In 1981, Naya Arbiter was hired on a 30-day contract to close down a failing Therapeutic Community called Tucson Awareness House. Instead, she and her team re-organized and re-incorporated the organization into Amity Foundation and began the process of extending services to those who were marginalized and considered “no good”; people who had been ejected from all other agencies or were deemed “not amenable” for help. At that time services included accepting mothers and fathers with their children and men and women who had served long prison sentences. Amity also began creating robust prevention services in schools, including outreach and help to those infected with HIV/AIDS as well as Native American youth from First Nation tribes. Additionally, Amity began services behind walls in three adolescent prisons and one co-educational jail project.
The core faculty at Amity have always been women who do not work from the traditional hierarchical structure of the East Coast Therapeutic Community model. From this emerged our unique Teaching Community model.
Within a year, Naya, Rod, and their team reimagined the organization based on the teachings of the Therapeutic Community model. From the beginning—when they fought for the first mother and child to enter together and be helped together, Amity’s mission evolved to support the most vulnerable and underserved.
From this, efforts began in criminal justice reform to change and affect inequitable policies and systems. This includes advocating, with our partners to end mass incarceration, mandatory minimum sentencing, and three strikes policies.
Amity established curriculums on gender accountability, moral development, and emotional intelligence. Amity Foundation had multiple arms-length research projects and evidenced the highest retention in the United States. The majority of Amity’s pilot demonstration projects have been copied in the US and worldwide. Naya was joined by Rod Mullen and together, they began to take in people who other service providers were unwilling or unable to take on.
We have grown dramatically over the past four decades reaching out to many more people. Our core goals and ethos, however, have remained the same and we are committed to a philosophy that celebrates and empowers minority populations, women, and children. We’re dedicated to helping those who need us most.
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