Trauma Informed Services to End Mass Incarceration

Sammy A. Nuñez was born into deep poverty in an abusive household. One of his earliest memories includes waking up to his mother’s blood dripping on his face as his step father beat her. This life of fear, anxiety, and trauma would form a child full of anger who would go on to replicate the violence that he had witnessed at home. The education system failed to step in and counsel a child in pain, and instead Sammy was pushed out from school and further down the road toward incarceration. With a probation officer at the age of 13, repeated visits to juvenile hall made up most of Sammy’s childhood.

A teenage dad, Sammy made a promise to stay in his child’s life forever — a promise he would be unable to keep. Just a few weeks later, he was gunned down by another young man with a 12-gauge shotgun. Sammy miraculously survived the shotgun blast, but the cycle of trauma continued as social services failed to give Sammy the support he needed to heal. As a victim of gun violence with mounting hospital debt, and hounded by insensitive questions by police officers, Sammy ended up retaliating.

By the time he was 18 years old, Sammy was a new father and facing school pushout. He was arrested and faced a 20-year prison sentence. The prosecutor and officers had erased Sammy’s identity and reduced him to the person they needed him to be in order to give him a harsh sentence. In the prosecution’s eyes, Sammy was no longer a child, a father, or a victim, but another disposable screw up.

The link between trauma and incarceration is clear in Sammy’s life and in the experiences of people in his world. As a founder and leader of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, Sammy is now a source of hope fighting for justice for his community. Fathers and Families provides culturally rooted family strengthening services, operates a trauma recovery center, and pushes for healing centered laws for freedom and justice.

View All Resources

Contact us

Facebook /MeetYourDA
Twitter @MeetYourDA


July 2, 2019

Why Does the U.S. Prosecute and Incarcerate Children as Adults?

At the age of 15, Frankie Guzman was arrested for robbery. He had no prior criminal record. Frankie’s friend, a young person of 16, was arrested with him and, with one prior arrest on his record (for…
Frankie's Case
May 28, 2019

Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration for Women

Vonya Quarles survived what she calls “generational incarceration” — as a granddaughter, daughter, and mother of incarcerated people. During her young adult life, Vonya experienced addiction, homelessness, and subsequent time in prison. Like many others,…
Vonya’s Case