The RAPP collective works to dismantle the racist punishment system
Jose Hamza Saldana
Jose was released from state prison in January 2018, after 38 years of incarceration and four parole denials. During his decades in prison, he obtained a college degree. More importantly, he committed himself to organizing and advocating for racial justice and meaningful changes to the criminal legal system, including transformative changes to parole and sentencing. He is an alumnus of the Resurrection Study Group, which espouses the Non-Traditional Approach to Criminal and Social Justice.
Since his release from prison, Jose has been a critical advocate pushing for key policy changes for incarcerated people and building strategic partnerships to end mass criminalization. He was chosen as RAPP’s director by Mujahid Farid and the entire RAPP leadership collective just before Farid’s passing in late 2018.
As an advocate, Jose is a prominent national speaker on issues of mass incarceration and ending life sentences. He is the recipient of the 2019 Freedom Fighter Award issued by Citizens Against Recidivism.
He mentored hundreds of men during his years inside and continues to inspire all of us with his energy, commitment, and leadership.
RAPP Associate Director Dave George helps to lead RAPP’s community organizing, advocacy, and communications work. Dave has been doing prison abolition work in New York State for more than five years. He has a Bachelors in Social Work and Spanish and a Masters in Social Work and Public Policy. He lives in New York City.
Co-Director of Policy & Communications and Capital Region Organizer
TeAna advocates for children of incarcerated parents, informed by their father’s nearly two decades of incarceration and working with We Got Us Now and the HALT Solitary Campaign. They have been engaging their community in restorative justice work for the past five years. They created and maintained a peer mediation program at a local middle school, leading mediations between youth, parents, and teachers; facilitating circles that ranged from community building within classrooms to repairing harm between community members; providing conflict coaching sessions for students; and training students in peer mediation and conflict resolution. TeAna has also facilitated circles to address issues faced by students and faculty of color at their alma mater, SUNY Schenectady, that led to policy change for a more inclusive and diverse campus.
Co-Director of Policy & Communications
Jared has worked to change state and local laws, policies, and practices for 14 years. He previously worked on the policy team at Brooklyn Defender Services, where he mobilized public defenders (criminal defense, immigration defense, family defense, and eviction defense) in the city and from across the state to support campaigns led by directly impacted people, including: bail reform, discovery reform, the #HALTsolitary Campaign, securing free phone calls in NYC jails, ending Broken Windows policing, and more. He was a volunteer member of RAPP before joining the staff.
Jose Di Lenola
Clemency Campaign Director
Jose DiLenola was incarcerated at the age of 16 and served 26 years. While incarcerated he worked as a rehabilitation peer educator in relapse prevention, anger management, mental health, and mentored at-risk youth diversionary programs. Jose co-founded and served as President of the Lifer’s Organization and consulted several organizations. As the RAPP Clemency Campaign Director he is dedicated to seeing clemencies granted frequently, inclusively, and transparently in New York State.
Christina’s background in non-profit development began in the domestic violence and human trafficking field. Prior to her role at RAPP, she worked and consulted in arts based organizations in NYC and spent some time with the National Urban League, where she supported the fundraising and management of the National Communities of Color COVID-19 Needs Assessment to advance equity in a post-pandemic world. She is the former President of CUNY Hunter’s Graduate Student Association and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & Communications and Rhetoric from the State University of NY at Albany.
Westchester/Hudson Valley Community Organizer
Noel is a Yonkers native and current resident, with a deep sense of pride and love for her community. Upon graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she earned a BA in Political Science and Sociology, Noel served as a staffer in the NYS Legislature for 3.5 years. Throughout her time in government, Noel connected deeply with various advocates from across the state which helped redefine the lens of her work. Her commitment to human rights and care for her community members drives her to work towards and imagine a more restorative world.
Long island regional Community Organizer
Elmer helps with advancing RAPP’s collective mission by organizing impacted communities across Long Island to advocate for fair and timely parole and release of our elders. Elmer is a Brentwood resident who has been involved in progressive grassroots organizing work on Long Island since graduating from Stony Brook University with his Bachelor’s in 2018.
Stanley “Jamel” Bellamy
NYC regional Community Organizer
Jamel, age 61, was released from a New York State prison in April 2023, after serving 37.5 years of a 62.5 years to life sentence, by way of clemency from New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul. During his incarceration, he led social awareness groups and developed and implemented therapeutic programs that helped individuals understand the harm, pain, and suffering their crimes caused the victim’s family, their family, and the community. For the past thirty years, he has been an active participant in the struggle to end death by incarceration sentences, drafting resentencing bills and working on criminal and social justice issues that impact communities of color and marginalized communities. He has an Associates in Liberal Arts and a Bachelor’s in Social Science. He is also a published author and curriculum developer.
buffalo Community Organizer
Donna is a longtime resident of Buffalo, NY who began advocating for the rights of incarcerated people in Western New York with Prisoners are People Too. It was there that she first connected with RAPP, eventually becoming a RAPP member in 2017. Donna is a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She has a daughter serving a 15 year to life sentence in New York State. She decided to become RAPP’s Western NY Regional Organizer when one of her daughter’s mentors, Valerie Gaiter, died in prison after 40 years of confinement. Donna works to ensure that no more Vals die behind bars.
Melissa is a Communications Consultant for RAPP, a graduate of Columbia School of Social Work, and the Policy and Communications Manager for the Center for Justice at Columbia. She has worked for over seven years in the Communications and Policy field and supports RAPP in social media advocacy, website and graphic design, and newsletter communications. Melissa experienced parental incarceration for 22 years before her dad passed away in prison. She joined RAPP to support families and advocate for older people to be reunited with their communities, rather than be sentenced to die in prison.
Brooklyn Community Leader
Roz is the Beyond Incarceration Program Manager for V-Day, a nonprofit organization that vows to end violence against women, girls, and the planet. She is using her personal experience from long-term incarceration as a vehicle for her work as a criminal justice activist/advocate. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Mercy college while incarcerated. She created a curriculum for parenting from a distance with other incarcerated mothers. She has written blogs on her lived experiences and has been featured in a documentary film titled “What I Want My Words To Do To You” from a writing workshop at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Since her release after serving 39 years, she has devoted her time between her daughter and her activist/advocacy work
Bronx Community Leader
Jeannie Colón is a Bronx native who worked for a prestigious financial firm, both nationally and internationally, for over 20 years. As Group Operations Manager, she managed the groups budget, established new client relations, facilitated team outings and oversaw all philanthropic events as team leader. It was only natural she became a member when her husband introduced her to RAPP. Today, she is a Bronx Community Leader committed to ending perpetual punishment, advocating for fair and timely parole and the release of elders; she does it for her husband, José, and everyone deserving grace, compassion and redemption.
Nawanna Snipe Tucker
NYC Community Leader
Nawanna is a native New Yorker, a published author, and a graduate of University of Phoenix, New York Theological Seminary, and Raising Our Voices Kin. She has worked with various organizations in the criminal justice area, utilizing her skills and knowledge in the forgotten communities. Nawanna is a community leader with RAPP.
NYC Community Leader
Theresa is a Community Leader with RAPP. Theresa’s husband, who is sixty-seven, is serving a forty-year prison sentence in a New York State prison. At RAPP, Theresa works to advance the Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole Bills through community outreach, door-knocking, local rallies, and more. Theresa lives in Harlem, NYC.
Long Island Community Leader
Caroline Hansen is a dedicated wife, mother, and advocate for those incarcerated. Her husband, Kristian, is currently serving a Life Without Parole Sentence, and she fights to give a voice to him and the countless others whose voice has been silenced. When she isn’t talking passionately with local lawmakers, she is currently studying at Suffolk County Community College looking to complete a degree in Social Work. In her downtime, Caroline enjoys spending time with her two daughters and the family dogs in the great outdoors.
Rochester Community Leader
Tracie Adams is RAPP’s Rochester Community Leader. She was born in the Astoria Projects in Queens, NYC, and relocated to Rochester in 2020. She’s been living with HIV for 22 years—undetectable!—and served three years in New York State prisons for women at Bedford Hills and Albion. Today she is a community activist and leader, speaking for those who are silent and standing for those who are weak.
Bronx Community Leader
Lisette joined the RAPP community in 2020 to get involved with the campaign for the Elder Parole Bill as a ray of light to bring her brother home. He has been in prison for 40 years since the age of 16 and is not eligible for parole until 2031. Lisette is a proud lifelong Bronx resident who has dedicated herself to a career in youth development, education, and community organizing for thirty years. She also works for Community Connections for Youth, an organization which focuses on developing community-based alternatives to incarceration. She has a deep commitment to social justice and is grateful that her personal and professional lives intersect in the most meaningful ways. Lisette graduated from Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s Degree and earned her Master’s Degree in Education at Harvard University.
Westchester Community Leader
Greg was released from prison on 9/16/21 after 40 years of incarceration for a wrongful conviction. Greg became a certified paralegal and respected jailhouse lawyer who has helped numerous men obtain their freedom or sentence reduction. He has taught domestic violence, communications, fatherhood, and much more. Upon his release he has been a champion for racial and social justice, clemency, freeing our elders, and parole reform.
LONG ISLAND Community Leader
A Long Island native, Daryl is sensitive to the systemic oppression that separate and unequal communities perpetuate. During his long sojourn, he reached out to his peers to obtain their high school diplomas and facilitated multiple rehabilitation programs. As a RAPP community leader, Daryl is committed to using his voice and experiences to advocate for voices behind bars.
Robert was recently released from state prison via executive clemency after serving nearly three decades behind bars. During his incarceration, he completed two college degrees, participated in numerous rehabilitative programs, and created an educational fund for children of incarcerated persons. While behind bars he also collaborated with RAPP to advocate for parole justice. Since his release, he has continued to advocate to bring home the people he left behind. He also dedicates his time to eliminating food insecurity within our communities, building transitional housing for newly released incarcerated men and women, and is a member of the Executive Clemency Advisory Council.
RAPP was founded in 2013 by three formerly incarcerated elders: the late Mujahid Farid, who died November 20, 2018; the late Kathy Boudin, who died May 1, 2022; Laura Whitehorn; and advocate and civil rights attorney, Soffiyah Elijah.
Farid served 33 years in New York prisons. He was denied parole nine times, based solely on the nature of his original offense; as a result, his 15-years-to-life sentence turned into 33 years of incarceration. During his incarceration he earned degrees from Syracuse University, SUNY/New Paltz, and New York Theological Seminary. In 1986 he helped create the first HIV/AIDS peer education program in NY prisons—a program now taught in every NYS prison—and a college certificate program sponsored by New York Theological Seminary. He was a brilliant jailhouse lawyer.
Farid knew that his repeated parole denials reflected the reality of many long-term incarcerated people—working to change their lives while aging in prison, yet unable to be seen and evaluated for the people they had become and how they had transformed their lives, rather than for who they were at the time of their arrest. Drawing on this awareness and a political and moral commitment to uplift the people he’d left behind, soon after his 2011 release he joined with Kathy and Laura to create the country’s first organizing campaign dedicated to releasing older incarcerated people. He was awarded a 2013 Soros Justice Fellowship to launch RAPP.
Widely loved and respected, Farid spent his last days and hours at home, surrounded by his family and his RAPP and Parole Preparation Project family. His death was marked by an obituary in the New York Times.
Following the late Kathy Boudin’s release from New York State prison in 2003, she earned a PhD in social work and founded the Coming Home Program at the Spencer Cox Center for Health, Mt. Sinai/St.Luke’s, which provides health care for people returning from incarceration. In addition to her work with RAPP she was the Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia University and the author of many articles and research papers on the causes and consequences of incarceration, especially as these affect women and children. When Kathy died on May 1, 2022, all of our movements suffered a terrible loss. She remains in our hearts and minds.
Coming from a long career as an attorney defending political prisoners and other incarcerated people, Soffiyah Elijah was, at the time of RAPP’s founding, the director of the Correctional Association of NY—the first woman, and the first Black person, to head that organization. She later founded the Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ), where she is Executive Director. AFJ supports, empowers, and mobilizes families with incarcerated loved ones and justice-involved individuals so that they can marshal their collective power and catalyze system change.
After Laura Whitehorn’s release from prison in 1999 she worked as senior editor at POZ Magazine and as editor in chief of Turn It Up! Staying Strong Inside, a magazine by and for incarcerated people. She helped organize “Self-Determination Inside/Our” at Interference Archive in 2015, edited the writings of the late Black Panther political prisoner Safiya Bukhari (The War Before; 2010, Feminist Press), and is a full-time volunteer organizer with RAPP.