Maricopa County inmates express themselves with art, storytelling in ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program

April 10, 2019

A woman who was told she could never have children as she stood there four months pregnant. A woman whose dog sold her out to the police as she hid in a tree. A mother whose son asked her if she’ll remember him when she gets out in a year. 

United through their storytelling and brought together behind bars, these women call themselves sisters. The various stories captivated the audience, triggering laughter, sadness, frustration and even happiness. Sam, an inmate at Estrella Jail in Phoenix, presents a personal story at the Journey Home final performance on March 30. Photo by Alexandra Wolfe Download Full Image

At the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Estrella Jail, a women’s jail in Phoenix, 11 out of 1,100 eligible inmates were selected to participate in this year’s ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program, titled “New Beginnings.”

Journey Home is an arts residency program designed to enable incarcerated women to discover a personal sense of constructive identity through performance, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling. In its 19th year, it exists as the only sustainable arts-integration program across Arizona’s correctional institutions. 

“Our mission, which remains today at ASU Gammage, is connecting communities — and that's communities of all kinds,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for cultural affairs. “This was a community, the Estrella correctional facility, that was not being served, and we also deeply believed that art and culture could make a difference in the lives of the individuals here.”

Ultimately, Journey Home culminates in an emotional final performance of self-expression. The six-week program was directed by Fatimah Halim with movement and music by Teniqua Broughton.

At this year’s final performance on March 30, the walls were dressed in colorful canvas paintings of butterflies painted by the women — a symbol of how people can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful.

There is also a mental health specialist, Imani Muhammad, who helps the women communicate their thoughts and feelings.

“Imani helped me identify where some of this anger was coming from,” said Cynthia Rose Martin, an inmate in the program. “Once I got over that initial apprehension, I can't say enough about Journey Home. It brings you out of yourself; it brings you into yourself.”

An underlying purpose of Journey Home is to encourage rehabilitation. According to a study published by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, inmates who participate in arts-integration programs tend to have more self-confidence, motivation to pursue other programs and self-discipline with managing time efficiently. The study also determined that these inmates are more likely to face problems with creativity and intellectual flexibility.

Specific to Journey Home, many of the program’s graduates do not return to the jail system. In fact, one such graduate who was released from Estrella in the past year attended the performance and testified to the impact it has had on her new life.

“Why are we giving them a second chance?” said Capt. Jennifer Perks, commander of Estrella Jail. “Because these are women. They're valuable people that are at some point going to be entering our community again, so we have to look at our own relationship with our community and see what we want for ourselves.”

Perks said that it’s amazing to see the growth the women go through in such a short period of time, and that art has helped them take time to acknowledge their experiences and learn from them. 

Erica Breeding, another inmate in the program, said that Journey Home has helped her think past the fact that she is incarcerated.

“That's all I could think about, is I'm confined, I'm in jail,” Breeding said. “And it's allowed me to open my mind to so much more to how I'm going to get through this and the present and then even in the future." 

She also said that after her time is served, she will be a better mom for her children because she can teach them to learn from her mistakes.  

“I went through everything that I went through, and it served a purpose,” Breeding said. “… I know to take nothing for granted anymore. Their smiles or their giggles. At any moment things can be taken away, so I will hold on to them a little bit tougher.”

Written by Alexandra Wolfe

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New law may leave nonprofits feeling taxed

April 10, 2019

Changes to deductions from Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may lead to reduced charitable giving

With Tax Day right around the corner, many Americans are wondering how the changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect their returns. Nonprofit organizations are paying particularly close attention, as economists have predicted that the legislation will result in a decrease in charitable giving.

Arizona’s nonprofit sector comprises nearly 20,000 organizations, many of which deliver vital services to the community in fields such as health care, education and housing. Collectively employing 167,000 Arizonans, the nonprofit sector is the state’s fifth largest private employer. In 2014, Arizona’s nonprofits generated $2.1 billion in tax dollars for the state — or 9.5% of all state and local sales tax revenue.

A report by the L. William Seidman Research Institute estimates that donations to nonprofits in Arizona will decline by $272.7 million annually due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. To better understand this estimate and what it means for Arizona’s nonprofit sector, ASU Now spoke with Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Man in glasses smilingQuestion: What changed in the law to disincentivize charitable giving?

Answer: The new federal tax law significantly reduced the amount of itemized deductions that can be claimed on federal tax forms. While taxpayers can still claim charitable deductions, their inability to claim other deductions (e.g. state and local taxes above $10,000) means that many filers will choose to take the new higher standard deduction. Affected filers will then no longer receive reductions in taxes as a result of their charitable giving. 

Again, giving is deductible for those who itemize, but fewer will itemize so the deduction is irrelevant for them. As a result of this change, the effective after tax “price of giving” increases. This will reduce total giving, which Seidman estimates at $272.7 million, or approximately 5% of all giving in the state of Arizona in 2018.

Q: What is the economic impact to the state of this decline in giving?  

A: Seidman estimates that this erosion of the nonprofit sector, which depends on charitable donations, will translate into a $775.4 million reduction in the state’s gross domestic product, 10,587 fewer full and part-time jobs, and $493.5 million less in labor income.

Q: Are there any legal or policy changes that could support reversing this trend?

A: The best option for reversing this trend would be the addition of a separate line for charitable deductions that would allow both itemizers and those claiming the standard deduction to claim a charitable deduction.

Q: What other changes should the average person expect to see this year when filing their taxes?

A: It really depends on one’s circumstance. The biggest adverse impact will fall on those taxpayers that have historically claimed large state and local tax deductions as itemized deductions. Others will benefit from the new higher standard deduction level and the lower marginal tax rates. And whether that translates into higher or lower refunds this year depends upon how your deductions have changed as a result of the law and whether you adjusted your rates of withholding throughout 2018 in anticipation of these new law changes.

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Katherine Reedy

Senior Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications