Making Time – Participant Bios

Abdul-Hakim ‘Ali

Abdul-Hakim‘Ali, was born in Washington, North Carolina, and came to Philadelphia with his family at a very young age.

He is a member of Decarcerate PA’s Action Committee [http://decarceratepa.info/]. Decarcerate PA is a leader in direct action to stop prison construction and expansion. It is a coalition of organizations and individuals seeking an end to mass incarceration and the harms it brings our many communities.

Hakim has been a practicing Muslim since 1969, and has held the position of Imam (i.e. spiritual leader), in both Federal and State institutions. He also was an Islamic instructor at Community College of Philadelphia and Cheney State University.

He also helped in establishing a Muslim Student Association at Community College of Philadelphia (in 2004). Hakim received an “AA” degree from Hagerstown Junior College in Maryland, and his “BS” from Morgan State University, also located in Maryland.

Hakim is the PR/Outreach Coordinator for Reconstruction Inc.[www.reconstructioninc.org]and serves as the Administrative Assistant for the projects/programs within Reconstruction’s umbrella. He is a returning citizen (released in 2003, after serving almost 40 years in Federal and State institutions). It was during this period of incarceration that Hakim received the degrees mentioned above. He is currently involved with many community organizations including: The Support Network for Returning Citizens and EXIT-US [www.exitusreentry.org]that addresses many prison-related issues. These groups focus on getting justice for those who are deprived of it, and serve as a force opposing those who would deny justice to others.

Hakim made a determination that it is far better to give back to his community, than to deprive it of the wealth and safety that it deserves, and he views himself as: “the voice of the voiceless.”

Tanya Erzen

Tanya Erzen is finishing a book called God in Captivity about faith-based programs in American prisons and the conservative movement for prison reform.   Her first book, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movementwon the Gustave O. Arlt Book Award and the Ruth Benedict Prize Book Award.  She is also co-editor of Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City (NYU Press, 2001). Her writing has appeared in the Nationthe Boston Globethe Washington Post, Salon and various academic journals, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, the American Association of University Women, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.   She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.  She is currently Associate Professor at the University of Puget Sound and director of the  Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, which works for educational access to college for women prisoners in Washington.

Robin McGinty 

A creative thinker and community activist, Robin McGinty is a graduate student in Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD program.  Ms. McGinty received her BA from Antioch College and holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from Bernard M. Baruch College School of Public Affairs (SPA). With a concentration in Health Care Policy, Ms. McGinty’s Capstone thesis was entitled “Unlocking the Potential of Reentry or Recidivism by Default: Expanding the Reentry and Community Reintegration Paradigm,” which examined the reentry and community reintegration ‘continuum’ through the optic of the Project Path to Recovery program at The Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York. As a five-year SAMSHA/CSAT research grant initiative, Project Path to Recovery (PPR) was designed to assist and support homeless, formerly incarcerated women with histories of trauma, substance use and co-occurring disorders, navigate the landscape of the reentry and community reintegration continuum.  In addition to working directly with and on behalf of system-involved women and men and the communities most negatively impacted by the geographies of mass incarceration and imprisonment, Ms. McGinty has worked with an array of non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations in New York City. Among such is The Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project (WIPP), where Ms. McGinty worked as a Policy Researcher for WIPP’s Reproductive Health Justice Project for currently incarcerated women, including contributing to WIPP’s 2013 “A Place to Call My Own,” a publication highlighting the systemic challenges formerly incarcerated women face when accessing housing. For the past several years, Ms. McGinty has also served as an Editorial Producer for the WBAI 99.5 FM broadcast “On The Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report.”

Ms. McGinty has been an invited guest lecturer at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), City College of New York (CCNY), as well as being a panel participant at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) conference “From Punishment to Wellness: A Public Health Approach to Women & The War on Drugs” and the Columbia University School of Social Work 3rd Annual Criminal Justice Conference “Beyond The Bars: Moving Forward—Drug Policy In The Era of Mass Incarceration.”  More recently, Ms. McGinty participated in a dialogue convened by the Center for Justice at Columbia University in collaboration with The Heyman Center for the Humanities entitled “Reimagining Justice: Narratives of Inclusion,” as well taking part as a keynote speaker at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture event entitled, “We Who Believe in Freedom: A Conversation about Women, Criminalization and Justice.” 

Informed by the authenticity of her own lived experience of imprisonment more than twenty years ago, Robin McGinty continues to be guided by Audre Lorde’s admonition: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.”

Ms. McGinty is currently a Research Associate with Columbia Law’s Center for Institutional and Social Change (CISC).

Laura McTighe

Laura McTighe is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Through her dissertation project, “Born In Flames,” she is working with leading Black feminist organizations in Louisiana to explore how reckoning with the richness of southern Black women’s intellectual and organizing traditions will help us to understand (and do) American religious history differently. Laura comes to her doctoral studies through more than seventeen years of direct work to challenge the punitive climate of criminalization in the United States and support communities’ everyday practices of transformation. Currently, she serves on the boards of Women With A Vision, Inc. in New Orleans, Men & Women In Prison Ministries in Chicago and Reconstruction Inc. in Philadelphia. Laura’s writings have been published in Beyond Walls and Cages: Bridging Immigrant Justice and Anti-Prison Organizing in the United States (2012), the International Journal for Law and Psychiatry (2011), Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice (2009), and a variety of community publications.

Angela Zito

Angela Zito spent several years teaching college courses in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility upstate, and at Bayview Correctional in Chelsea. From 2003 onward, she and several friends founded the Learning Center for Women in Prison, an external organization that, in collaboration with the Bayview Student Advisory Board, brought a a degree-granting program into Bayview.  Now the program continues at Taconic Correctional, granting Associates and Bachelors degrees through the Bard Prison Initative. Zito teaches in Anthropology and Religious Studies at NYU, where she co-founded the Center for Religion and Media. Her longest-standing scholarly interest remains the relationship between the psyche and the soma—how do human beings (mammals with imaginations!) deal with their imaginative capacities, make worlds and live with themselves and one another?  The human person becomes both object and subject through discipline, training and practice. Much of her work in research and writing, and most recently video-making, circles round these issues.  Find it at www.angelazito.com