Moral Injury

Last Friday was my last day at the New York City Department of Correction. Below is my letter of resignation.

April 26, 2022

Ms. Elizabeth Munsky
Executive Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit
New York City Department of Correction
75-20 Astoria Blvd
Queens, NY 11370

Dear Elizabeth,

This letter is my official notice of resignation from my position as LGBTQ+ Compliance Manager for the New York City Department of Correction LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit. My last day of employment will be April 29th, 2022.

It has been a profound honor to work for you, Elizabeth, so please accept my sincerest apologies as I currently feel I am walking away from such an intelligent, compassionate, empathetic, knowledgeable, honest, and trustworthy team that is driven by the belief that all inherently deserve to be treated with humanity. You live in accordance to your deepest values and have laid the foundation of integrity for the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit that I feel the NYC Department of Correction is, at best, not in a place that is compatible to the basic humane treatment of LGBTQ+ people in custody and at worst, simply utilizing the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit for the purpose of manipulating optics while a humanitarian crisis worsens not just for the LGBTQ+ population, but for all of those currently held in custody at Rikers. That is another hardship; I feel that I am walking away from our team as well as a humanitarian crisis.

As you know, the complexity of navigating an archaic system and suffocating from the amount of bureaucracy that prevents us from simply helping people is profoundly daunting. Especially when the implementation of policies in place to protect LGBTQ+ people in custody are blatantly ignored only to be utilized an instant later when it serves the purposes of the implementer’s own needs. The examples I could give are countless, but it is the inhumane treatment of Latee Brockington, a transgender woman currently held in custody, that has been the final catalyst resulting in my determination that I can no longer be complicit with the practices of the DOC.

Latee Brockington has been held, off and on, at a male facility, Anna M. Kross Center, since her initial arrest in 2020. She was first assaulted in June 2020, when a corrections officer allowed a male person in custody into her cell, where he proceeded to choke and rape her.

After the attack, Brockington was transferred to the Rose M. Singer Center, the sole women's facility at Rikers. Six months later, she was transferred back to AMKC after having consensual sex with another person in custody. Within two weeks of her return to AMKC, Brockington was sexually assaulted twice more. In all three cases, Brockington was taken to Bellevue Hospital for medical evaluation and rape DNA tests found semen each time.

Latee Brockington has been desperately trying to return to general population or the Special Considerations Unit at RMSC, which is specified for the safety of vulnerable populations including LGBTQ+ people in custody. She has applied for admittance multiple times, taken steps beyond the expectations of the application process, and is continuously denied by the Special Considerations Unit Committee which is overseen by Deputy Commissioner Patricia Feeney and by extension, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) unit which DC Feeney oversees as well. It was during a Reconsideration SCU hearing for Brockington on February 28, 2022, at 3:30 pm that I gained the clarity that as stated before, led me to fully realize that the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit is in no way regarded when determining the safety, health, and humanity of the LGBTQ+ population in custody at Rikers.[i] After members of the committee determined their denial of Latee’s admittance into RMSC, with their reasoning being the possibility that a pregnancy may occur, I asked if this potential pregnancy that may occur as a result of consensual sex outweighed the offense of a woman being repeatedly raped, which has occurred. I was ignored and the practice of cherry-picking policies was again utilized to serve the committee’s purpose to deny one’s safety.

During the most recent SCU Reconsideration hearing on April 26, 2022, at 11:30 am, Brockington was described as violent, aggressive and with a propensity for violence which one can glean from a broad infraction reference. However, this particular infraction involved protecting herself and other LGBTQ+ individuals in her unit from a person in custody that had been threatening them. The harmful transphobic language during these hearings which includes victim-blaming, objectification, sexualization and villainization, shows the blatant disregard for the transgender people in custody with little to no objective investigation.

Further, the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit has expressed a need for a Special Considerations Unit in a male facility for quite a long time, certainly before my arrival to the DOC. An SCU was suddenly placed at AMKC without much notification and occurred soon after Brockington expressed her fear for her safety to the press in which she stated to The New York Daily News:

“Why not have me in a housing unit by myself but still inside the female facility for my safety?”

It felt that the Department of Correction responded in their own way by opening a Special Considerations Unit at AMKC and the first to be housed there was Latee Brockington. Soon after, the housing unit she was moved to was announced as the new SCU at a male facility. It feels as though this was a compromise regarding Brockington’s fears that were expressed multiple times to the DOC but only addressed when the press became involved, which in turn compromised the optics of the DOC.

Still, Brockington continues to express her need to go to RMSC as a woman who fears for her safety in a male facility. She has been repeatedly denied despite supportive materials including ongoing safety concerns, her gender marker being female on her birth certificate and the compromises she has made with her hormone therapy in an attempt to thwart further targeting from both staff and people in custody. When I met with Brockington after her pleas were published in The New York Daily News, she told me she knew she was putting herself in danger by going to the press, but it was her last effort to advocate for herself. I remember how insulting my title was at that moment, an LGBTQ+ Compliance Manager that could not provide her the basic necessity of safety in accordance with the existing LGBTQ+ protective policies.

Even when there are clearly stated policies in our directives, they are not followed. Even when there are clear actions we can take for the betterment and safety of human beings, they are not considered in any way and as hard as I have tried, not one person can provide an answer to this question: Why? So many of us in this field are often at a loss for words when pressed to explain the microcosm of human degradation that Rikers is because even when there are words backed with evidence, we are silenced.

It is my hope that the energy, expertise, knowledge, and drive that I hold can be redirected towards the change we so desperately need. It just simply must happen elsewhere. Because of my experience at the New York City Department of Correction, I have gained a unique perspective I never could have fathomed nor gained anywhere else. In this I am grateful for the clarification this agency has provided me: That the current system in place is dysfunctional because it is simply not sustainable. Our LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit uniquely addresses where many intersections of oppression meet and illuminates the lives that do not matter to a heterosexist, patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalistic model the DOC upholds as an agency. The incredibly sweet, intelligent, kind, caring, patient and loving human being that Latee Brockington is does not matter to the New York City Department of Correction.

And in my current position at the DOC, I am forced to regard Latee Brockington the same way the agency does, and I can not accept this. In my current position at the DOC, I am forced to regard all my clients the same way the agency does, and I can not accept this.

Elizabeth, I will always regard you as one of the most incredible human beings I have not only had the privilege of working for, but simply knowing. While it saddens me deeply to resign and therefore end our time working together at the DOC, I walk away knowing that you are a force to be reckoned with, that your leadership is celebrated by so many in custody, within our coalition of LGBTQ+ advocates, organizations, and individuals. You have been my greatest mentor and I am proud to know you.

We will always be comrades.

In solidarity,

Kelly Savage

[i] The following statement was submitted prior to the Special Consideration Unit Hearing on February 28, 2022, at 3:30 pm

Brockington, Latee

It is the determination of the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit that we recommend housing in RMSC SCU for Ms. Brockington.

While we are aware that Ms. Brockington had a sexual relationship with a cisgender person in custody, we are also aware that the relationship and subsequent sexual acts were consensual. Consensual sex is not criminal nor is it against PREA regulations, it is an infraction that is to be handled on a facility level. Furthermore, a case heard in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois found it unlawful to deny female housing and/or remove the transwoman from female housing because of consensual sex and what was described by the IDOC as “aggressive” behaviors. The case was decided both under the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and the Equal Protection clause, which prohibits treating transgender people differently than cisgender people.

I wish I could say that after I handed the HR representative a copy of my letter of resignation and sat down for my exit interview, nothing was said while they played this video on the conference screen:


It was actually way more awkward than that.

Anyway, I share this with you first, to show you that I am capable of writing sans profanity even though it took every ounce of me to not drop fuck-bombs when addressing the New York City DOC.

Second, I’ll be around more, redirecting a lot of focus towards local endeavors and fully throwing my anchor into the community.

And lastly, because I want you to know that this is one of the ultimate heartbreaks of my life. I’ve been through a lot of death, a lot of pain, a lot of abuse, had my heart trampled on by a few partners etc. etc. etc.

But this. Nothing compares to this. Social justice is something I have committed to before I can even remember because I didn’t know what to call it as a kid. It has been my longest relationship and will be till death do us part.

So this. This is a whole new level of heartbreak.

In any case, I’ll do what I do best. Get back up. Get back in the ring.

But holy shit I just need to sit for a sec, coach.

So while I take a breather, hit me up! If you’re in the area, let's grab a coffee/drink (I don’t drink but love holding court in bars) or platonically Netflix and Chill. And/or hit that reply button and email me!

Anywho, switching things up and the newsletter will now be sent out Thursday mornings and traditionally horoscopes are posted on Sundays and even though I’m not an astrologer, I do love traditions so keep your eyes peeled Sunday mornings!

In the meantime, take in this message from Kim Young, MSW, LCSW also known as @dopeblack_socialworker:

We hear burnout quite often—what it is, who has it, how to prevent it. However burnout is a form of victim blaming and moves the attention away from the harmful systems, companies, and organizations which create environments that compromise the quality of life and negatively impacts the mental wellness of employees.

In 2018 I thought I was dealing with burnout however I felt that there was something much bigger than me that contributed to the stress and sadness I felt in my previous role.

I was introduced to moral injury by @ca1ooo and this forever changed my life.

Y’all it’s bigger than burnout… WAY bigger than burnout. We are consistently put in situations that violate our morals and ethical code.

We see things, we do things, we can’t stop certain things that cause us to question so much about our reality—what’s right, wrong, and just.

It’s not burnout, many of us engaged in *heart work* are dealing with broken hearts and violated morals.

We are becoming aware that jobs we once believed did good cause harm and that professions we had faith we could make a difference in are committed to maintaining the status quo.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.