Kirstin, Jonathon, and Mason attended a talk hosted by the Valley Interfaith Project and given by Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan. We were joined by Heather Hamel, Executive Director of Justice That Works, and Luke Black. The topic of Ryan's talk was billed as "Prison Reform." Interested in what seemed to be a significant departure for a state department that otherwise seems deeply committed to high levels of incarceration, our executive directors attended. No reform to report. This talk was Ryan's sales pitch to the community. It turns out ADC wants to build another $2 million "community corrections" facility in Maricopa County, under the guise of reform. Let's be clear. There is nothing reformative about community corrections, unless it is being used as a step down program for early release. Even then, its structure and motives are questionable. It is true - Arizona's community corrections are used (there is a facility already open in Tucson, housed not surprisingly, in a "former" correctional facility) to house parole and probation violators in lieu of a return to prison - which we will acknowledge is the better of the two options. However, and this is a big however, it will also be used to house those prison survivors released homeless. This means people no longer serving time remain in the custody of the department of corrections. Read that again and you will see the fatal flaw that topples this idea of community corrections. Keeping these folks "locked up" past the end of their sentence, keeping them immersed in the institutional culture that pervades corrections and correctional institutions does nothing to aid in successful reintegration. That's because it is not reintegration. It is continued institutionalization. So instead of investing in community programs that will begin to expose prison survivors to life in the modern world, will start to reintroduce them back into their communities, ADC proposes the continued imposition of a flawed correctional model. And the corporate profits that go hand in hand with corrections in the State of Arizona. We resoundingly and vociferously say NO to this program.
Kirstin, Jonathon, and Lyle talked to the Hualapai Tribal Council about creating tribal reentry programs based on the Tribe's specific culture and needs, which could include programs as basic as a personal growth curriculum tailored to the Tribe's cultural values to full-service programs that provide residential reentry services for the first year of a returning citizens time out of prison.
Executive Director Kirstin Eidenbach presented at Arizona State University's annual Prison Education Conference, hosted by the English Department and ASU's Prison Education Awareness Club (or PEAC). Kirstin presented the keynote address, Disrupting Recidivism by Restoring Dignity, in conjunction with Judge Lilia Alvarez. Click here to view video of the conference.
In keeping with ATLaS' value of physical fitness, Executive Director Jonathon and Director Kenny competed in the Rugged Manic Race on April 2, 2016. This race put runners through a series of extreme obstacles that challenged each participants' physical capabilities as well as their mental fortitude. Jonathon ran the race on two injured feet and dislocated his shoulder climbing a wall in the middle of the race. He and Kenny helped each other and others finish the course covered in mud with high spirits.
Executive Directors Kirstin and Jonathon attend criminal sentencing at the Pima County Courthouse. On this day, we watched as a man who used a cell phone to get in touch with family members, including 4 kids, who he is otherwise cut off from got an additional year added to his sentence. It was also Jonathon's first time on the other side of the "bar." Here's what he wrote about his experience on that day:
"After watching a good friend of mine get sentenced to another year in prison for using another prisoners contraband cell phone. He made only two calls on this phone. They were an attempt to speak with his children. Due to the high price of prison phone calls and the difficulties presented in the approval process by DOC, my friend Aaron Sneva had not been able to speak to his family for several years prior to this. I myself have experienced this. In my nearly 13 years in the prison system, I was never afforded through the department of corrections the privilege to speak to or see my mother or family, excepting a thirty minute visit from my sister Ashley who is now in prison, and a 30 second call from my sister Ruby to inform me that my mother had died.
The few brief high risk moments that I spoke to my mother was by way of these illegal contraband cellphones. It was quite profound to sit in the pews and watch as my friend dressed in orange, with belly chains, cuffs and shackles on, was sentenced. While I wore my nice suit of "Freedom". Knowing the next day he would be shipped back to the very prison yard I was released from. Knowing what he is going back to. Prison does something to you. It's not natural, I think the longer and more harsh your stay, the more it fucks with your head. I think, that most of its victims are hardly aware of the deep cuts it has placed upon their souls. I know for me, it makes functioning in this "free world" difficult at best and nearly impossible in moments. Sadly, I cannot quite articulate why. Or what it is, that is wrong with me. I just know that things are not right...."