The Coalition Task Force

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The Advocacy in Action Coalition Task Force is the working arm of the coalition.  Task Force members meet by teleconference at least monthly to develop resources and strategies for actively advocating for criminal justice and prison reform on issues directly affecting the prison family.

The following are the current members of the Task Force:

Avon Hart Johnson, PhD – Washington D.C.

AIAC Task Force Chair

 

Dr. Hart-Johnson is the president and founder of DC Project Connect, a nonprofit organization providing crisis support, advocacy, and psychoeducational services for families affected by incarceration. She chairs the International Prisoner’s Family Conference Advocacy in Action Coalition with the mission to humanize the prison family and ameliorate the adverse impact of the mass incarceration continuum. She is a peer reviewer for academic journals, a researcher, author of journal articles and books on mass incarceration and an advocate for social justice issues. In her research, she discovered the groundbreaking, Symbolic Imprisonment, Grief, and Coping (SIG-C) theory ®, and developed an associated intervention model, AARM ® [Awareness, Assessment, Reframing, and Matched-Response].   SIG-C describes the psychological, social, symbolic, and physical responses of a mate’s incarceration and conveys how women cope.  Dr. Hart-Johnson is a professor at University of Maryland University College and Walden University. She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems Management, a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, and a PhD in Human Services, counseling specialization. Dr. Hart-Johnson is keynote speaker and conference presenter who travels domestically and internationally, disseminating research findings on the adverse impacts of mass incarceration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Esparza, LPC – Texas

Chair, InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference

 

With 40 years experience as counselor and social services administrator, Carolyn is Founder and Director of Community SOLUTIONS of El Paso, a non-profit social service agency uniquely serving the prison family. She has served as a university instructor and is a recognized workshop leader and professional training facilitator, and author of “The Parenting Business: Hindsight is 20/20” and co-author of “The Unvarnished Truth about the Prison Family Journey” with articles featured in several magazines and newspapers.   She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University, in San Antonio, Texas and has provided court ordered psycho-social assessments for the courts in both civil and criminal cases; served as Family Involvement Coordinator and Social Service Administrator for a maximum security facility of the Texas Youth Commission and as the Treatment Director for a maximum security private youth facility in Colorado and has instructed parenting classes at a federal prison located in El Paso, Texas. She has been involved with prison ministries in both adult and juvenile facilities and was a member of a team of professionals engaged in a short lived effort of one concerned warden attempting to bring professional counseling into the state jails in Texas. In 2009, Carolyn initiated the first-ever Prisoner’s Family Conference, which is now internationally recognized. She conceived of the Prisoner’s Family Conference as a project of Community SOLUTIONS, to serve as a vehicle for developing awareness and support to strengthen prison families.

 

TASK FORCE MEMBERS

 

Chandra Adams – Texas

Chandra Adams is a life coach, motivational speaker, and an ordained chaplain. She regularly speaks in prisons, churches, conferences, and organizational events. Chandra’s 30+ years in corporate America as a Marketing & Design professional combined with her ability to deliver vision and hope not only inspire, but facilitate change. Her life’s passion is to see lives transformed, families restored and communities healed for the Glory of God. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Coalition of Prison Evangelists (COPE) in Texas.

 

 

Barbara Allan – New York

A schoolteacher, wife and mother, Barbara had no contact with the criminal justice system until 1966 when her husband was imprisoned. To cope with feelings of isolation and confusion she reached out to the Fortune Society which disseminated information about a prison system that succeeded by its failures. Through that contact and her own experience, a network of families grew, leading Barbara and two other women to form the support group, Prison Families Anonymous (PFA). A source of pride for Barbara was her work to institute contact visits in the county jail and prisons of New York State. She has spoken before legislators, Senate committees and commissioners and has written articles on the subject, including one printed in the Congressional Record. She works tirelessly to improve conditions throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, networking and serving on boards of many criminal justice agencies. She speaks frequently before civic, religious, educational, and social organizations about the effects of incarceration on families. Numerous organizations around the country have emulated PFA and Barbara hopes her vision will continue to touch many more lives. Upon retiring from teaching, Barbara moved to Broward County, FL and immediately started a PFA group, volunteered With Women In Distress, a domestic violence agency, winning their volunteer of the Year Award. She volunteered as a victim’s advocate for the Lauderhill Police Department and served on the advisory board of the Broward County Correctional Institution, a women’s maximum security facility. Now back in New York, she continues to facilitate prison family support groups, represents PFA on two reentry task forces and the Suffolk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and is on the Board of Directors of NYADP. Deservedly Barbara has received many distinguished awards for her tireless efforts on behalf of the prison family.

 

 

Kate Boccia – Georgia

Ignoring stigmas and shame, Kate advocates for families losing their loved ones to mass incarceration and addiction. She began her journey as a philanthropic leader early on. Her life-long love of community service and desire to give back has earned her respect as a leader who makes a difference.  Her criminal justice journey began when her son was incarcerated on a mandatory minimum sentence in the state of Georgia. He also went in as a heroin addict. “My son’s story underscores the issues we are facing in our country, issues that must be addressed and solutions that must be implemented.” Kate currently serves on several task forces and boards, including The National Incarceration Association of which she is President and CEO; the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative; the Georgia DOC Citizens Advisory Panel; Georgia Prisoner Re-entry Initiative and several others. Her continuous meetings with community leaders, elected officials and the DOC give a voice to her causes.

 

 

Kirstin Eidenbach – Arizona

Kirstin is a civil rights attorney and Executive Director of ATLaS Justice Center, an Arizona nonprofit organization focused on reentry reform, prison reform, and criminal justice reform.  Kirstin joined the Advocacy in Action Coalition because she feels a national team will be able to effect the greatest change and have the most tangible impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Liz Gordon, PhD – New ZealandFrom Christchurch, New Zealand. Liz’s parents were wonderful, intelligent people whose lives were ruined by WWII and alcohol addiction.  Her mother spent two periods in prison for fraud in both England and Uganda.  She felt lucky to be sent to boarding school rather than a children’s home when their marriage ended, rather than remaining with an unsavory stepmother, but it left a legacy of trauma which is largely resolved and never stopped her from achieving.  She has had a lifetime in advocacy beginning as a community worker in the fields of violence against women and mental health reform. As a student and later academic in education policy, she fought for good quality youth education and excellent education for all and spent six years as a Member of Parliament.   She has since run a small research company. Liz is involved in a range of justice-related organizations including the Howard League for Penal Reform and Community Law. Since 2004 she has worked with Pillars on research into the children of prisoners, and is now Pillars’ President and organizer of the first international conference of INCCIP.  She hopes to leave the world a better place than she found it, focusing her justice struggles against mass incarceration around the world.  She believes we need to find better alternatives than incarcerating the poor and oppressed in huge numbers and says, “I am up for that fight!  I am a researcher and an advocate, and the tagline of my company says it all: “making a difference!” 
Heidi Graham – Idaho

Heidi says that very early God instilled in her heart a love for people and the knowledge she would advocate for others. While her life-journey is not always clear, there are times she knows with conviction, that she is where she needs to be with her feet set upon the path of justice reform ever since she witnessed her loved one’s navigation, and that of others, through a justice system flawed at all levels.  She was led to the conference in 2012 seeking comfort in the midst of her loved-one’s journey through incarceration and has since felt a burgeoning sensation that our nation is experiencing a shift in consciousness, which will lead to justice reform. She wants to be part of the energy that will be the catalyst for this change and is compelled to advocate for justice reform and the Coalition Task Force is but one means to do that.

 

 

Connie Grier – Pennsylvania

Connie is Founder of The RESPECT Alliance and Adjunct Professor at Temple University.  She believes that to offer holistic support for those who most often experience marginalization in society we must first support awareness and action via example. Her goals for the RESPECT Alliance are to increase awareness and action around social justice issues as relate to the criminal injustice system and education until prison based slavery is abolished and educational experiences are positive and equitable for all families and to bring RESPECT back as an action word.  The RESPECT Alliance is devoted to supporting groups experiencing marginalization by building supportive connections for humanity via our focus on effective mentorship, parental engagement at the school and community levels, and social justice issues. The RESPECT Alliance currently provides mentorship and advocacy support to many individuals and organizations.  Connie is an Ed.D. Candidate, a published author and the co-host of The Conversation, a weekly internet radio show highlighting urgent community, national and global concerns.

 

 

Zamia Mosman – Arizona

Zamia first attended the conference as a speaker in May of 2015 after her husband was sentenced to 11.25 years for trafficking in stolen property (pawning something stolen). Her intention was to help others in the same situation but also a way to heal from her own intense pain over the “loss” of her spouse and father of her child. She became involved with the Advocacy in Action Coalition as a way to “do something,” believing the system is broken and there have to be advocates to “fix” it.  She notes that it is difficult to understand how broken the system is until you’ve experienced it yourself. She decided not to let their family’s experience be in vain and to do whatever she could to make a difference. Currently Zamia is involved in prison reform advocacy through the Valley Interfaith Project and she is active with the Kairos Outside Prison Ministry for families.

 

 

Robert J. Powitzky, PhD – Texas

Robert is Executive Director of JASMI. a Correctional Mental Health Consultant and previous Chief of Psychology Services for the entire Bureau of Prisons, as well as Assistant Director of Health and Correctional Programs for the Arkansas DOC and Director of Mental Health for the Oklahoma DOC.  After more than four decades of work experience in all types and settings of the criminal justice system, he is committed to reversing the inhumane and destructive mass incarceration of people who need to be helped instead of incarcerated. While his major area of expertise and focus has been mental health service delivery, he also has experience in general administration of correctional facilities. He supports the principles found in the Advocacy in Action Coalition White Paper and wants to do whatever possible to assist in implementation of those principles.

 

James Prager – Ohio

Jim was incarcerated in Michigan for a sex offense from 1991 until 2000.  Since his parole he had been able to rebuild a life, reconnect with his children and has found a new and supportive partner in life, who as well as her two children, including a son who is a corrections officer at Toledo Correctional Facility are well aware of his past.  In 2010 with encouragement of a therapist and his family Jim applied for a Social Work License and was granted his LSW in 2011.  Since 2005 he has been active with the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio and involved in helping returning citizens at events such as Citizen Circles and other support programs. He has been a member of the Steering Committee for the InterNational Prison Family Conference for several years; is the author of the book Mind of a Molester (published under a pseudonym) and an advocate for individuals and families dealing with incarceration.  Jim recently started Prison CONversation to guide individuals and adult family members to make an easier adjustment to prison and to begin planning for life after prison.

 

 

 

 

Michele Quick – New York

Michele is a Chaplain commissioned by the New York State Chaplain’s Taskforce and a resident of Brooklyn, New York where she serves as overseer of True Vine Christian Academy Prison Ministry and participates with Education from the Inside Out and Ban the Box.  She is interested in advocating because often people who lack information do not know how to go about getting information, resulting in unnecessary trauma (i.e. stress & anxiety).  She has observed that some people in “corrections” abuse their office resulting in suffering for the inmate and their family.  She would like to see real rehabilitation on the inside to reduce the recidivism rate.  She would like to see the abolishment of perpetual no-contact visits as a form of punishment and would like people who clearly have mental health issues to get the service and attention they need instead of being warehoused and even becoming a potential danger to other inmates.  Michele believes prison visitors should not be penalized or harassed and inmates should receive training to develop core values and life skills and address the root cause of their incarceration.

 

 

 

 

 

Lecroy Rhyanes, Jr. – Texas

Lecroy received his Bachelors in Criminal Justice and English and Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing-Poetry from New Mexico State University (NMSU). His experience includes teaching blended learning courses focused on juvenile justice issues at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) College of Liberal Arts and NMSU’s Criminal Justice Department. He co-founded Voices Behind Walls (VBW), a creative expression and arts program that has taken place in juvenile detention centers, group homes, and other community spaces and has also worked as a grant writer for a non-profit behavioral health organization. His interest in advocacy stems from his volunteer experience in Southwest juvenile prisons and his goals are to promote creative expression and education for youth, adults, and families involved with the justice system.

 

 

 

 

 

Monique (Blue Feather) Tate, PhD   – Georgia

Monique is a former Georgia educator who currently serves as Consultant for School Discipline Reform and is Director of Human Services for the Deep South Cherokee Kituwah Foundation. She has been an active member of the Advocacy in Action Coalition since 2015 and a contributing writer for the coalition White Paper published in 2016. She seeks to humanize mass incarceration and illuminate this phenomenon

as a “Continuum” that disenfranchises millions of American families. Monique believes the Mass Incarceration Continuum is worthy of national/international attention and dialogue as a Human Rights Issue.  She hopes our efforts to lend our voices and expert knowledge to redefining this dilemma will be instrumental in affecting critical social change in our Criminal Justice System

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathon Trethewey – Arizona

Jonathon is a prison survivor and the Executive Director of ATLaS Justice Center, an Arizona nonprofit organization focused on reentry reform, prison reform, and criminal justice reform.   Jonathon joined the Advocacy in Action Coalition to find a community of activists committed to humanizing mass incarceration, alongside whom he can fight for justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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