Melody Lee is the co-founder and Managing Director at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. In her management role at Katal, she develops and organizes powerful, research-based campaigns to dismantle mass incarceration, end the war on drugs, strengthen organizing and movement infrastructure, and advance health, equity, and justice.
Lee is one of the architects behind the #CLOSErikers campaign and was the director of the field team in the campaign’s first year, forcing Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt closing Rikers as official City policy. She is also one of the nation’s leading experts in Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and was one of the key organizers of the National Convening on LEAD hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council Office at the White House in 2015. She co-led the effort to develop and launch the third LEAD program in the country, in Albany, New York, facilitating a collaborative process with an array of stakeholders ranging from police departments, district attorneys, civil rights organizations, service providers, and business groups. Since its launch, Albany’s LEAD program has diverted dozens of people out of jail and into supportive social services.
From 2012-2015, Lee worked at the Drug Policy Alliance, including as Policy Coordinator for the New York Policy Office. She was responsible for intensive project management, creating and facilitating stakeholder partnerships, developing and executing communications strategies, and routinely organizing and coordinating lobbying days with dozens – and sometimes hundreds – of constituents. Lee was a core member of the campaign team that passed New York’s medical marijuana bill, and she played a critical leadership role in the campaign to end NYPD’s racially biased marijuana arrest practices.
From 2012 – 2014, Lee co-led a unique collaboration between the Drug Policy Alliance and Charlotte Street Films related to THE HOUSE I LIVE IN – the powerful, Sundance award-winning documentary about the war on drugs. As the Impact and Outreach Consultant, she devised strategies to utilize the film as an advocacy tool to leverage local reform efforts and spur public debate about mass incarceration and the war on drugs. In this role, Lee successfully coordinated hundreds of community engagement screenings around the country, assisting community based organizations in using the film as a tool for education and advocacy.
Lee received a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in public policy and psychology. She lives in Brooklyn and knows where to find really delicious pasta.