At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring a Kasowitz team for its dedicated advocacy in successfully securing parole for “Amanda,” an incarcerated survivor of gender-based violence. This representation included both parole preparation, as well as preparation for a parole rescission hearing, and ultimately was a major factor in the client’s release. We are thrilled to highlight the work of Kasowitz’s Nefertiti J. Alexander, Partner; Teresa Matushaj, Counsel; Binta A. Watkins, Staff attorney; Christina Lewis, Associate; and Katrina Bader, Law Clerk.
When the Kasowitz team first met their client, Amanda, she was incarcerated for identity theft and larceny. She had served a third of her sentence and would be up for parole in four months. In New York State, incarcerated individuals are not entitled to legal representation in their parole hearings. The onus falls entirely upon them to convey their remorse and rehabilitation, while simultaneously discussing a highly traumatic incident in their lives and responding to difficult questions from the Parole Board.
The Kasowitz team diligently set about preparing Amanda for her hearing through mock interviews and, equally importantly, bolstering Amanda’s self-confidence and sense of preparedness. At the same time, they put together a compelling parole packet that included statements from Amanda and her friends and family, records of her highly successful performance in various programs while incarcerated, and discussions of the support she would receive and the plans she had for her life post-release.
Like all of Sanctuary’s clients, Amanda is a survivor of gender-based violence and compound trauma. She has suffered a lifetime of abuse, beginning with sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend when she was only a child, and continuing through abusive relationships as an adult. The value of having a truly trauma-informed, compassionate, and communicative team in such a matter cannot be overstated, and the team’s relationship with Amanda grew stronger and stronger as they worked together. It was a celebration for all when Amanda was granted parole. Director of Sanctuary’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative Ross Kramer reflects, “At the time [the team] started working with her, Amanda was struggling with the conditions of her confinement, and was receiving little support. The team immediately stepped in, formed a strong bond with Amanda, and assisted her in every possible sense. They helped her prepare for her parole hearing, and they also made a tremendous difference in her life and self-confidence, through their trauma-informed, compassionate, and skillful work.”
However, after parole was granted but before her release, Amanda received—unfairly, we believe—a disciplinary ticket from a correctional officer that put her at risk of potential revocation of her parole. The team jumped in again to prepare their client and represent her in her rescission hearing, and their zealous advocacy helped Amanda to secure her release the following month.
“The Kasowitz team formed a strong bond with Amanda that allowed her to begin addressing and processing her trauma. Their compassion and patience not only helped Amanda secure her release from prison, it also allowed her to tap into her own strength and emerge as someone who was more confident, self-assured, and ready to begin a new chapter in her life. The Kasowitz team was a true friend and advocate for Amanda, and they went “above and beyond” in support of their client.”
Director of SFF’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative
Sanctuary is thrilled to honor Nefertiti, Teresa, Binta, Christina, and Katrina for their tremendous legal abilities and dedication to their client.
Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Kasowitz’s outstanding pro bono work.
If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.
Romy Felsen-Parsons is Pro Bono Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families.