#SeeDanna: Faces of Female Incarceration for Women’s History Month
For us, Women’s History Month 2019 will be remembered as one for the books. We put our ladies on the inside at the forefront, challenging the way society sees women who are incarcerated. Since 1994, we’ve watched 3,000 women come through our Televerde program at women’s correctional facilities in Arizona and Indiana. The overwhelmingly majority reentered society with the life and business skills needed to rebuild their lives. They thrive today. Cristy Chacon, Erica Munoz, Stephanie Taylor, Ambyre Carbajal, and now Danna Tongate will soon follow in their footsteps, creating amazing futures for their families and themselves as the remarkable strong women they were meant to be.
Today, we invite you to #SeeDanna, a project coordinator in our Citrus call center at Perryville Correctional. We also ask that you make a commitment to see all incarcerated women not by their worst mistake but for the empowered women they are today. Be a catalyst for them. This is what Women’s History Month is about—coming together as women without judgement and lifting each other up to build futures that profoundly impact our small corners of the world.
What’s one misconception you want to change about women who are incarcerated?
We are not lost causes. We just made bad choices. We have a sincere passion to succeed. We’re smart, loyal, caring and successful.
What did it take coming to prison to learn?
That I have a passion to help other women succeed. When I came to prison, I was a broken shell of a girl who had nothing to offer and no hope for the future. The only thing I knew how to do well was make bad choices. I worked hard to heal the pain, build self-confidence and welcome new challenges. I wanted to break the cycle of drug addiction, low self-esteem, and toxic relationships. Five years later, I now get to sponsor women through the recovery process and be a part their transformation. Seeing them overcome these obstacles has been the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
It’s said that the most successful women build a female tribe to help them learn and grow. Tell us about the culture on the inside and how you’re supported by the women around you.
The ladies I work and live with are my sisters. They understand who I am, who I aspire to be and love me right, wrong or indifferent. The bond we share inside these prison walls lights up what could be one of the darkest, hardest times of my life. Some days I carry the guilt around heavy on my shoulders and they tell me I don’t ever have to be that person again. When I’m ready to give up because things are hard, they encourage me to keep fighting. They celebrate my successes as if they were their own.
What is one accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Finishing ‘The Way Out’ program. This is an inmate led program designed to teach women how to heal and recover from addictions. It was a defining moment in my life when I graduated and realized I had a real passion to help other women recover.
A woman who currently inspires me is…
My daughter Kaila who–in spite of obstacles she’s had to face because of my poor choices–never ceases to amaze me with her determination and passion to succeed.
If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in your role at Televerde, what did you achieve?
Taking risks and challenging myself to be creative. Rebuilding our internal Demand Generation program as a model to offer clients.
How would you like to be remembered in history books?
A successful woman who used her mistakes to fuel her passion to be a better person every single day.
This Women’s History Month, what do you want to shine a light on?
Women are strong, successful leaders who are underestimated every single day.
Media interviews with Danna Tongate:
Jun 3, 2019 NBC12 Phoenix – ‘Today in AZ: New Lease on Life’
Sep 7, 2022 ABC15 Arizona – ‘Valley woman’s fresh start outside prison’
Sep 8, 2022 FOX10 Arizona – ‘Woman leaves Arizona prison with full time managerial job’