Pride Law Fund is proud to announce that it has selected Jessie Workman as the 2017-2018 recipient of the Tom Steel Fellowship. Jessie is sponsored by Youth Represent in New York. If you're interested in meeting her in person, she'll be at our Annual Cruise.
Jessie Workman started at Youth Represent as a legal intern, and Kyle Jewell fellow, in the summer of 2015 and joined the organization as a Staff Attorney in 2016. The Tom Steel Fellowship will support Jessie in the Pathways Project which will address the disproportionate criminalization of LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth in New York City by providing criminal representation and re-entry legal services, engaging in policy advocacy, and conducting youth-led research about their understudied re-entry needs. Pathways will employ several strategies to increase access to legal services for LGBT/GNC youth, including LGBT/GNC-specific "know your rights" education, one-on-one legal needs assessments, and legal counsel on reentry matters, such as being denied a job because of a criminal history or being evicted because of an arrest.
Though Pathways Jessie will represent youth on a variety of criminal and re-entry matters, there are two areas of unique need that the Pathways Project will address. First, Pathways will focus on reducing the collateral consequences related to sex work by sealing prostitution-related offenses through the use of CPL 440.10 motions, an under utilized provision of the criminal procedure law, and one of the very limited ways a criminal conviction can be sealed in New York. Second, while increasing legal services exist for LGBTQ people who are survivors of violence, few resources exist for LGBTQ youth who are incorrectly targeted as aggressors in situations involving family and intimate partner violence.
Jessie recently picked up a case representing a 16-year-old LGBTQ identified gender nonconforming high school student charged with the misdemeanor of "forcible touching" stemming from a situation in which she was being bullied by a group of young men as she was leaving science class. The group accused her of touching a female student which lead to this misdemeanor charge. The charge of forcible touching carries extreme stigma and is an offense that requires registration as a sexual offender in New York State. Though New York has recently passed Raise the Age legislation, the changes will not be enacted in full for several years, and in the meantime 16-year-olds are still charged in adult criminal court. This youth has no prior involvement with the criminal justice system, and has been experiencing homophobic bullying for years.