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Asking the Judge for Leniency in the Sentencing of Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin

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The Honorable Arlene Goldberg
New York Supreme Court
111 Centre Street
NY, NY 10013


Dear Judge Goldberg:


We the undersigned individuals and organizations are writing this letter to ask for leniency in the sentencing of Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin. We write this letter as leaders in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV+ communities here in New York and around the country. As Mr. El-Amin stands before you, we are asking you to be merciful in your sentencing. We do not need another man of color sitting in a New York prison for years to come.

We are familiar with the details of the case involving Mr. El-Amin. It is clear that race was the underlying issue that led to the altercation. It is common knowledge that racism within the gay community is a serious problem. It is common for white gay men to act with hostility towards men of color in gay establishments. It is common for gay men of color to experience racist attitudes and behavior from white gay men. The reporting in the mainstream and gay press about this incident echoed the racism that gay men of color experience at gay bars and elsewhere. Mr. El-Amin was regularly referred to by his size and the fact that he is also gay was often overlooked. Despite attempts by the media, and some organizations, this incident was not any kind of “hate crime.” This was an altercation between multiple individuals that escalated.

Despite references to Mr. El-Amin's size in the media, prison can be an incredibly dangerous place for a gay man. Based on our many years of work in LGBT communities, particularly communities of color, we know the realities of gay men's lives in prison. Along with our collective knowledge, Black and Pink, the largest ever organization of LGBTQ&HIV+ prisoners,  released a report in October, Coming Out of Concrete Closet, that detailed the experiences of LGBTQ prisoners. Out of the 1,118 respondents, 64% of gay men were sexually assaulted or raped by another prisoner. Even with the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act sexual violence is a constant reality for gay men. The longer that Mr. El-Amin is in prison, the much greater his risk of experiencing assault.

In addition to the possible sexual assaults Mr. El-Amin will face during his incarceration, he is similarly likely to be placed in solitary confinement for months and possibly years. Of the respondents to Coming Out of Concrete Closets, 85% spent time in solitary confinement, and nearly half spent over two years in solitary. Often gay men are forced into an impossible choice between solitary confinement and the violence of general population. This leads to many people choosing solitary confinement with the hope that it will lead to less experiences of individual attacks. While it is certainly possible that a person in solitary confinement will experience fewer assaults, the emotional, mental, and intellectual impact of long term isolation is devastating.

An extended prison sentence puts Mr. El-Amin at great risk. We appreciate the responsibility you have. We understand the complexity of sentencing. We ask that you utilize your power to have mercy on Mr. El-Amin and ensure he returns to the community safely and as soon as possible.


Sincerely,

Rev. Jason M. Lydon, Black and Pink



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