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Valley woman's fresh start outside prison made possible by what she did inside

Department of Corrections
Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 21:31:49-04

PHOENIX — After nearly ten years behind bars at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Danna Tongate is grateful to begin a new life. She embraced family moments after walking into freedom back in August.

“So overwhelming but in the best of ways, I’ve never felt more prepared for anything,” said Tongate.

Prepared because since 2013, she’s been working on the inside to turn her life around now on the outside.

“I lived an entire lifestyle that was wrong, that was just completely surrounded in drug addiction,” said Tongate.

An addiction that spiraled into a life of crime and filled with fraud schemes and theft. All to get high.

“Had I not gone through terrible addiction, and found myself in prison with a significant sentence, I would’ve never had the opportunities I do today,” said Tongate. “I wouldn’t have the identity and the integrity and the grit and determination that I’ve been able to develop over these years.”

The virtues she’s now focused on honing were first brought to light thanks to the Televerde Foundation.

It's an organization that provides career development, job placement, and life skills training to incarcerated women. Eventually, those in the program make a living while still in custody by conducting sales and technology telemarketing calls.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting in orange, going to work every day, and talking to business leaders out in our market, and helping them make better business decisions,” added Tongate.

“It’s what we do, is provide women with the opportunity, with the platform to rebuild their lives,” said Michelle Cirocco, Chief Social Impact Officer for Televerde.

She says Danna is now starting a new managerial position with the company.

In fact, the majority of women land jobs after serving their sentence. Leading to an extreme drop in them returning to jail.

“Very specifically, the recidivism rate for women of Televerde is 5.4%, compared to currently in the state of Arizona, the average is about 36%,” said Cirocco.

Those numbers were provided through a study done by Arizona State University. But the real proof is in the personal testimony and the renewed hope Tongate feels now.

“The power of all of this is I have power,” said Tongate. “Power of choice. To make the right decisions for me and my family. Every morning I wake up with goals and think how can I get there. It’s truly empowering.”