Trailblazing for Women’s Equity on and off the Court

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Washington State Department of Corrections’ website.

Story and photos by Rachel Friederich, Washington State Department of Corrections
Portrait of woman in front of a brick building
Women Who Make a Difference: Corrections Specialist Lynne Newark helps incarcerated women with long histories of trauma live healthy, productive lives. She was also one of the starts on her high school’s first girls basketball team following enactment of Title IX. Photo by Rachel Friederich

GIG HARBOR – “When our powers combine, we change lives.”

Those are the words displayed above Corrections Specialist Lynne Newark’s computer. She repeats the words to participants in her cognitive behavioral intervention classes at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

“Those are some of the affirmations I go by,” Newark said. “If I am motivated, it’s going to be easy for me to motivate. And it’s going to be easier for others to become motivated.”

It’s also a mantra she’s lived since high school. Newark (whose maiden name is Nitschke) helped her school’s first girls’ basketball team win the state championship following a 33-game winning streak. Newark’s team, the Jamestown North Dakota Blue Jays, were the school’s first girls basketball team following enactment of Title IX. President Richard Nixon signed the landmark Title IX law in 1972. It prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded education programs, including sports.

The Right to Play

Sports have always played an important role in Newark’s life. She started playing softball in elementary school, began running track in the eighth grade, and ended up becoming a seven-time state track and field qualifier by the time she graduated high school.

Newark yearned to play basketball. But without a girls’ basketball coach, she had to teach her herself. Occasionally, there would be a basketball activity in her school’s regular gym class. But Newark honed her skills by watching the boys’ games and imitating what she saw with a backyard basketball hoop.

“I had to sit and watch back then,” Newark said. “We didn’t have the right, if you will, to have a girls’ team or be part of the boys’ team. I learned to play by watching and then I would go do it.”

Newark recalled most of the “official” girls sports the school had before Title IX were mostly no-contact sports, like golf, swimming and track. Even in track, the longest running distance for girls was shorter than that for boys.

“It was of long-standing belief that girls were ‘too delicate’ back then,” Newark said.

Newark said many of the girls with whom she played sports were natural athletes and shared her competitive spirit. So they were ecstatic in 1973 when they found out they could sign up for the girls’ basketball team.

“I wanted to play,” Newark said. “Finally! We’re getting our chance. Finally! We have a girls’ team. Basketball was something I’d been doing forever and now I get the chance to be a part of a team to do that.”

A Winning Team

newspaper photo from 1974 Jamestown High School of girls basketball players holding trophy
Lynne Newark (then Lynne Nitschke), far left, stands next to her teammates. Newark’s team, the Blue jays was the school’s first girls basketball team. They went on to win the 1974 Class A girls basketball North Dakota state championship. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Sun

Newark says despite Title IX guaranteeing the same access to sports and program activities, there were still resources the girls’ team lacked that would be unheard of today.

Newark and her teammates had to create makeshift basketball jerseys by taping numbers to the back of track uniforms. The girls’ team also had fewer coaches than the boys’ team. And neither team had athletic trainers.

Newark said it didn’t dampen the team’s spirit because, “When you’re young like that, we were just happy we got to play. We didn’t play the ‘poor me card.’ We didn’t question, ‘if the boys got this, why don’t the girls get this?’ We didn’t care if we had to wear the track uniforms and tape on our numbers. We just wanted to play.”

Before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports, according to the , which advocates for girls and women to reach their potential in sports and life through coaching resources and various programming. Today that number is two in five.

The Blue Jays efforts earned the team some major props. On Oct. 4, 2019, Jamestown High School (JHS) honored Newark, 10 teammates and two coaches. They returned to JHS as part of a ceremony inducting the 1974 girls’ basketball team into the Jamestown High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

“We won that championship 45 years ago, but it seems like yesterday,” Newark said. “When we all got together, it was so unbelievable we still had such a connection. Granted we’re all wearing reading glasses now, and some of our perspectives have changed. It was like 45 years hadn’t even passed.”

Sports remained a huge part of Newark’s life post-high school. After graduating from Jamestown, she attended Dickinson State University (DSU) in North Dakota. During college, she ran track and played volleyball and basketball. In 1979, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. DSU inducted Newark into it’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.

Newark enlisted in the United States Air Force and served in the Air Force for four years as a radio communications analyst. During that time, she played on the military base sports teams including volleyball, basketball and softball.

After leaving the Air Force, she and her husband, whom she met in the military, moved to Corvallis, Oregon. Newark did some substitute teaching at local schools while coaching high school volleyball, basketball and track. During the summers, Newark worked at the local parks and recreation department as a youth sports coordinator.

From the Court to Corrections

Woman standing in front of white board with post-it notes.
Correctional Specialist Lynne Newark is a Beyond Trauma and Moving on instructor at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Rachel Friederich

In 1989, the Department of Corrections hired Newark as a recreation specialist at the former McNeil Island Corrections Center (MICC). She worked at MICC for four years and then spent three years at the former Tacoma Pre-Release Center. She and her husband decided to move to Greece. While in Greece, Newark worked for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation division of the military.

In 2003, Newark returned to the states and got a job as a recreation specialist at Washington Corrections Center for Women. In 2016, she became a corrections specialist.

Newark currently facilitates two programs, Moving On and Beyond Violence. The programs are designed specifically for incarcerated women. Historically, corrections practices had been tailored for incarcerated males. But in recent years, studies have shown those practices can’t be used in the same way when caring for incarcerated females. And the need is becoming more urgent. According to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (pdf), the number of women in U.S. prisons has increased by more than 700% and has outpaced men by more than 50%.

The department launched these programs as part of its work in its Gender Responsive Initiative. The initiative trains prison staff to focus on specific needs of incarcerated females. It includes developing more gender responsive programming, educating staff on effects of trauma, creating risk and needs assessments for women and making female-specific clothing and hygiene products available to incarcerated women.

Newark has impacted the lives of countless women over the years. The women she interacts with often have stories of untold violence, drug addiction and anguish. Many have been victims of sexual assault before ever entering the justice system. Most have not been shown what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

Newark has incorporated the life lessons she’s learned from sports into the classroom. Her goal is to help the women cope with the effects of what’s often a lifetime of trauma that has led to their incarceration.

For example, one of her classes has a unit on crossroads. The women self-reflect on the past choices they’ve made that led them to their crimes. Newark says the decision to join the high school track team, as an eighth-grader, was her crossroads. At first, her parents didn’t want her to join the team. But they relented after much poking and prodding from Newark. Newark says it was her saving grace.

“I tell my students that was my crossroads,” Newark said. “If my parents hadn’t allowed me to use my competitiveness and energy towards sports, I would have gone in the same direction as my friend, who got addicted to drugs and alcohol. It kept me grounded. It kept me active. It kept me focused on the taking the right fork in the road.”

Newark said coaching the women is like coaching athletes. She says the best part about her job is seeing people change.

“Seeing and hearing improvement in self-confidence is what is really impactful,” Newark said. “Having a student start off really ambivalent and then the light goes on and the switch in thinking happens. It’s a very powerful moment for everyone.”

The Next Chapter

What’s next for Newark? Newark is retiring in February 2020 after 23 years in corrections. She and her husband are planning on moving back to Greece. And in May, in true athletic style, Newark will participate in the Camino Francés. It’s a 500 mile journey by foot that starts in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, crosses the Pyrenees mountains and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. On average, the walk takes between 32-35 days.

While Newark is on the trail, she’ll be living by the principles that have guided her on the basketball court and in her personal and professional life.

“If we want to make change, if we want to be the best that we can possibly be, we have to practice and we have to believe in ourselves and that we can do it.”

About the Author: Rachel Friederich is also the Communications Chair for the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW.

Women Who Make a Difference: Kathleen Glennon

When Department of Corrections classification counselor, Kathleen Glennon is not improving the lives of incarcerated individuals, she’s improving the lives of people in the community in the Dockyard Derby Dames Roller Derby team in Tacoma. Part of the money raised from bouts goes to charity.  Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Washington State Department of Corrections’ website.

Kathleen-Glennon-Portrait

SHELTON – Kathleen Glennon leads a double-life.

By day, she keeps correctional facilities safe by determining custody levels for incarcerated individuals and matching them with rehabilitative programs. By night, she becomes a roller derby star zooming around the rink in a sparkly, striped helmet and skates with neon green wheels.

The Washington Corrections Center classification counselor is also a member of the Dockyard Derby Dames, Tacoma’s roller derby league.

“When I go to work and I hear the gate shut behind me, I know where I’m at and I focus on that,” Glennon said. “When I come here (the roller derby), this is my enjoyment. I love to get out; I’m not a couch potato. It’s the movement and the sweating and overcoming things.”

Skating Past Fear

Glennon, 56, had to overcome a learning curve when she first tried out for roller derby. She learned to speed skate when she was 14 and continued until she was 27.

When her child was born, she took a break from the sport. Raising a child and advancing her correctional career didn’t leave much spare time for skating. In 2008, after her grown son graduated high school, Glennon decided to revisit her passion.

The 18-year gap left her scared, at first.

“I had to re-learn (how to skate),” Glennon said. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah. I can do that.’ Then when I started rolling around I’m thinking ‘Oh, no, I can’t do that!’ But if you do fall, you get back up, brush yourself off and keep on going.”

Glennon says it took about six weeks of practice as a “new bruiser,” before she became eligible to get drafted on one of the league’s three teams. Glennon is currently a member of the Femme Fianna team.

Kathleen-Glennon-2

Keeping Safe

Training for roller derby takes a lot more than just being able to skate forwards and backwards. There are lots of fancy maneuvers that require agility. There’s also several contact-heavy parts of the sport, like blocking and taking hits and shoving through a pack of skaters.

“It’s a contact sport,” Glennon acknowledges. “Yes, people can get broken bones and yes, people can get hurt, but that’s the nature of the game.”

The International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion surveyed 1,395 roller derby skaters in 2017. It found nearly half of respondents (48.7 percent) reported getting injured at least once in the preceding year. The most common injuries were those to the ankles and knees. About three-quarters of player-reported head injuries were concussions.

Data seems to suggest you’re more likely to get hurt skating a roller derby than working in a prison. A 2011 study in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health estimates correctional officers experience about 254 work-related injuries per 10,000 full-time employees due to assaults or violent acts.

Since joining the roller derby league 11 years ago, Glennon’s had her fair share of bumps and bruises. The only major injury she’s gotten on the track was a torn meniscus that kept her from practice for two months. By comparison, Glennon has never been hurt on the job during her 19 years with the Department of Corrections.

She says that’s because the department takes steps to ensure employee safety. For example, all facility staff receive training in defense tactics, prison safety, emergency management, and verbal communication.

Glennon has a caseload of 60 incarcerated individuals. Her job involves getting to know the people on her caseload. She listens to what they say. She also observes their non-verbal cues so she can sense when something is amiss.

“You learn what makes everyone tick, so to speak,” Glennon said. “It’s beneficial because if you know that someone is off their baseline, you can talk with them and see what’s going on and usually that will work. If not, you can refer them to a program that will, hopefully, alleviate unhealthy behaviors.”

Impacting People and Communities

Skates-4

Glennon says she enjoys the positive impact she has on people and communities in both her work and roller derby life.

She says the derby league often backs charitable causes. Part of the ticket sales at some of the bouts go to local non-profit organizations. The league has raised money or donated items to groups that support breast cancer awareness and disabled veterans. The league has donated to the Forgotten Youth Foundation Team of Tacoma, which gives backpacks filled with school supplies to children from low-income families. Last year, Glennon’s team collected hats, gloves and miniature holiday stockings to place in gift boxes that inmates at the Washington Corrections Center made for Squaxin Island tribal children in the foster care system.

Glennon says the roller derby has given her more confidence in herself. A year after joining the league, she challenged herself to complete the annual Seattle to Portland bike relay. It’s a two-day event encompassing 203 miles.

She says it was difficult, but “the only thing that was hard was in my head. I look at this and there are things I am nervous as heck to do…Don’t set limitations when you first start out. If you do, you’ll never know how far you’ll go.”

It’s the same philosophy she tries to instill in the incarcerated individuals on her caseload.

Besides deciding custody placements in prison, classification counselors like Glennon help incarcerated people with their release planning.

She remembers helping an inmate learn how to save enough money to find housing for when he got out of prison. This was before the state’s earned release date housing program (pdf), which provides eligible inmates financial assistance for housing.

She met with the individual and helped him learn to set aside money from his prison job and keep a budget.

Years later she ran into him in the community. He told her he had two jobs and had his own home, something he wasn’t able to do before his incarceration.

“To me that’s rewarding. When they (incarcerated individuals) come to me, I try to help them with solutions. But, I have them come up with the solutions. Because then they’re more invested. It’s not just ‘Ok, you do this;’ it’s ‘If I do this, I’m going to succeed.’”

The Dockyard Derby Dames’ next bout is at 5 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Pierce College Steilacoom Campus. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information visit https://dockyardderbydames.com/

WA’s Ecology Director on Native Knowledge and Fighting for Forgotten Communities

Maia Bellon
Washington State Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon was recently interviewed on being Native American and how growing up in the Pacific Northwest shaped her worldview and ignited a passion for working with communities to solve environmental problems.

Editor’s Note: This Article Originally Appeared on CrossCut.

By Hannah Weinberger, CrossCut

Maia Bellon grew up exploring Washington’s woods and coastlines. As Washington’s Department of Ecology director, she’s putting environmental justice front and center.

I grew up below the poverty line, and [outdoor recreation] was our vacation. My parents had us outside all the time — we were swimming, trout fishing in lakes and fly-fishing in rivers. My dad would do things like grab a bunch of  sea kelp and seaweed, wrap himself with it and run after us on the beach pretending to be a sea monster.

I loved romping around in the woods. My father had me convinced as a little kid that some of the moss growing off of trees was Sasquatch hair, so I was the self-appointed Sasquatch tracker. It was wonderful; I loved it. We did a lot of hiking, climbing and camping, while living in Washington, Montana and Northern California on the Fort Bidwell Paiute Indian Reservation. It was all very rural and isolated.

I am part white, and I am part Native. When I was going to a very small rural high school, and half of the school population was native and half was from a non-Indian ranching community, my brother and I were the only two mixed-race children. The bus was divided, and this was 1983! The non-Indian children sat up front and the Native children sat in the back. By the time we moved to Tumwater a few years later, that bus was integrated. Continue reading