by Joe Watson
#cut50, a national initiative to simultaneously make our communities safer and cut the prison population in half, held its annual Day of Empathy on March 5 with events across the country.
In Arizona, supporters of the initiative – including Reinventing Reentry, From Gangs to Jobs, Televerde, Gold Canyon Heart & Home, Arouet Foundation, and FAMM – gathered at the state capitol in Phoenix to advocate for increased re-entry resources and the passage of SB 1437, which would effectively “ban the box” on job applications.
AFSC-AZ was represented at the Day of Empathy by Tuesday Brauer, a directly-impacted leader of our ReFraming Justice Project. Tuesday reflected on the impact of the event and shared on her own re-entry experience with AFSC-AZ.
What did you hope to achieve at the Day of Empathy?
TB: My objective was to inform and educate. People need to know how hard we – formerly incarcerated people – work; how capable we are and why we need to be employed and have a job. That sort of advocacy can be powerful – lifting up capable people both behind bars and once they get out. These are human beings who need hope. These are people we need to be embracing because, without a job, they’ll lose hope.
How hard was it for you to find a job after incarceration?
TB: I filled out 100 applications before I got my first job cleaning rooms at a hotel. So, I know what it’s like to feel defeated. But I was lucky. At the end of the day, I was staying with my brother and I got to go to a loving home environment. I had the support of my family. I couldn’t imagine living in a halfway house and having a deadline to find a job. The pressure of that creates so much anxiety just thinking about it. If I hadn’t had that family support, I probably would’ve ended up back inside.
How has participating in the legislative process and attending events like the Day of Empathy impacted your life as a directly impacted person?
TB: Every time I go to the Capitol, there’s this overwhelming feeling of empowerment. It gives me so much hope for the future. When I was incarcerated, I’d never heard of anything like this – about formerly incarcerated people making their voices heard and advocating for legislation. Knowing that I can help – knowing that I’m giving hope to incarcerated women on the inside – is such a wonderful feeling.
For more information or to participate in our ReFraming Justice Project, contact Grace Gámez, Ph.D, AFSC-AZ Program Coordinator.