Project Uncaged™ is a trauma-informed, arts-based program designed for young women in U.S. juvenile detention and rehab facilities — a population often underserved and under-heard by a system designed for males. Girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice population, and in the U.S. they are primarily arrested for running away, truancy, and substance use: 3 of the most common symptoms of abuse. Young women are also more likely than young men to have been victims of sexual assault and to suffer from complex trauma. Yet the juvenile justice system regularly struggles to adequately or equitably meet girls’ needs.
In response, Dr. Tasha Golden developed a research-based intervention/curriculum called Project Uncaged™, which she has conducted in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. This creative, adaptable programming emphasizes girls’ intersectional experiences, supports girls’ well-being, and forges opportunities for girls to inform local decisions. The arts-based approach uniquely amplifies young women’s stories, voices, and needs, with an eye toward improving gender equity and local resources. Project Uncaged is committed to advancing girls' leadership and meaningful inclusion in research, decision-making, and public discourses. Grounded in extensive research and years of praxis, the program addresses girls’ well-being at individual, community, policy, and cultural levels.
Those interested in developing similar programming in their communities, or in learning how to apply the arts to health equity goals, can reach out to Dr. Golden here.
In 2017, Project Uncaged partnered with international literary publisher Sarabande Books, the University of Louisville's Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, and Metro Louisville's Youth Detention Services (YDS) to provide programming for detained girls in Louisville while advancing their voices in the community. Our first YDS anthology, Every Day I Live, I Strive, was published in Fall 2017 and mailed (with customized action recommendations) to local judges, the Mayor's office, local and state legislators, and community leaders.
In January 2018, Project Uncaged began offering twice-weekly workshops for girls in Louisville's Youth Detention. These resulted in a 2018 anthology titled One Day I’ll Rise, and an unprecedented concert event designed both to celebrate the book’s launch and to further amplify girls’ words. In October 2018, influential Louisville-based artists 1200, Ben Sollee, Hannah Drake, and Daniel Martin Moore performed poems from One Day I’ll Rise, setting some to new original music. Audio from this standing-room-only event will be available soon.
FUNDING | SUPPORT
Support is urgently needed to continue this work. You can support Project Uncaged by making a tax-deductible donation via The Community Foundation of Louisville. Click this bold link here, and scroll down to choose your amount. Then select “Project Uncaged” from the drop-down menu labeled “Designation.” You can also get in touch by clicking here.
We're working to sustain and develop Project Uncaged, including the addition of parallel programming outside the facility. So long as girls are incarcerated in Louisville, we want to ensure they have access to research-based, trauma-informed programming that offers them a platform in their community. Your support is vital, and deeply appreciated.
We’re grateful for initial support from the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research and The Awesome Foundation of Louisville. We also appreciate Sarabande Books' support from Imagine Greater Louisville 2020—which made our 2018 anthology possible.
READ ABOUT PROJECT UNCAGED in the feature story by Maggie Menderski in Louisville’s Courier Journal.
Also appearing in US News and World Report, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, and many great papers across the U.S.
“'guidance was a lack
hurt was a fact
My mother was a loss
and my family turned they back.' – Stone Cold, R.T.
“[…] Twice a week Tasha Golden walks through six secure doors to the classroom where she teaches poetry to the young women as part of their school day at Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services downtown.
They're a group that often goes unseen and unheard in society, but Golden spends enough time behind the detention center's doors to know these young women have plenty to say.
It's her mission to help others hear them.
”The books [of poetry] are useful tools, because people often glaze over when she starts talking incarceration statistics for young women.
Yes, she can tell them that young girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system. Yes, she can recite those numbers about sexual abuse and adverse childhood experiences.
But rather than rattle off numbers, she’s learned to hand a book to leaders and policymakers — and just stop talking.
Often they've stopped listening anyway.
The poems are short, so it’s difficult not to read the whole thing once one catches you, even if you're just flipping through the pages.
There's a rawness and a beauty to their writing because the girls aren't trying to be amazing poets. They’re just trying to tell their truths [...]”
Programming in YDS includes research and evaluation by the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, as well as analyses of girls' writing that will together help the city recognize the assets and needs of Louisville's justice-involved girls. Golden’s article about gendered oppression in juvenile justice was recently selected for inclusion in the 2018 edition of Best of the Journals in Rhetoric and Composition (forthcoming), and her chapter on writing with incarcerated young women can be found in Prison Pedagogies: Learning and Teaching with Imprisoned Writers.