gabriel sayegh

Co-Director, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice

gabriel sayegh is the co-founder and co-director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, where he brings nearly 20 years of experience working to dismantle mass incarceration, end the war on drugs, strengthen organizing capacity, and advance health, equity, and justice. Prior to co-founding Katal, from 2003 – 2015, sayegh worked at the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization working to end the war on drugs. Over 12 years he served in many positions, including as Managing Director of Policy and Campaigns, where he supervised a staff of 27 and a budget of $4m, and was responsible for devising strategies to synthesize DPA’s reform campaigns in California, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York, and at the federal level. During his tenure with DPA, sayegh built and led numerous reform campaigns, provided technical assistance and leadership development to grassroots organizations, and passed reform legislation in multiple states. sayegh was a key leader in the campaign to roll back the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, devising and managing the strategy that led to one of the most significant sentencing reform victories in a generation. He was the architect of the campaign to end New York City’s racially biased marijuana arrest crusade, which cut the number marijuana arrests in NYC by half, and he served as chief strategist and director of the campaign to pass New York’s medical marijuana legislation. sayegh managed a bipartisan effort to enact life-saving Good Samaritan overdose prevention legislation in New York, and coordinated with community organizations to expand public health responses to drug use, including passing legislation to expand syringe access. To connect DPA’s work to a grassroots base, sayegh launched DPA’s first office focused explicitly on field organizing, established DPA’s grantee partners network, and for many years managed the scholarship program for DPA’s signature International Drug Policy Conference. From 2012 – 2014, sayegh led a unique collaboration between DPA and Charlotte Street Films to utilize the powerful, Sundance award-winning documentary about the war on drugs directed by Eugene Jarecki: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN. In addition to advising the film director and producers on policy and advocacy, sayegh and his team 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. The collaboration included working with hundreds of community based organizations in using the film as a tool for education and advocacy – in schools, community centers, legislatures, prisons and jails, and more. From 2007 – 2013, he served as a lecturer in the graduate program of the Columbia School of Social Work. Prior to joining DPA, sayegh served as an organizer and researcher on campaigns for fairness in global trade agreements and domestic welfare reform, ending violence against women and LGTBQ people, and achieving racial equity. In 2003, sayegh served as session staff in the Washington State Senate, with a policy portfolio focused on criminal justice and human services. He began his organizing career in 1996, working on prison moratorium and racial equity campaigns in California. sayegh has appeared in a wide range of broadcast, online, and print media, including The New York Times, NY1, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Fusion, NPR, Washington Post, Newsweek, Vice, NY Daily News, NY Post, Associated Press, Huffington Post, The Village Voice, Gawker, BBC, and more. He is the author of numerous articles and coauthor of several reports, including Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy (the subject of a New York Times editorial) and From Handcuffs to Healthcare: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Law Reform. As a featured or keynote speaker for conferences, universities and community groups, he’s given hundreds of talks, including a TEDx talk about the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and systemic racism. sayegh holds a Master's in Public Health from the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. sayegh is a Trustee of the New York Foundation, and serves on the board of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide, based in Atlanta. He lives in Brooklyn.