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Do Alternatives to Incarceration build Community Cages or increase public safety?

In August, the United States Justice department made a statement to end its use of private prisons. A statement like this suggests the end of private corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group who represent a large market share for prison contracts. However, the emerging trend known as the Treatment Industrial Complex strengthens alternatives to incarceration such as electronic monitoring like ankle monitors for mobile surveillance, residential re-entry centers with day reporting, and immediate sanctions facilities. The question that emerges is if and to what extent does the treatment industrial complex creating alternatives to end Mass Incarceration or does it create Community Prisons?

Incarceration is the state of being confined in a prison. What we have seen happening over the last 30 years is prison populations increasing through the enforcement of tough on crime ideologies as an attempt to make communities safer. How do alternatives to incarceration make communities more or less safe? The publication Community Cages by the American Friends Service Committee describes how electronic surveillance through GPS ankle monitors often comes at the expense of the person requiring supervision. It serves as a cost reduction strategy for the state and local governments however the supervised must now pay for the equipment, monthly a landline to monitor the equipment, and fees to the supervision company. Community Cages describes this practice as penalizing for low income clients who must purchase the services while the company profits, under a low wage job market. Electronic GPS monitors is only one aspect to alternatives to incarceration. Alternatives also include day reporting center and re-entry centers which allow clients to check in at the facility as varying frequency or engage in the facility’s programming for an allotted time. It is a way that clients receive wrap around services during the day and return back to their homes in the evenings. Immediate sanctions facilities create an alternative to impose sanctions for probation and parole violations without returning to prison. This is a way to alleviate the cost of revoking probation or parole.

Alternatives to incarceration promotes community corrections however the trend promotes cost saving measures and awarding these contracts based on the lowest price. The vision was to implement wrap around services for the individual being supervised from the monitoring programs and the meetings with a parole or probation officer. It can also categorize individuals with higher or lower needs into the same treatment programs which increases the failure rates for individuals with lower needs. Community Cages recommends the acceptance of Evidence Based Interventions to reduce to size of the criminal justice system to promote quality programming for community corrections and if contracting is necessary to offer contracts based on quality of programs with evidence based practices and not just to the lowest bidder. The function of this would be prevent predatory practices in supervision technology that generate a profit on low income individuals under the guise of promoting alternatives to incarceration. In the end, the questions we community members must ask is: if, and to what extent, do alternatives to incarceration promote safer communities, reduced recidivism, and more successful re-entry?

saragSara Cota Galaz is a Master’s of Social Work Candidate at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work-Tucson Component working with the YWCA of Southern Arizona’s advocacy programs. She is a proud Wildcat Alum with earning her BA in Political Science from the School of Government and Public Policy. She is an advocate for issues relating to economic justice and its intersectionality between workforce development for women in poverty, mass incarceration, and reentry. She is a member of the Oracle Board-Greek Advisory Board at the University of Arizona, Pima County Re-Entry Coalition, and the Coalition for Fair and Just Policing.

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Our First Artist Talk

The Galleria at the YWCA is pleased to host our first Artist’s Talk on Thursday, November 10th from 6:00-7:30 pm. Featuring  Karen Hymer and Alejandra Platt-Torres.

The Galleria at the YWCA is a space of celebration: a gathering place to celebrate art, ideas and community. The Galleria also defines our mission statement: eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice and freedom for all. Exhibiting artwork and hearing women’s voices as they explain their thoughts and ideas about the world viewed through their artistic interpretations is a way to empower women.  Their interpretations and voices are on display, and invite discussion. That’s the focus of these talks: hearing opinions, ideas and artistic expression.

As the curator for the Galleria, I search for artists whose work balances elements of our mission statement and a strong visual presence. Sometimes these artists are well known to the community, nationally and internationally. Other times they are just beginning their art careers, and exhibiting their work is a valuable experience in many ways-selling work, gaining exposure and gaining confidence in their own artistic abilities. This is so important to me. As an artist myself, I have found that so often there is a sense of competition between artists. My view is that there is enough room for everyone and we must help one another. We are all in this together, and I am proud that the Galleria can have a positive impact on so many artists lives here in Tucson.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet the artists and talk to them about their process, inspiration and ideas about art, and to discuss their interpretations of the world.

Karen Hymer , a native Tucsonan, is the Photography Program Specialist at Pima Community College.  Though trained as a traditional photographer, Hymer is skilled in various techniques, including Photo Polymer Gravure, Lumen Prints, and Digital printing.  Her body of work on display, “Botanicals”, grows out of her concern for the environment and exploring native desert plants, creating luminous Etching and Lumen prints on this subject.  Hymer will discuss her process and technique on this body of work.

Hymer is widely exhibited. Recent venues include The Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ), The Los Angeles Center of Photography (Los Angeles, CA), Soho Photo Gallery, Site Brooklyn, Alex Ferrone Gallery, The Washington Print Foundation (Washington, DC), The Center for Photographic Arts (Carmel, CA), The Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO), and Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (Athens, GA).  Her work is in several public collections, including the Center for Creative Photography and the Polaroid International Collection.

Alejandra Platt-Torres was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico and currently lives in Tucson. She works as a free-lance photographer.

Platt-Torres will discuss her work exhibited at the Galleria, “In the Name of God”, large gelatin silver prints featuring portraits of Indigenous People of Mexico. Platt-Torre’s desire to discover her roots led her to photograph her people, which turned into a seven year project. She travelled through Mexico from 1993 until 1999, photographing people of every indigenous group in Mexico.  These soulful portraits document and honor her ancestors, and helped her discover her own indigenous roots and family history.

Platt-Torres is the recipient of numerous grants in Mexico and the United States, and has exhibited her work extensively and internationally, including  Arizona State Museum, Confluencenter, University of Arizona, Exhibit, Conferences, Digital Projection and Installation, A World Separated by Borders, Tucson, Arizona, USA, 2013,  Fiestas del Pitic, Installation, Digital Projection, A World Separated by Borders, Hermosillo, Sonora, México, 2012,  Instituto Cervantes Sidney, Embassy of México in Australia, In the name of God, Sidney, Australia, 2011. Mexican Institute, Embassy of México in Denmark, In the name of God, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2009



Valerie Galloway

Valerie Galloway was born in France in 1963, to an American father and French mother, and has lived in many places, including France, Germany , Hawaii, California, Maryland, New York City, and currently in Tucson.  While in New York City she worked in advertising for the photographer, Peter Arnell and in fashion photography as a studio manager for Enrique Badulescu.
She received her BFA in photography from the University of Arizona in 1987 and has been a working artist ever since.  Some of her works include hand made mirrors using her photographs of cityscapes, the desert and nudes as well as photographic and upcycled jewelry.  In addition, she is a painter and all around creative personality.
Galloway has been commissioned by many prestigious organizations to create awards and gifts, including the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Sundance and Pima Community College.  Her handmade photo mirrors and photo jewelry have been carried at Etherton Gallery, Verve Gallery of Photography Santa Fe, International Center of Photography, Center of Photography, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Barney’s NY, and the Tucson Museum of Art.
Galloway works at the YWCA of Southern Arizona as the Galleria Curator and Shop Manager.


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my house

I have been asking the interns to flex their creativity and practice writing exercises on things that come up for them as we discuss and work on various issues here at the YW.  Sara offers this as a creative exercise but I think that it points to many of the ideas that circulate as we discuss the issues of poverty, incarceration and racial justice.


What are houses built from?

I grew up in a small red block house in the Southside off of Valencia Rd and Nogales highway on Corona Rd. The house was built in 1959 with three bedrooms and 1 bathroom. The yard had two large palm trees and a large mesquite tree which my brothers and I loved to climb. There were large rose bushes that my mother and I would pick flowers from to brighten up the house and a sidewalk leading to a chain link fence that I would draw and practice my writing with chalk. The backyard had a large block grill that my father and uncles built as a gift to my mother. The inside was small and modest for the five people who lived there, but there was always something to do. The TV always played Aladdin and Pocahontas on a never ending loop, and there was always fresh hot food. There was life in that house.

So much life that this small block house became a place for others. The neighborhood kids who always visited because they knew it was safe, happy, and there was always something to eat. This small house was built from something more than the block and cement than created its structure. It was built out of wisdom, strength, and compassion. It was made from extreme coupons, food stamps, and WIC checks kept it going. It was built on dinner at 5:00pm with ice cream for dessert, and the best birthday cakes a child could ask for. It was made so that children that entered this house were never cold, hungry, or unsafe. It was made so that the children who entered this house could be creative, be smart, and be happy.

It was a house built from never wondering or worrying where the parent was, the parent was always there. It was not worrying when the next meal would come or if children would be adequately clothed. This house was built on something indescribable. It was a house built on the same limited resources as everyone else in the street, the neighborhood. This house was predetermined to build career criminals, teen parents, and drug addicts based on the kind of people who live there. Yet it built a business and business owners. It built community. It built creative writing and thought. It built public servants dedicated to advocacy. This small house on Corona Rd. situated in a high stress community was built from much more than block and cement.


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Pusha T & Ava DuVernay Discuss the Importance of ’13th’ Documentary | Complex –view interview
Eva DuVernay’s new documentary film, 13th,  speaks to so many of the issues that have emerged in our ongoing public Mass Incarceration series, here at the YWCA Southern Arizona.The Next Session will take place on Wednesday, November 16th from 6-8pm at our Frances McClelland Community Center, 525 N. Bonita Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85745.Our last speaker of the 2016 cycle, will be Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee.  She will be speaking about Sentencing Reform.
We hope that you will join us for this conversation if you are able.

A Brief History of the Convict Lease System:
A Precursor to our Modern Prison Slavery System

Much of the discourse going on at the YWCA of Southern Arizona is about the current prison system and the exploitation of prisoners for free labor. This current issue mirrors the often hidden history of the convict lease system that occurred after the Civil War in the period from 1865 to 1928.

The 13th amendment abolished slavery however; this would be undermined in a variety of ways. One of the ways it was undermined was by the prison system because of a clause in the 13th amendment. The 13th amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been dully convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”[1]. The 13th amendment made it perfectly legal to use convict labor, another form of slave labor.

Prisons had been virtually destroyed by the Civil War. Thus, southern governments came up with the convict lease system, a system where they leased out convicts to corporations to use for free labor. This could be a brick factory, a coalmine, a railroad system, or even a farm. Once leased business owner controlled the convict’s life and they could do anything they wanted to the convict. The injustices suffered within the convict lease system were equal to those suffered by slaves before the war[2].  And make no mistake these convicts were primarily African American.

But it’s okay because they were criminals, right? Most of the convicts were not in fact, criminals. The “Black Codes”, were a series of laws passed after the Civil War. These laws restricted the activity of African Americans and they could and would be imprisoned for frivolous offenses. Bernard Kinsey, a descendent, describes the convict lease system saying, “And when I say convict I don’t even mean convict, I mean people who did no more than walk down the street and were picked up when the magistrate was coming tomorrow”[3]. In other words, normal behavior was criminalized for African Americans. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans were exploited with the convict lease system.

It is important to be aware of this because many people think slavery died with the 13th amendment and the Civil War. That is not the case; it has existed in our country for decades and continues to exist in our current prison system to this day. We need to examine history to be able to examine where we stand today.






Valerie Denogean

Valerie Denogean is MSW PAC student at ASU. She was born and raised in Tucson. She is interested in prison-reform, immigration, education-reform, politics, inequalities because of race and gender. However, currently she is interested in Eco-Feminism and how the treatment of women connects with the state of the environment, the treatment of animals, and our food. Valerie likes to run, hike and swim. She swam competitively for the Guilford College Quaker Swim team. She likes to travel and hopes to use her Social Work Degree in Northern Virginia after graduation.

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YWCA Voter Guide

YW Voter Guide

Election Day – Get Our 2016 Voter Guide

We’ve teamed up with YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix to create this 2016 Voter Guide for Arizona women – and everyone who cares about issues that matter to women.

Early Ballots should begin to trickle in tomorrow.

We hope that this guide helps you get informed.

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A Survivor’s Guide

The Pima County Women’s Commission has released a helpful resource called Domestic Abuse, Assault and Violence Survivor’s Guide. Click here to download the guide and please share with others.

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98 is the new 28

On May 1st, we celebrated the 98th anniversary of the YWCA in Tucson with a breakfast for 250 in our courtyard. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, new civil rights leader and state senator from Missouri, representing the district that includes parts of St. Louis and Ferguson, was our keynote speaker. These are remarks from our Executive Director, Kelly Fryer:

The other day one of my team mates (ok, it was Liane) stopped by the restaurant supply store to pick a few things up for our café, and one of the guys who runs the store said, “Boy o boy, it looks like the YWCA is getting a little radical.”

I think he probably saw an ad for this event and saw who the keynote speaker was. (All I have to say, Maria, is that, if I was getting tear gassed in the street by my governor, I’d probably use the F word, too. If you’ve Googled Maria, you know what I’m talking about.)

I’m not surprised that our friend at the restaurant supply store was surprised. There are a lot of misconceptions about the YWCA. There are all those people who think we’re the yMca, first of all. Then there are all the people out there who never heard of us before and when they DO find out about everything that’s going on here, say things to me like “So when did THAT place open?” (ummm, 1917) But my favorite people are the ones who HAVE heard about the YWCA before and have this idea that we’re a bunch of little old church ladies.

I want to put that one to bed right now.

First, we haven’t been church ladies since about 1932 (sic). And even before that the YW has always been a place where women of every religion, race and ethnicity have worked together to make the world a better place. Second, there is nothing little about us. There are 30,000 people that come in and out of this building every year, including 1000 in and out of Your Sister’s Closet alone. And we belong to a national movement that has 1300 sites and 2 million members across the United States. Third, we might be celebrating our 98th birthday in Tucson, but there is nothing OLD about us.

Does the work of justice ever get old? Does speaking up for those whose voices have been silenced and standing with those who have been trampled on ever get old? Here’s what I have to say to people who think the YWCA is “old”: 98 is the new 28.

We have so much work to do.

Three-four out of every ten children in Southern Arizona live in poverty, and most of them belong to single moms. But this State has made it nearly impossible for poor women to find affordable access to reproductive health care. And the Budget our new Governor just signed cuts aid to needy families, includes $0 dollars for child care subsidies and completely eliminates all funding for community colleges – three things research by the Women’s Foundation says are necessary for women to get themselves and their kids out of poverty.

Instead, we get prisons. And more prisons. Prisons that are privately owned. Prisons that someone, somewhere is making a lot of money on. Did you know that, in Arizona, three private prisons operate with a 100% occupancy guarantee? That means the state GUARANTEES they’ll have enough prisoners to fill every bed. And you know who’s filling those beds, right? Let me just put it this way: Those folks don’t look like me.[i]

A little radical, huh? You bet your granny pants we’re a little radical. That’s what the YWCA has always been. We marched for the Right to Vote in the early 1900’s. We lobbied Congress for an 8-hour work day and an end to child labor. We opened our hearts and doors to women of color, on both sides of the Mason Dixon line, before the muskets had even cooled off at the end of the Civil War. We marched with Dr. King and stood beside him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We helped get the Violence Against Women Act passed last year and made sure it included protection for LGBT folks, immigrants and Native American women. More than 300,000 people all across the United States (including a lot of you) stood with the YWCA and took a Pledge Against Racism last week.

And last week I was in Washington, D.C. with other YW CEO’s lobbying Congress to finally get the End Racial Profiling Act passed into law – and demanding that it apply to ALL law enforcement agents and agencies, including the United States Border Patrol. (Maria, I know this sounds strange because you and I are both from the Midwest and we don’t have to go through a checkpoint to get from Illinois to Missouri – but we have to go through one to get from here to California. And, believe me when I say, I never get stopped – but you would. In fact, a lot of our Latina sisters, especially immigrants, are so afraid of getting in trouble they are afraid to leave their neighborhoods, go to their kids school, go to the doctor or report a crime.)

We are living in a time that demands a little radical. You know, like writing a letter to the Governor or calling your Senator. How many of you have ever made a call like that?

Let’s do it right now. (This is when we actually dialed Senator Flake’s DC office and all 250 of us left a cheering message, thanking him for his leadership on trying to get immigration reform passed and asking him to co-sponsor the #EndRacialProfilingAct.)

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

We do so much good for so many individual women and their families here at the YW. And many of you – through your foundations and government grants – help fund that work. But we haven’t found a grant that can help us do THIS (hold up phone). This is where you come in. Your personal giving does BOTH things: It helps individual women change their lives…and it helps us change the systems that make their lives so darn hard in the first place.

Happy birthday YWCA! You don’t look a day older than 28.

[To make a donation in honor of the YWCA’s 98th birthday in Tucson, please click here. Thank you for your support!]


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Five Reasons to Support the YWCA Southern Arizona!

AZ_GD_2015_Logo_F_CMYKThere are so many great organizations in Tucson! Today on #AZGivesDay please support your favorites. But don’t forget to include your YWCA.

Click here to make a donation.

Here are five unique reasons to make a donation to the YW today. The YWCA is the ONLY organization in Southern Arizona offering:

1. Workforce education & support specifically for women living in poverty, immigrant women and domestic abuse survivors (200 each year)

2. Free professional mental health counseling to low income women(400 served annually)

3. A week’s worth of work ready, professional clothing and one-on-one coaching for low income, unemployed women(800-1000 each year!)

4. Leadership training for professional women and entrepreneurs (500+ each year)

5. Small business education, counseling and incubation focused on women, immigrants and people in poverty(400 each year)

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Arizona earns C- in women’s pay, employment*

Women in Arizona face enormous challenges. Nearly 50% are unemployed and, of those who are working, more than 60% are in low wage jobs. Based on research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC, that earns Arizona a lukewarm C-. Several states, all in the South, earned an F. So, while things could be much worse, in Arizona we’re #notthere yet.

According to the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, 500,000 Arizona women live in poverty. Based on their research, a pathway out of poverty for women requires:

  • Child care subsidies and early childhood education for the children;
  • Temporary Aid to Needy Families while women get the help they need to find work;
  • Access to affordable adult education and community colleges, so they can qualify for work with self-sufficient wages.

This year our State leaders passed a budget that slashed or eliminated funding for each one of these critical programs.

Here at your YW, we are taking action to help women in Southern Arizona. Through our new Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity (WCEO) we are expanding our programming to help women across the economic spectrum get the training and support they need to succeed. But we also need to make our voices heard. We need both Action and Advocacy.

Call the Governor & your elected State officials – or better yet go see them while they’re on break from the legislature. Tell them Arizona can’t afford to balance the budget on the backs of women and children.

Arizona has its priorities wrong. Let’s change that, together. #noceilings #notthere

*An article with this headline appeared in the Arizona Republic, March 23, 2015.

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We Stand Together Tucson

The 2nd Annual Delores Huerta Luncheon was held at the YWCA’s Frances McClelland Community Center of March 4, 2015. These are the welcome remarks from our Executive Director to our guests:

Bienvenidos, welcome to the YWCA Southern Arizona. It is such a privilege to be able to host the 2nd Annual Delores Huerta luncheon.

I was reminded this morning to bring my gavel. There is no better way to begin this event than with a crack of a union gavel on the podium (crack it).

This gavel belonged to my grandfather who was a union organizer and later president of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union in the Calumet Region, just outside of Chicago. It sits on my desk as a reminder that: Justice only happens when people work together…when they work together with people who are different from them but who are all striving, in their own way, for justice, peace, freedom and dignity.

We stand with Rosa.*

We stand with Rosa!

And we also stand with single moms who can’t afford child care to work or go to school in this state, where child care subsidies have been cut to the bone. We stand with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who are still fighting for equal marriage. We stand with African American moms and dads who should not have to bear the burden of having to teach their sons (and their daughters, too) how to respond when they are stopped by the police. We stand with minimum wage workers who are not making a living wage and who have to choose between a paycheck and a sick kid, because they do not have paid sick days. We stand with poor women who do not have access to affordable reproductive health care and, therefore, do not have control over their own bodies, families or future.

We stand with Rosa!

And we stand with all people who are working for peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

We stand together Tucson!

– Kelly Fryer

*We stand with Rosa is a campaign in support of Rosa Robles, an immigrant woman who is living in sanctuary in a Tucson church.

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