Tucson Re-entry Group In Talks With Federal Agencies To Expand Curriculum

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 - 6:52am
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(Photo courtesy of ATLaS Justice Center)
Kirstin Eidenbach and Jonathon Trethewey have developed a curriculum for inmates reentering society from prison.

The Tucson-based ATLaS Justice Center was founded by Kirstin Eidenbach and Jonathon Trethewey to help those who have been incarcerated integrate back into society.

Eidenbach said many established programs focus on external skills like getting a job and attaining housing.

“What we’ve found is that if you don’t have the emotional and psychological stability and skills to hold down a job or retain your housing, you’re going straight back into prison,” Eidenbach said.

She said most prisoners are still unprepared to handle the mental and emotional challenges waiting for them upon release.

“For people coming out of prison, being as marginalized as they are, they don’t know that it’s common among everyone coming out of prison,” Eidenbach said. “And so it often isolates them and leads them right back into the system.”

To combat what she calls post-incarceration trauma, ATLaS has been teaching a pilot version of a program they developed called “ID: Self Discovery and Life Mapping” at a federal work release center in Tucson for a year and a half.

The programming focuses on what Eidenbach said are the less tangible tools that are just as essential.

“So that includes positive psychology, general psychoeducation about trauma, emotional intelligence and vulnerability,” she said.

Eidenbach said the ATLaS programming also focuses on mapping -- getting the formerly incarcerated to think about their present condition and future plans in more concrete ways.

“It allows them to take a situation that they’re confronted with and dissect it into bite-sized steps to get them out of it or get them through it,” Eidenbach said. “We start by teaching them how to make daily to-do lists, and throughout the session we work up towards what we call a dream map.”

Eidenbach worked with ATLaS co-founder Trethewey to develop a once-a-week, two-hour class that spans eight weeks. The programming was created to be co-taught by a formerly incarcerated person like Trethewey and a member of the re-entry community.

So far, more than 60 inmates have gone through the program.

Eidenbach said they are in talks with federal probation and parole agencies to launch the curriculum at several facilities across Arizona.

Eidenbach said while it’s difficult to quantify success, initial feedback from the staff at the pilot program facility has been very supportive.

“Within the first week of our class, they noticed a dramatic change in all of our students,” she said. “They respect each other. They respect the staff more. They have fewer disciplinary run-ins, and they tend to be happier and more positive.”

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