Soffiyah Elijah is the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York. An accomplished advocate, attorney, scholar and educator, Ms. Elijah is the first woman and the first person of color to lead the nearly 170-year old organization in its mission to create a fairer, more effective and humane criminal justice system.
Prior to joining the staff of the Correctional Association in March 2011, Ms. Elijah served as Deputy Director and a clinical instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. At the Institute, she trained hundreds of law students to become effective and ethical lawyers and to engage in local and national reform of criminal and juvenile justice policies.
A native New Yorker, Ms. Elijah practiced criminal and family law in New York City for more than 20 years. Before moving to Harvard, she was a member of the faculty and Director and supervising attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. She was a supervising attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, where she defended indigent members of the Harlem community, and has also worked as a staff attorney for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society.
Honored by the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in 2010, Ms. Elijah has dedicated her life to human rights and social activism. She is a recognized national and international authority on human rights issues and has served as a justice on several people’s tribunals focused on the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, the testing of bombs in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and conditions of confinement inside American prisons. She has authored several articles and publications on U.S. criminal and juvenile justice policy and prison conditions and is a frequent presenter at national and international forums.
Ms. Elijah earned her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University and Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School.