinglass, the main attorney for the Cuban Five, for whose release Smith worked. Smith also wrote “Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer: An Unrepentant Memoir” and a book about Guild lawyers called “Lawyers You’ll Like”.
He has been a member of the National Lawyers Guild since the 60s when he started a movement law firm in Detroit. Before going into private practice in New York City representing seriously injured persons he worked at Harlem Legal Services, Queens Legal Services, and directed Seafarers Legal Services.
Smith was educated at the University of Wisconsin. He lives in New York City with his wife Debby and talking parrot Charlie Parker.