Community partnership supports local teens in learning the ins and outs of courtroom procedure

April 15, 2019

During February and March, the Valley of the Sun YMCA in partnership with Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions hosted its inaugural Youth and Government Judicial Conferences. During these conferences, over 70 teens from across Arizona learned courtroom procedure, how to take a case to trial and how to present both the prosecution and defense. Using the 2019 Youth and Government assigned case, students simulated a criminal trial proceeding, participating as attorneys, judges, bailiffs and witnesses.

During the first phase of the semester, attorneys from the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office joined the YMCA to offer hands-on and real-life training to students. The attorney volunteers taught students when and how to object during a trial, how to present evidence during a trial and the key components needed when trying to prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Large group of high school student participants in judicial conference poses in front of ASU logo in Concho Room Over 70 teens participated in the YMCA's Youth and Government Judicial Conferences.

At the competition conference in March, the students put their learning into practice as teams participated in several rounds of trial. Through the scores of evaluators, two teams were announced as the winners of their respective age brackets.

Watts College provided the YMCA’s Youth and Government program classroom and conference space downtown as courtrooms for the trainings, trials and deliberations.

“The YMCA is excited to continue our judicial program, and we look forward to working with Watts College in the future,” said Brooke Baumer Saldivar, Valley of the Sun YMCA’s youth and civic outreach director. 

Summary courtesy of Brooke Baumer Saldivar

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ASU workshop showcases the challenges for those newly released from prison

ASU workshop simulates challenges of people who leave prison to rejoin society.
April 10, 2019

Simulation participants navigate probation, rent, transportation as they reenter society

Shawn served three years in prison for burglary, then walked out to face a dizzying array of requirements he had to fulfill with almost no help and no money. He had to pay for drug testing and probation but wouldn’t get his disability check for another week, and his landlord was demanding a $50 deposit right away.

“Shawn” was one of the characters in a role-playing scenario held Tuesday by the Center for Child Well Being at Arizona State University. About 100 people participated in the “reentry simulation,” each assuming the identity of someone who was recently released from prison. The participants included students, staff, faculty and community members, each of whom received a packet describing their character’s prison record, living and employment situations and everything he or she needed to accomplish every week to avoid being sent back to jail: look for a job, undergo drug testing, pay restitution, pay rent, pay child support, buy food, attend Alcoholics Anonymous.

The simulation was put on by the U.S. attorney’s office and was based on input from real people who have been released from prison. The goal is to demonstrate what it’s like for men and women to make their way through the system.

“We release people back into their communities every day, and with very little instruction,” said Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist for the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, who runs the simulation for any group that requests it.

The simulation was divided into 15-minute segments, each representing one week. The room had 15 stations, representing the obligations of a returning citizen — probation, social services, bank, landlord, etc. Every participant had several tasks to complete each week.

The responsibilities were confusing and overwhelming. Every obligation required a bus pass. Even bus passes could not be purchased without handing over a bus pass.

The first week, Shawn, one of the lucky ones who left prison with $20, was able to purchase the all-important state ID card for $15, then sell his plasma for $25 to pay his $30 probation fee. He went to the “court,” handed over a bus pass and was told he needed to cash his plasma check before paying the fee. So he used another bus pass to go to the bank and cash the check and then another bus pass to finally pay the fee.

The second week was more stressful. Shawn had to wait in the church line to borrow a bus pass, which he used to buy more bus passes, then go back to the church to repay the bus pass before going to collect his disability check.

The simulation included real-life scenarios. Everyone who took a drug test had to pull a card from a deck to tell them whether it was “clean” or not. Every week, the participants received a card with an unplanned situation — like Shawn’s landlord discovering that he had a dog and needed to pay a $50 deposit.

In the third week, Shawn was waiting in line to pay his rent when the sheriff came by, saw that Shawn had not completed his second-week drug testing and sent him back to jail.

In the guided discussion after the simulation, many of the participants described how out of control they felt.

“A lot of it is pretty demeaning,” said Anthony Evans, a senior researcher for the L. William Seidman Research Institute in the W. P. Carey School of Business. The institute is working with Televerde, a call center operator that has been a leader in employing prisoners and people who have left prison. Evans said he decided to experience the simulation to gain insight into what Televerde’s workforce is facing.

“People in positions of authority should be encouraged to attend one of these,” he said.

The process was eye-opening even for practitioners. Molly Hahn-Floyd, a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University who works in adolescent behavioral health, said that during the simulation, she didn’t go to the church or social services or any other place that offered help.

“And I don’t know how many times I’ve preached to people, ‘Ask for help,’” she said.

Jan Wethers, reentry coordinator for the Arizona Department of Corrections, portrayed the mean pawn shop owner, who gave Shawn $10 for a $50 CD player.

“Take the bus sometime,” she told the practitioners. “See what it’s like when it’s hot and you have kids in tow and grocery bags.”

Empathy is critical, but so is responsibility, she said.

“You must hold them accountable. That is very, very important,” she said.

Many participants described how returning to jail felt inevitable — and almost a relief.

“If you’re released to a community and your family wants nothing to do with you and you have no job and no home and you have all these obligations, it makes sense to go back,” Aikens said. “They know your name in jail. You have food in jail. I get it.”

For a person who’s newly released, thinking about returning to prison can be a “comfort zone,” according to Theron Denman Jr., who left prison a year ago. He volunteered at the simulation “treatment” table and addressed the participants during the discussion.

“I was scared to drive, I was scared of the police, I was scared of technology,” he said. “If I hadn’t had the support of my family over this past year, I would’ve wanted to go back.

“But that’s not my comfort zone anymore. Volunteering here today is a beautiful thing.”

In the fourth week, Shawn got out of jail, bought bus passes, got food, completed weekly treatment, paid for a drug test and checked in with his vocational rehabilitation case worker. All the boxes were checked.

But it didn’t matter. While he was in jail during Week 3, he missed paying rent. Shawn was homeless.

The reentry simulation was a kickoff to the National Children of Incarcerated Parents Conference to be held next week by the Center for Child Well Being, part of the School of Social Work. The conference will include some events that are open to the public. On Sunday, the opening reception will feature photographer Isadora Kosofsky, who documents prison visitations between parents and children. Additionally, Denali Tiller, director of “Tre |Maison |Dasan” will screen her film and discuss the three young boys featured. On Tuesday, Rudy Valdez, director of HBO's “The Sentence,” will screen his documentary and discuss the effects of incarceration on his nieces. A panel discussion will follow, featuring people who have been affected by incarceration.

Top image: Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist with the U.S. attorney's office, led a "reentry simulation" Tuesday at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix. About 100 students, staff, faculty and community members participated in the workshop, in which they took on the persona of someone who recently left prison and had to navigate all the tasks necessary to avoid being sent back to jail, such as getting a job, being drug tested and paying rent. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Looking at sports as a microcosm of racial, gender disparities in society

ASU summit looks at racism, sexism issues in society through the lens of sport.
March 30, 2019

ASU Global Sport Institute's second summit draws experts to examine inclusion and diversity in college and pro leagues

Sports is a microcosm of the racial and gender issues facing society, and it often serves as the vehicle for change, according to several experts who spoke at the second Global Sport Summit held by the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University on Thursday and Friday.

Kenneth Shropshire, CEO of the Global Sport Institute, said that Americans last year marked the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympics, when black athletes protested racism, as well as this year commemorating 400 years since the first African slave was brought to America.

“We’re thinking about how important this is, and also it’s a time to think about the progress that’s been made — or not — in that time,” he said.

The summit, which focused on topics of race and inclusion in sport, was sponsored by the Global Sport Institute as well as the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the W. P. Carey School of Business, the School of Community Resources and Development, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. The event was held in downtown Phoenix.

The summit gathered experts from different areas of the world of sports, where several panels addressed racism, sexism and the role of sports in helping refugees, veterans and people with disabilities, as well as how to achieve a career in sports. Here is some of what the speakers had to say:

Sports leagues are profiting from black athletes, who could be leveraging their positions.

Bill Rhoden, former columnist for the New York Times and writer-at-large for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” said that although black people make up a majority of the athletes in some sports, they are underrepresented among those in power — the management and journalists.

“I’ve been to countless Super Bowls and national championships, and when we go through the tunnels, black folks are not in the spaces of event production and event management,” he said at the morning keynote address. “When you get closer to the field you see the black guys running and jumping, but farther away from the court or the field, we’re not there.”

To address this, ESPN established the Rhoden Fellows, two-year paid journalism internships for students from historically black colleges and universities, who cover race, class and culture for “The Undefeated.”

“When you’re sitting in a room and there’s no black people or women there, you know you’re sitting in the wrong space,” said Rhoden, author of “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete.”

Rhoden said that star college recruits like Zion Williamson, the Duke University basketball player who is widely expected to become the top pick in the NBA draft, should be making more demands, such as asking Duke to help other black students.

“Zion knows he’s only going to be in school for eight months at best, but there’s probably a deserving young black person in his community with the scores to go to Duke,” Rhoden said.

“Leverage is nothing without strategy and courage. It’s still a slave mentality of not looking white people in the eye,” he said. “If a top-10 kid threatened to walk away, all of a sudden things could happen.”

Race, gender and socioeconomic dynamics are a huge influence on college sports.

Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history, and women's, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University, said that Title IX is considered to be transformative legislation in women’s sports, and it has increased scholarships and participation for females.

“When Title IX was enacted, coaches of women’s teams were 95% women and now it’s less than 50%,” said Davis, who hosts the “Burn It All Down” podcast and spoke at a panel titled, “Race, Gender and Inclusion in College Sports.”

“There’s disproportionate representation of black women in track and basketball, and in the sports that are growing the fastest — field hockey, golf and tennis — black women make up less than 3%.

“We’ve grown sports but haven’t grown diversity, and we’ve invested in sports that are disproportionately more accessible to middle-class people, like soccer, where you have to play at the club level.”

Jean Boyd, executive senior associate athletic director at ASU, said: “The people with the highest salaries are almost exclusively white male coaches, juxtaposed with the overrepresentation of black male athletes.

“The most overrepresented but the most underachieving population of student-athletes are African American males.”

Boyd said Sun Devil Athletics differs from the typical narrative because there are black people in positions of power, including the athletic director, the head football coach and several other coaches.

Davis said sports can be a driver for social change and that she sees some college athletes leveraging their power. She mentioned the University of Missouri football team, which in 2015 brought attention to long-standing issues of racism on campus by threatening to not play a game.

“Within 24 hours, people were fired,” she said.

“Sports is a connector, and you can talk about hard issues that otherwise people won’t want to talk about,” she said.

Producing real change is complicated.

A panel titled “Policies Driving Progress in Sport and Beyond” tackled the issue of whether change should be mandated, like the Rooney RuleThe Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy started in 2003 requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching jobs..

Vince Pierson, director of diversity and inclusion for Minor League Baseball, said that the biggest challenge is changing the culture.

“We can insert policies that may create an immediate change, but how do we make it part of our culture and have a true understanding and empathy behind what we’re doing?” he said.

“I always appreciated the intentionality of the Rooney Rule. It’s in place and be revisited and revised. You can’t legislate change to culture, but you can legislate change to behavior and that’s what the Rooney Rule tries to do.”

Pierson said that in Minor League Baseball, there are no mandates, so he must come up with incentives.

“That makes us think about how we’ll genuinely connect. We have a lot of programs to influence our pipeline — we get onto college campuses, we visit with first-generation college students,” he said.

“You have to create rewards. If you have some kind of pat on the back, everybody wants it.”

Mike Haynes, a former football player for ASU and the NFL, said that change must be organic.

“If I’m an NFL owner, I’m going to hire someone I’m comfortable with, and the challenge with the Rooney Rule is you’re hiring someone you don’t know or trust because of this requirement,” said Haynes, who is in the NFL Hall of Fame and used to work with the NFL.

“When I was with the NFL, I wasn’t in favor of it, but it was better than nothing.”

Black athletes face enormous hostility.

USC Professor  speaks onstage at the Global Sport Summit

Todd Boyd

Todd Boyd, a professor at the University of Southern California, said there’s a double standard when it comes to wrongdoing.

“If an athlete is accused of doing something wrong, it’s a huge story and the underlying component is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ Lurking beneath the surface is this narrative of black athletes run amok,” said Boyd, who holds the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture at USC.

“Hollywood is a community of movie stars and musical artists, and all the same sorts of things that people associate with athletes goes on in these spaces but I don’t know of anyone holding them to the same level of contempt,” he said.

Black athletes are faced with losing everything if they speak out.

Howard Bryant, a writer for ESPN and NPR, is the author of “The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.”

“I make the argument that in a lot of what is being sold in the American sport milieu is that being black is the worst thing in the world,” he said. “Look what happens to any black athlete who advocates — they take everything.”

Author, writer and commentator  speaks onstage at the Global Sport Summit

Howard Bryant

Bryant said the intertwining of sports and patriotism after 9/11 has heightened racism in sports.

“You’re watching the government use sports as a recruiting tool under the guise of patriotism,” he said. “It’s not patriotism, it’s commerce. You’re selling patriotism at a sporting event at a time when you’re telling black athletes they can’t speak.

“You’re criminalizing the most patriotic thing you could do in this country, which is to speak.”

The pressure isn’t just on the athletes. Pierson, the diversity and inclusion director for Minor League Baseball, said he feels that anxiety as well.

“I sit in boardrooms where I hear statements I should challenge,” he said. “There could be a sacrificial moment in my career where the change I look to create I never get to experience.”

The summit also included a screening of the film, “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar,” as well a showcase of Global Sport Institute research and a pitch competition for entrepreneurs.

The Global Sport Venture Challenge included seven competitors. The winner was Force Impact Technologies, whose CEO is Bob Merriman, who earned his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from ASU. Merriman invented a device called the FITGuard, a mouthpiece worn by athletes that measures the force of an impact and can detect a possible concussion. The mouth guard measures the hit and turns different colors depending on the severity of impact, sending data to a phone app.

Merriman said the device will have a huge potential market in youth and college sports.

“We understand the mindset of the player who wants to be on the field, and we also understand the mindset of the parents,” said Merriman, who won $10,000 and a mentoring trip to the headquarters of adidas in Portland, Oregon.

Top photo: Ken Shropshire (left), CEO of the Global Sport Institute at ASU, holds a keynote discussion with USC Professor Todd Boyd at the Global Sports Summit on Friday in downtown Phoenix. Boyd is an expert on race in pop culture, especially sports and film. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Displaced populations can cultivate hope, social work experts find

Displacement leaves refugees under constant stress, researcher tells ASU crowd.
March 22, 2019

Refugees, incarcerated people find ways to be resilient, researchers say at Roatch-Haskell Lectures

Displaced and powerless, refugees and incarcerated people both struggle with the concept of hope, according to two social work experts who have researched the resilience of these populations.

“Human beings are incredible entities if they are given the chance,” said Alex Polgar, an author and researcher of correctional services in Canada.

Hope is defined as positive expectations for the future, said Polgar, who spoke as part of the annual Roatch-Haskell Lectures, held Friday in Phoenix. The two lectures addressed how social work practitioners — and the community — can help refugees and formerly incarcerated people. The speakers were Polgar, who was the Haskell speaker, and Bree Akesson, an associate professor of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, who was the Roatch lecturer. The event was presented by the School of Social Work at Arizona State University.

For both incarcerated people and refugees, it all comes down to environment, Polgar said.

“Why did this happen? If we create environments that are questionable in our communities and our society, if they do not produce the results we want, why can’t we create an alternative environment?” he said.

Alex Polgar, a researcher and consultant on incarceration, gave the Haskell lecture at the University Club in Phoenix on Friday. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Polgar has researched cognitive development and emotional intelligence and found that almost all offenders had endured adverse environments, relationship trauma and failed attachment. He said it’s a misnomer to say that people released from prison will be “re-entered” into a community because most of them were never assimilated to begin with.

“They felt alienated. Many could only conceptualize hope as hoping to be alive tomorrow,” he said. “Their life skills, which became known as ‘emotional intelligence,’ were basic survival.”

Programs to develop cognitive skills and emotional intelligence helped prisoners to develop hope, Polgar said.

“We changed the environment and we measured everything,” he said. “As their cognitive development perspective improved, their emotional intelligence improved and their behavior improved.

“They began to understand that there were different ways of hoping than just survival.”

But programs to develop those skills in prisoners take time and money, and are unpopular when the public attitude is to punish rather than habilitate, according to John Hepburn, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU, who discussed the Arizona perspective after Polgar’s talk.

“Our sole technique is ‘punishment will deter.’ And if a little doesn’t work, we’ll give you more,” said Hepburn, who has researched prisoner re-entry. But that doesn’t help recidivism rates, which are more than 60 percent for male prisoners in Arizona, he said.

He also cited Arizona’s reliance on private prisons as a factor.

“Private prison services are not being held accountable for recidivism,” he said. “If you’re running a private prison, you want them coming back because it’s profit.”

Akesson discussed her extensive research in Lebanon with Syrian refugee families, who always had to balance their hopes to return home with the reality that they might not.

Civil war that started in 2011 has displaced millions of Syrians, and about a million have fled to Lebanon, where they live in informal camps on farms or in overcrowded apartments in Beirut. The Lebanese government doesn’t recognize the refugees or provide services, so the families live in constant fear of being arrested.

“The moms and children are working. Men aren’t working because they’re afraid of being arrested,” she said. “Men are targeted by security forces and asked to show IDs they don’t have, so that is changing family dynamics.”

Akesson and her research team spent time with 46 Syrian families, doing extensive interviews with every family member, having the children draw pictures, going on tours of their neighborhoods with them and asking them to wear activity-logging devices and fill out daily diaries. Then they made “mobility maps,” and went back to interview the families again.

They found that the families live in constant stress.

“It was the idea of precarity — underemployment, food insecurity. Parents feel inadequate for not being able to provide for their children,” she said.

“That leads to restricted mobility. Families don’t go outside because they’re afraid their children will ask for things, like ice cream or a trip to the beach. That was surprising and heartbreaking.”

Arizona has accepted some Syrian refugees, according to Juliana Davis, the state refugee health coordinator at the Arizona Department of Economic Security, who gave the local perspective.

The number peaked in 2016, when 800 Syrian refugees were resettled in Arizona, but after the Paris attacks that year, the vetting process was changed, and this year only five Syrians were accepted here, she said.

Akesson said that despite the hardships, the refugees she met were resilient, finding a way to earn a living and send their children to school.

“We always ended the interviews by talking about dreams for the future,” she said. One 10-year-old boy said: “I dream of going back to Syria and going back to school.”

The John F. Roatch Global Lecture Series on Social Policy and Practice was established by John and Mary Roatch. The Linda Haskell Memorial Master Class was established by Rose and William Haskell to honor the memory of their daughter, Linda Haskell, a social worker who was killed by a drunk driver in 1992.

Top photo: Bree Akesson, an associate professor of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, describes her research with Syrian refugees in Lebanon during the Roatch-Haskell Lectures at the University Club in Phoenix on Friday. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU works inside prisons, out in community on incarceration solutions

ASU initiatives work inside prisons, with families on incarceration solutions.
March 21, 2019

Initiatives on re-entry and reform include students, inmates and the public

Momentum is beginning to shift toward addressing the effects of mass incarceration, and Arizona State University has several initiatives to address the growing concern over the fate of people in prison, how it affects their families and what happens when they rejoin society.

The programs in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions work inside the prisons and in the community and involve undergraduates, grad students and the public:

• ASU undergraduates are invited to apply for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, in which students will visit Perryville Prison once a week for a semester to learn about crime and justice alongside women who are incarcerated there. The deadline to apply is April 5.

• Members of the public can gain insight from a simulation workshop on April 9 in which they’ll experience what it’s like to navigate life after being released from prison.

• Researchers and practitioners will gather for the four-day National Children of Incarcerated Parents Conference held by the Center for Child Well-Being next month to discuss best practices and hear from experts.

Nationwide, about 2.2 million people were incarcerated as of December 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, while about an additional 4.5 million people were under supervision, either probation or parole. That means that about 1 in 38 adults, or 2.6 percent of people age 18 or older in the United States, were under some form of correctional supervision at year-end 2016. Despite declining crime rates and sentencing changes, which led to a decrease in the number of imprisoned people over the previous decade, the United States still has the highest rate of incarceration in the world — at 655 inmates per 100,000 people, according to the World Prison Brief.

When people leave incarceration, they often fall into what is called “the second prison” of poverty and homelessness. Formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of more than 27 percent — higher than the unemployment rate during the Great Depression, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

But several bipartisan efforts are underway to address the effects of mass incarceration. In December, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act, a bill to repeal some of the harsh sentencing measures passed decades ago. In Arizona, a poll by a bipartisan lobbying group found that 80 percent of those surveyed felt it was important to reduce the number of people in prison, although several bills on the issue died in the Legislature.

About 95 percent of incarcerated people eventually will leave prison, so focusing on their outcomes is critical, according to Kevin Wright, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

"Our ASU students are changing the mindset of people who have had years of experience with criminal justice that is negative and now they see a more promising future.”
— Kevin Wright, ASU associate professor

Wright is the director of the Center for Correctional Solutions, a year-old unit devoted to research, education and community outreach. The center houses the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which has been offered since 2016 but will be at Perryville for the first time next fall. That’s important because work with men in prison is not necessarily translatable to women in prison, Wright said.

“We can’t say all the results we come up with will tidily work with women. There’s good reasons to think that’s not the case,” he said.

“Women who are incarcerated often have different histories — often there’s more abuse, victimization, addiction and financial dependence, and children play a role.”

The Inside-Out class will include 10 undergraduate ASU students, who will take a van once a week to Perryville to meet with 10 women who are incarcerated there. Together, they’ll study motivational justice. There are no prerequisites, but the undergraduates will be interviewed before being accepted. The past few classes have included students from a variety of majors, which has enriched the experience, Wright said.

"In the last class we had students from business, finance and global studies. The perspectives they brought are what we need to come up with innovative solutions,” he said.

RELATED: Barrett, The Honors College Inside-Out program focuses on toxic masculinity and fostering positive change

Prospective students at Perryville must have a high school equivalency diploma and no misconduct points.

“One of the things everyone loves is that we don’t read criminology and justice — we read organization systems and social psychology, what makes a good team and what inspires people,” he said. “We take all that general knowledge developed elsewhere and apply it to criminal justice and our approach to rehabilitating people.”

Last year, an ASU master’s degree student analyzed the results of surveys taken by the participants before and after the classes. As expected, the undergraduates become more understanding of why people end up in prison. But the view of the “inside” people changed as well after they met ASU students who plan careers in law enforcement, Wright said.

“They no longer think, ‘I hate police.’ They think, ‘Megan will be a police officer.’ Our ASU students are changing the mindset of people who have had years of experience with criminal justice that is negative, and now they see a more promising future.”

The Center for Correctional Solutions has other initiatives as well, including the Arizona Transformation Project, a think tank based at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence that includes alumni from the first Inside-Out class held there. Research projects are evaluating whether the state’s Second Chance Centers are helping to reduce recidivism and how restrictive housing affects the mental health of inmates and correctional officers.

Currently, a doctoral student is creating an employment program for the women at Perryville, Wright said.

“She is doing interviews because we don’t want to take something off the shelf and assume it will work with the women,” he said.

“We’re asking, ‘What’s the best programming you’ve ever had?’ and ‘What’s your dream job?’ to develop something that will make an impact.”

When a person goes to prison, the effects reverberate among the family. In 2014, people in the Phoenix community came to the Center for Child Well-Being and asked for help in addressing the needs of children whose parents are incarcerated. So the center held a daylong conference, which was informative but didn’t lead to any momentum, according to Judy Krysik, an associate professor in the School of Social Work and director of the center.

So last year, the center held its first national conference.

“We had people with lived experience — people who were children of incarcerated parents and maybe still had parents who were incarcerated. We had parents who had been incarcerated. Researchers. Advocates. People from the faith-based community. Government agencies such as probation, child welfare, corrections,” she said.

“That was a little bit tense because people don’t always agree or see things the same way. And it was a healthy tension, where people were able to voice their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of research or policy or practice.”

For example, research in this field often focuses on poor educational outcomes or generational incarceration.

“That’s disturbing for children who are trying to do well and feel they are doing well,” she said. “There needs to be a better balance there.”

Families face so much stigma when a parent is incarcerated that sometimes they’ll lie to the children about why the parent isn’t there.

“Sometimes they’ll tell the child that the parent has a job at the prison,” Krysik said. “And a lot of times the child knows they’re not being told the truth, and that creates an even bigger sense of shame around the issue.”

The second conference, on April 14-17, will bring together experts to share best practices, including training for teachers who have children of incarcerated parents in their classrooms.

And the participants also will focus on research.

“There’s pockets of research in different places with children of different ages,” she said. “There’s a little research on visiting programs and there’s a little research on re-entry programs, but there’s nothing that lays out a framework or tells us where our gaps in research are,” she said. “And that’s what we’re trying to put together this year, really mapping that out and making sense of it.”

RELATED: Podcast focuses on children of incarcerated parents

The conference also will be a mini film festival, featuring four documentaries: “Run for His Life,” by photographer Pete Monsanto, whose father is serving a life sentence; “Foster,” about foster families, which will be on HBO later this year; “Tres Maison Dasan,” about three boys whose fathers are in prison, and “The Sentence,” about a mother serving a 15-year term, which also will feature a discussion by the director, Rudy Valdez.

The public will get a unique opportunity to delve into this issue at a “re-entry simulation” workshop on April 9 in which they can experience the first month of post-release life. Each participant assumes the identity of an ex-offender and receives a packet of materials explaining criminal background, living situation, job situation and weekly tasks that must be accomplished to avoid being sent back to prison. Then the participants try to navigate their new lives. A guided discussion will follow.

“We hope to influence the practices and the policies and to reduce some of the barriers for people re-integrating into society,” Krysik said.

“There’s is growing recognition that it’s such a loss of human capital and creates so much havoc with so many families.” 

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Community conversation moves One Square Mile Initiative forward

March 20, 2019

ASU project to help revitalize a growing community of 230,000 residents in Phoenix

The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University is moving forward with a project to help revitalize a growing community of 230,000 residents in Phoenix.

Dean Jonathan Koppell led a community conversation in Maryvale Monday to discuss the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative with a standing-room only crowd of stakeholders representing the neighborhood, various community groups and local police.

The initiative is a core project stemming from Sunstate Equipment founders and philanthropists Mike and Cindy Watts’ investment in the college to support Maryvale, the neighborhood where they grew up. 

“Maryvale is a great place,” Koppell said. “It’s a strong community with lots of people engaged. What we see is a community that is ambitious with aspirations to be more than it is today.”

Maryvale’s soaring population accounts for 10 percent of Maricopa County, and if it were a city, it would be the seventh largest in the state. The neighborhood is also one of the poorest in Phoenix, where 39 percent of residents lack a high school diploma or equivalency.

“There are some extraordinary things going on and there are some signs of unhealthy patterns,” Koppell said.  

Although Monday’s meeting was the first for the public at large, the college has been working on the project for months by listening to residents and soliciting feedback. That is a key piece for the long-term success of the initiative, because Koppell wants to ensure all work going forward is “of, by and for the community.”

“The idea is not that we come here, plant a flag, say we’re open for business and everything is about us,” Koppell said. “Because that’s not sustainable. What we are interested in doing is helping start things that have an organic basis and they last forever.”

To that end, the college established the Design Studio for Community Solutions. Led by Director Erik Cole, the studio will be the place to share ideas, bring in different perspectives and run possibilities up against reality.

“It’s not purely an architectural exercise,” Koppell said. “We think of it as a studio where we design concepts and we repeat, and if we fail we try again, and we design again.”

Many groups in Maryvale are already engaged in different community initiatives. Watts College is interested in helping concentrate efforts and “connect the dots” between activities that are already happening.

“There are so many assets, opportunities and organizations (engaged),” Cole said. “Maryvale Revitalization Corporation, Heart of Isaac (community center), YMCA, Grand Canyon University, school districts. None of why we are here is to say there aren’t those assets and that incredible work is not already happening.”

One other organization mentioned by Cole was Estrella Supermoms, a neighborhood block-watch program of about 20 families who help clean up Maryvale, remove graffiti and work on other service projects.

“That’s what this is about,” Cole said. “It’s really about community and coming together, and if we can be a vehicle for that, so be it.”

Monday’s community conversation also served as an opportunity to continue gathering feedback from residents. Attendees participated in three faculty-led group discussions about health and wellness; youth, families and children; and public safety. The discussions brought up areas of concern that present opportunities for improvement.

Security is an important topic often taken for granted in other neighborhoods, said Carlos Mendoza, a 16-year-old student at Phoenix Union Bioscience High School.

“Other communities have bright lights, security cameras, everything is safe and protected,” he said. “You look at the parks here; the lights are yellow, dim and so far away from each other.”

Parents don't let their children out to play after the sun goes down, because those who are not at home could find themselves in a “scary situation,” Mendoza said.

Contributing to neighborhood crime is the reality in Maryvale that many people are hesitant to report crimes to police, said Rosa Menjivar, who is the president of the Estrella Supermoms.

“We see the fear in the community that leads people to not report crime,” Menjivar said. “I need officials to help do their part in communicating more with families and get them more engaged.”

Crime is not the only safety factor challenging Maryvale residents. Simply walking down the street can be risky. The community layout and sidewalks are not pedestrian-friendly, and this can account for the high number of accidents, Mendoza said. Pedestrians have to walk a light or two down the street to get to a bus stop, which can take an extra 10 to 15 minutes. So jaywalking is common because some are willing to risk their lives to save some time.

“Sidewalks are not practical,” Mendoza said. “Things are dictated by how things are shaped, and I feel like most things here are shaped by, of course, the engineers that originally designed this community.”

Watts College has not set a specific timeline to achieve objectives of the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative, Koppell said. The university intends to remain a resource for as long as necessary. The idea is for ASU to serve as an “empowering” force rather than an essential element needed for success.

“We can change Maryvale,” Menjivar said. “If we work as a team.”

Top photo: Dean Jonathan Koppell, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, speaks with Maryvale community members on March 18 in Maryvale. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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African-American law enforcement officers balance dual identities

African-American law-enforcement professionals talk about racism, reform.
March 14, 2019

Criminal justice system professionals talk about racism, reform during panel at ASU

African-American law enforcement officers must balance two identities simultaneously during these complicated times, and each identity serves the other, according to a panel discussion at Arizona State University on Thursday night.

Five African-American men discussed the complexity of race in their experiences as professionals in the criminal justice system in a talk titled “Being Blue from a Black Perspective” at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Kevin Robinson, a lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a retired police officer, said that a student recently asked him: “Are you a black law enforcement officer or a law enforcement officer who happens to be black?”

“I didn’t answer right away, but I came to this conclusion: Being one makes me more acutely aware of being the other,” said Robinson (pictured above), who was assistant police chief in the Phoenix Police Department when he retired.

“As a police officer, I understand what happens to black males at stops sometimes. I get it. As a police officer I understand the concerns that police officers have in dealing with adverse situations. It goes both ways.”

Timothy Woods, a Phoenix Police Department patrol shift commander, said: “One thing I cannot escape from forever is the melanin in my skin.”

“Whether I have the uniform on or have the uniform off, I’m a black man. I’m proud to be a black man. I’m proud of my culture, and I’m proud to serve as a Phoenix police officer as well. It is a career path I’ve chosen,” he said.

The men described the discrimination they have faced on the job. Michael Powell, a former state trooper, deputy sheriff and retired senior manager in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, recalled how he was handcuffed by two troopers for speeding while working as an undercover agent in Miami.

“They didn’t believe I was a DEA agent, and I was locked in the back of the car,” he said. “About 15 minutes later, it didn’t turn out well for them.”

Robinson said that he more often faced racism from fellow officers on an individual basis than institutional racism.

“You have to go right to them,” he said of the racists. “And they were a real motivation for me to take promotional exams.”

Jocquese Blackwell, a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, said he didn’t always have a good view of law enforcement. He worked in military intelligence for several years and then as an engineer before going to law school at ASU.

“I had dreads in law school, and I got pulled over all the time. I had dreads when I worked as an engineer, and I got pulled over all the time,” he said. “We need to address that.”

Cecil Patterson said that, besides being mistaken for a clerk, he also dealt with the “fishbowl syndrome.” He was the first black judge appointed to the Maricopa County Superior Court, the first black lawyer in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the state’s first black appeals court judge. He also was a graduate of the second class of ASU’s law school, in 1971.

“I had five major jobs in 32 years of practice, and every job I was the first and only African-American in the job. And that lasted a long time,” he said.

“I had the chance to influence, but it was on an individual level and what hurts is not having more African-Americans. If you have more people, you can have a community effort and more lasting positive change.”

Patterson said he has seen an evolution.

“One of the things that I was proud of and that has continued to happen is the presence of blacks in the system — defense attorneys, prosecutors, police officers, probation officers — and the numbers have increased,” he said.

The experts were asked what they would tell the current candidates who are running for president about the American criminal justice system and black people.

Robinson said that the next president needs to work with states to make sure that law enforcement has more training.

“If we look back at all the negative things we see occur in law enforcement with folks of color, it is lack of communication,” he said. “They don’t understand someone else or take the time to listen. You have to understand folks.”

Powell, who now owns a company that consults with law enforcement, said that accountability is critical.

“You have to hold police departments accountable, and it has to be transparent. All the action has to be transparent,” he said.

Woods said that law enforcement has often been on the wrong side of history and is now figuring out how to be on the right side.

“This goes back to slavery. When the slave ran away, who was entrusted to capture the slave? The sheriff was,” he said.

“We’ve had such a long ‘us versus them’ mentality. We’ve gone into a community and called it ‘the jungle’ or ‘the hood.’ We go in and wreak havoc and destroy and leave. But we’re entrusted to serve and protect, and a candidate needs to understand that dynamic.”

He also said that incarcerating people for nonviolent crimes is expensive and unhelpful.

“We need to be restoring the rights of people and if you don’t, you keep them in prison. And if you keep them in prison they won’t have any options to get resources, and if they don’t get them legally, they’ll get them illegally. We have to change that.”

Blackwell said that candidates who supported the 1994 federal crime bill must acknowledge that the result has been increased rates of incarceration for black people for nonviolent crimes.

“If they believed that crime was rampant and that black people and poor people were ‘superpredators,’ they need to own it and they need to apologize for it,” he said.

The talk was sponsored by the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, the nation’s oldest African-American professional fraternity, and moderated by Greg Vincent, president of the international organization and a retired law professor.

Vincent said that the often-repeated statement that there are more black men in the criminal justice system than college is a myth.

“But what is true is that for black men in their 30s, on any given day, 1 in 10 is connected to the criminal justice system, many for nonviolent drug offenses,” he said. And although black men make up 13 percent of the population, they make up more than 30 percent of the victims of police shootings.

“We know there have been bipartisan efforts to reform the criminal justice system, and we think in the next election cycle, we’ll see this issue front and center,” he said.

Top photo: Kevin Robinson, an ASU lecturer and former assistant chief for the Phoenix Police Department, introduces the discussion "Being Blue from a Black Perspective" on Thursday evening at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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US News ranks ASU's disaster management program top in nation

March 11, 2019

Emergency Management and Homeland Security's top spot leads strong showing of graduate programs around ASU

Floods, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes. An Arizona State University graduate program sending professionals into the teeth of disasters was ranked the top in the nation this week by U.S. News and World Report, ahead of George Mason University, Naval Postgraduate School and Columbia.

And the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security did it just five years after it was created.

“It’s nice to be No. 1,” said Don Siegel, director of the School of Public Affairs, where the center is housed. “It’s an amazing achievement, and we offer a tremendous array of programs in that space.”

The center fuses academics, research and real-world experience to meet disasters and emergencies, respond to them, manage them and recover from them, in both the private and public sectors. It also educates and trains public management professionals.

The No. 1 ranking leads a strong showing of competitive graduate programs around ASU, including several others in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions: Information technology management rose to second, ahead of Georgia Institute of Technology and Syracuse University; and urban policy moved up to fourth, ahead of Harvard, the University of Chicago and UCLA.

Elsewhere around ASU, the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the W. P. Carey School of Business all saw graduate programs with improved rankings. See the full list at U.S. News and World Report's education website.

Managing crises and security is one of the fastest-growing job categories in both public and private sectors, according to Siegel. “There are tremendous job opportunities there,” he said.

Emergency management director is a job category not only in government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but in large plants and facilities, and at private-sector companies like engineering, procurement and construction company Kellogg, Brown & Root.

“We see this as a growing field, and that’s why we offer so many programs,” Siegel said. “This is a growing area in government, but also in industry.”

Brian Gerber, an associate professor at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, directs the program.

“We have a wide range of interesting people who go through the program,” Gerber said. Of three recent grads, one works for the Secret Service, another is the emergency manager for Maricopa County, and the third is the emergency planner for a Middle Eastern country’s national health system, Gerber said.

The college is also ranked third in the country for local government management. Most of ASU’s grad students in the field end up as city managers or assistant city managers.

“We train a lot of city managers,” Siegel said. “A lot of them are engaged in this, so they need to know this. It’s a very important part of their job. Not as much in a city like Phoenix, but in places like Florida, where they have all kinds of hurricanes and floods and have to deal with the response to that. ... We also place people in positions like compliance manager — very high salaries in these fields. ... It’s not just limited to the public sector.”

The vast majority of emergency management students are already working professionals. It’s a degree that’s oriented to early- or mid-career folks, Gerber said. The Emergency Management and Homeland Security degree is available online.

Part of the program’s meteoric success arises from the faculty, who are a mixture of various professors in the schools, along with a heavy component of faculty associates who are practitioners.

“That’s intentional,” Gerber said. “This being a professional degree, it’s important you have a blend of practitioner experience combined with an academic perspective that offers a different type of rigor useful to the students.”

Professor Eric Welch has done important research on how transportation departments manage extreme weather events. Associate Professor Yushim Kim has explored public health issues related to emergency management. Research Professor Melanie Gall is a hazards geographer studying the interaction between natural hazards and society. Her expertise lies in risk metrics (e.g., disaster losses, indices, risk assessments), hazard mitigation and climate-change adaptation planning as well as environmental modeling.

“The central strength of the program is that it’s an inherently interdisciplinary program precisely because policy and management issues in homeland security are inherently interdisciplinary in nature,” Gerber said. “When a disaster strikes, all types of professional disciplines are involved in response and recovery — really all phases of an emergency or disaster incident involves everyone from police and fire to public health to public works to transportation and the traditional emergency management office. We have all that expertise in the college, so the program really reflects that.”

Getting the program to the top of its game in such a short time took a lot of effort, said Siân MooneyGerber, Welch, Kim, Gall and Mooney are also senior sustainability scientists in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability., associate dean for Interdisciplinary Programs and Initiatives at Watts College.

“I am excited that we are No. 1 after only five years!" Mooney said. "This rank reflects the hard work and dedication of our faculty, and our commitment to engage community partners and students. The Watts College at ASU truly supports high-quality, interdisciplinary experiences that prepare our students for meaningful careers.”

Top photo: The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California in August 2013. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service/Wikipedia Commons

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU research finds poor engagement by parents can lead to gun carrying in boys

New ASU research proves link of poor parenting to gun carrying among boys.
March 4, 2019

Long-term study among first to track parenting, delinquent behavior and guns

A new Arizona State University study has found that boys whose parents were less involved and communicative with them during childhood were significantly more likely to carry a gun during their teen years.

The long-term study, posted in the journal Pediatrics today, followed 503 boys over 13 years and found that boys whose parents were less engaged were more likely to associate with delinquent peers and that, in turn, increased their risk of carrying a gun.

“One of the things that we were thinking about before we did the study was that parenting has been shown in studies to predict all these other kinds of adolescent problems and violence, but not specifically gun carrying,” said Jordan Beardslee, an assistant research professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU, who is the primary investigator of the study.

The key finding is that poor parenting engagement leads to other behaviors that lead to gun carrying, according to Dustin Pardini, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice who was on the research team.

“We know from this study that early family factors are important, but there has to be a cascade of events that leads up to the actual carrying behavior,” he said.

“It’s because it sets the stage for the kid engaging in early conduct problems that are not seriously delinquent, like physical fighting, and beginning to affiliate with other kids that are engaged in similar deviant behaviors. That leads to this transition in early adolescence to more serious delinquencies, which also includes carrying a firearm illegally.”

Few studies have examined the relationship between parenting and gun carrying in adolescents, which is illegal in every state. Yet more than 7,000 young people were seriously injured or killed by firearms each year from 2012 to 2014 in the United States, according to a 2017 study that also was published in Pediatrics. Boys are more than four times more likely to be shot to death than girls, and African-American youths have the highest rates of firearm mortality, that analysis found.

The new ASU research is also unique because of the extraordinary data set, acquired through the groundbreaking Pittsburgh Youth Study, which started with first-grade boys in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system in 1987 and is still continuing. The new research paper in Pediatrics analyzed 503 subjects’ answers about gun-carrying behavior from ages 14 to 21. About 56 percent of the cohort is African-American, with 40 percent white and the rest other racial groups. After the first survey, as first-graders, the boys were interviewed every six months for four years, followed by annual assessments.

Their parents also were surveyed, with questions about how often they talked over problems with their sons or did activities together. They were asked, “Do you enjoy being your son’s parent?” And boys’ teachers also were interviewed over nine years, answering questions about the boys’ behaviors.

“It’s the most extensive longitudinal study of males that’s ever been conducted in the U.S. in terms of the frequency of assessment and the breadth of the assessments,” said Pardini, who has taken over as the lead researcher for the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

Over the 13 years that were analyzed, 20 percent of the subjects reported that they had carried a gun. But in any given year, about 4 percent to 7 percent reported that they had carried a gun at least once.

“We found that gun carrying is a very transient behavior among adolescents,” Pardini said, adding that typically the subjects reported carrying a gun only one time in the past year.

“We don’t understand the dynamics of this. But it doesn’t seem like kids who are carrying handguns are doing so every day. It seems like they’re grabbing them and using them for potentially brief periods of time.”

Pardini also is the lead researcher of the Arizona Youth Survey, which is administered to students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades every two years. The 2018 survey results, released in December, included 48,000 students in all 15 counties and addressed drug use, violence and other risk factors. The results of that survey showed that more than 6 percent of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders surveyed in Arizona reported that they carried a handgun at least once.

The Arizona and Pittsburgh surveys are unusual because they ask specifically about gun carrying — not just “weapon” carrying, he said.

“We know that guns are what’s killing kids and are the most dangerous weapon,” he said.

The Arizona survey also asks specifically about gun carrying at school — a topic that Pardini is further analyzing. Because the number of students who take guns to school is so low — less than 1 percent of respondents — he has combined two years’ worth of Arizona Youth Surveys to get a large enough sample to study.

“That’s enough to look at what distinguishes kids who carry guns but not at school compared with kids who actually carry in school,” he said.

Pardini said he knows that people are interested in research that predicts mass shootings in schools, and it was the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 that led to a surge of federal grants for gun research after many years of that funding being blocked. But he said that mass shootings are too rare to predict.

“I feel like our focus should be on reducing the general likelihood that a kid carries a gun and targeting that rather than trying to focus on mass shooters because it’s too difficult to predict that behavior with any degree of accuracy,” he said.

“What’s sad is that it took these mass shootings for people to become interested in this topic but this has been a huge problem in the African-American community in terms of the amount of deaths that occur from firearm violence for decades and it’s been largely ignored.”

Pardini said that programs already exist to address risk factors for delinquent behaviors, including parent-management training.

“If you’re not working with parents, the effectiveness of the intervention won’t be as robust.”

Longitudinal studies are difficult because the subjects have to be tracked down over the course of several years. The researchers were able to reach 80 percent of the original Pittsburgh cohort when they were in their mid-20s.

“It takes a lot of legwork because you have to go their homes or to people who know them. At every phase, roughly 10 percent of the sample was in prison so we have to go to the prisons to interview them. If they’re out of state, we interviewed them on the phone.”

The team has more research papers forthcoming on the Pittsburgh subjects, including analysis of how gun carrying actually transitions to gun violence.

“The nice thing about Pittsburgh is that it’s a small big city and it’s a tightknit community," Pardini said. "A lot of people don’t leave and if they leave, family stays, so it’s a good city to do a longitudinal study in.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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The future of visiting the Grand Canyon

February 25, 2019

Several issues will affect tourism at the famed national park in the coming years, say two ASU experts

Editor's note: This story is part of an ASU Now series celebrating the centennial of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park draws visitors from all over the world to bask in its beauty, making it not only a precious ecological resource to cherish but also a major economic driver for the state of Arizona. 

Balancing the twin missions of access and preservation is key to its future, according to experts at Arizona State University.

“When you think about the Grand Canyon itself, there’s so much to it,” said Megha Budruk, an associate professor in the School of Community Resources and Development in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. 

“There’s something for geologists, there’s something for artists, something for historians, the tourists,” said Budruk, who teaches a course called Wilderness and Parks in America.

“The park is physical, but the meanings we ascribe to it allow people to connect to it in different ways,” she said.

And many more people are connecting to the Grand Canyon. The park had 6.2 million visitors in 2017, up 42 percent from a decade earlier. The month of November 2018 had 10 times more visitorsAbout 410,000 in November compared with about 38,000 in 1919. than the entire year of 1919, when Grand Canyon National Park was formed.

All those tourists generated $648 million — along with 9,800 jobs. The total economic benefit to Arizona, according to the National Park Service, was more than $900 million.

In fact, the park is so important that Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order in early 2018 calling for the Grand Canyon to remain open in the event of a federal government shutdown. When the government did shut down in late 2018, the state’s tourism and parks offices paid to keep day-to-day operations running.

Crowd and Shuttle

Along with the revenue, tourism brings crowds requiring roads and parking lots and toilets and maintained trails. The National Park Service, in a 2017 report, estimates that the backlog of maintenance and repairs totals nearly $12 billion nationwide. About $330 million of that is needed at the Grand Canyon. Photo by Michael Quinn/National Park Service

More popular than ever

Christine Vogt, a professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism, and Budruk have done research on the Grand Canyon’s economic impact in the region.

“It’s very clear there’s a prominent route starting in Las Vegas and doing the North Rim and coming around, including the Grand Canyon and Navajo parks and back up to Utah,” Vogt said.

“The whole region, with Las Vegas and its marketing machine, is getting a lot of international visitors,” she said. “The Grand Canyon, Zion, Monument Valley, Moab — all are getting increased tourism.”

Budruk said the spillover effect is felt throughout northern Arizona, which includes Canyon de Chelly, Montezuma Castle, Navajo, Parashant, Pipe Spring, Sunset Crater Volcano, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon and Wupatki national monuments, Glen Canyon and Lake Mead national recreation areas, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site and Petrified Forest National Park. The Navajo Nation is home to four tribal parks, including Monument Valley, and there are several state parks in the Flagstaff area.

“What we found is that most visitors did not have the national monuments as their primary destination but were stopping over as part of their Grand Canyon visit,” Budruk said.

But along with the revenue, all that tourism brings crowds who require roads and parking lots and toilets and maintained trails. In fact, all of the national parks are badly in need of infrastructure work. The National Park Service, in a 2017 report, estimates that the backlog of maintenance and repairs totals nearly $12 billion nationwide. About $330 million of that is needed at the Grand Canyon, mostly for water systems and trails.

“The recent shutdown shed light on what it takes to keep a park open and friendly and clean and safe,” Vogt said. “But over the course of my professional time, the backlog of infrastructure and money needed to run these parks has not changed.

“There needs to be a more significant mechanism for paying for the management and enhancing the overall park infrastructure, which then improves the park experience.”

Adding infrastructure with conservation in mind

Vogt said that one change that likely will continue is the increased role of advocacy groups like the Grand Canyon Conservancy

“They play a very important partner role with the National Park Service in fundraising and in helping to pay for infrastructure and improvements,” she said.

“They’ve supplemented and in some places have taken over the guide and interpretation programs.”

Among the Flagstaff-based nonprofit’s projects: replacing light fixtures in the park to preserve dark skies, restoring and maintaining trails and completing renovation of the Desert View Watchtower and murals. The Grand Canyon Conservancy also runs a Field Institute that offers guided day hikes, backpacking trips, cultural classes and certification courses.

Vogt and Budruk said that the Grand Canyon has done a good job of trying to balance welcoming big crowds while mitigating their effect on the environment. One solution was the redevelopment of the South Rim a few years ago to add shuttle buses and limit driving and parking.

In 2010, the park approved a climate change action plan, warning that a hotter climate could lead to changes in weather and animal habitats, more insects, an increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires and floods and changes to water flows in the Colorado River. The sale of water bottles was eliminated, solar panels were added to the visitors center and the park increased recycling and added a system to reuse wastewater for toilets and irrigation.

Another way to control crowds is to keep the North Rim open only part of the year, which allows it to rest. The lack of infrastructure, including roads and personnel, keeps the crowds down and allows visitors a more solitary experience.

Technology, including social media and wildlife cams, have been cited as a driver of tourism at the national parks, but Vogt said that the Grand Canyon has to consider limiting technology to protect the environment.

“I think a big issue is dark skies and noise pollution. Regulating drones and helicopters is important,” she said.

“I don’t think people go to the parks to have technology in their faces. One reason you go to a park is to step away from that,” she said.

Managing the park on the macro

Michelle Sullivan Govani is a PhD student in School of Life Sciences who is studying preservation across the national park system. Her research project is examining the National Park Service mandate to preserve natural resources for future generations. She has interviewed top agency officials, administrators and park rangers from around the country to see what preservation means to them and how it has changed since the agency was formed in 1916.

“In the beginning, it was about these spectacular scenes and feeling emotionally and mentally invigorated,” she said. Over time, the mission has evolved.

“It’s not that scenery isn’t still important, but it’s not what defines preservation or the park service’s mandate any more, as they would tell it,” she said.

“They’re more concerned with ecosystems and with ecological processes.”

So now, just like each park is embedded in an economic network, each park also must be managed as part of a regional ecosystem.

“Ecosystems aren’t defined by the political lines that parks are defined by, so how do we work outside those boundaries to make sure we’re preserving ecosystems as they function in reality and not just for the scenes they provide to us?” Sullivan Govani said.

“You see that in the way they’re managing parks across boundaries. They’re working with the Bureau of Land Management, with the U.S. Forestry Service and with private landowners.”

Using science to inform the management of the park system has always been part of balancing competing interests, she found. 

“The thing about National Park Service history that’s fascinating is that you see all these starts and stops with regard to how they incorporate science-based management. It’s not that whoever is in charge doesn’t support research, but priorities differ and there’s a limited budget,” she said, noting that customer service is always a concern.

Going forward, it also will be important for the Grand Canyon, as part of the National Park Service, to be more representative of the American public. The agency released a report in 2018 that revealed that its workforce is 81 percent white, 62 percent male and 42 percent over the age of 50. 

“It helps to have an agency that reflects the American population so they see somebody like themselves and feel that, ‘This is a place for me too, where I am welcomed,’” Budruk said.

Top photo: Crowd of tourists gather at an overlook at the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto

Audio interview by Karie Dozer.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now