Yolanda Johnson-Peterkin

Sloan Public Service Awards • 2023

Title and Organization Executive Director of Housing Initiatives, NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice


Yolanda Johnson-Peterkin is the Executive Director of Housing Initiatives in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. She leads policies and programs to improve housing opportunities for the 750,000 New Yorkers with justice histories. Ms. Johnson-Peterkin began her civil service career in 2015 as Chief of Housing and Community Activities for the Family Re-entry Program at the New York City Housing Authority. She successfully reunited almost 200 released individuals with their family members living in NYCHA—this program was nationally recognized because it led to low rates of recidivism. Ms. Johnson-Peterkin’s personal mission of supporting formerly incarcerated people has been core to her career. She has helped women with criminal justice involvement earn college degrees and supported the restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students. She regularly speaks across the country about prison reform, social justice, and women’s pathways to freedom. Her career trajectory and achievements are rooted in formative early experiences. Raised in Brooklyn’s East New York and Brownsville neighborhoods, Ms. Johnson-Peterkin left high school early to escape that violent environment, which led to choices she is not proud of. Those experiences, however, led Ms. Johnson-Peterkin to turn turmoil into triumph. She participated in Shock boot camp and graduated—from there, she became unstoppable. She earned a GED and associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, and was later elevated to an ordained minister. Ms. Johnson-Peterkin is known as a “force of nature” and a “deeply transformative figure” by her colleagues. “She has used her passion, her moral certainty, and her incredible powers of persuasion to convince others that everyone has a right to a second chance,” said Karen Patterson, former Deputy Director of NYCHA’s Family Partnership Department.