The Foundation mourns the loss of Justice Advisory Committee member Russelle Miller-Hill, affectionately known as Rusti. Rusti was the former Director of Reentry Services and Community Programs at the New Hour For Women and Children-Long Island and the primary educational facilitator at the Riverhead Correctional Facility on Long Island. She provided instruction in Health and Wellness, Re-entry into the Community, and Parenting. Most recently, Rusti was the Reentry Coordinator for the Community Partnership Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, supporting community organizations and welcoming home individuals recently released.
Rusti was a tireless community advocate and organizer, motivational speaker and consultant on topics of addiction, reentry, housing, correctional health and the needs of women impacted by these issues.
While incarcerated at Albion Correctional Facility in New York, she was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the AIDS Counseling and Education program. “ACE,” a Bedford Hill’s prison-based peer initiative model. She became a Resource Education and AIDS Counseling Health (REACH) Peer Educator at Albion Correctional Facility. She then went on to become the Deputy Director of the HIV/AIDS Prison Programming . While at Path Stone Corporation she continued her role as advocate, providing transitional services, HIV testing and peer-to-peer education. She also co-chaired the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project’s Conditions on the Inside Committee that in 2008 led advocacy to pass landmark New York State legislation to create oversight of NYS Correction’s HIV and Hepatitis C programs by the State Department of Health.
Rusti graduated from Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work, with a Master’s Degree in Social Work focused on Organizational Management and Leadership. She was also a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor and a New York State Certified Recovery Peer Advocate (CRPA) and Trainer.
In her many roles and through the advocacy work she was engaged with, she was featured in a wide variety of publications, videos, and documentaries, including the New York Times, Ebony Magazine, POZ magazine, The House on Fire, Sisters Keepers and Rusti’s Story. Rusti ‘s source of inspiration was first her family: her husband, children and grandchildren; and secondly her family of women she had worked with and the women she advocated for still within facilities.
As a member of the Justice Advisory Committee at The New York Women’s Foundation, Rusti brought her expertise and her vision for a stronger reentry and reengagement process for women, especially mothers and those living with HIV/AIDS. We celebrate Rusti’s life and honor her memory through our efforts to support system-impacted women.