• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • Same here. Defy does great work and should be taken nation-wide. I am stunned still about the news and hoping the program can continue. The Prison system here is so horribly bad for inmates and tax-payers alike, that Defy seemed like a small ray of hope for the future.

    • I missed this scandal at the time, but this thread piqued my interest, so I read the article and Ms. Hoke’s response.

      I think it is interesting that Chris (a potential donor as far as Ms. Hoke was concerned) described participating in the very activity that is outlined in the Daily Beast article, but explicitly denied in Ms. Hoke’s response

      (See photo of article at bottom of this message - I could not insert it here using my phone)

      Ms. Hoke: “And finally, as for The Daily Beast’s misleading reporting about Step to the Line: we regularly do this important exercise with EITs only – when donors are not present – and EITs consistently report it to be one of the most humanizing and empowering experience of their lives.”


      I used to teach a postgraduate course in Nonprofit Administration and Finance. One of the topics I led students through was the history of non-profit fraud. It is rampant. So rampant, that a few years ago the IRS has to tighten up reporting requirements in order to increase transparency, which, in turn, gave rise to websites like Charity Navigator.

      We looked at several case studies, including the “Three Cups of Tea” scandal and the Red Cross fiasco. There are many more.

      Non-profit founders are usually big-hearted people with an idealistic outlook, some extraordinary charisma, and a need to change the world. Very often, they do not or cannot see harsh realities and they refuse to acknowledge anything that casts negativity on their pet project. It appears Ms. Hoke is typical in these aspects.

      I am not at all surprised that Ms. Hoke is very charming and impressive. I’m also not surprised there is a dark side to her story.


      Article excerpt:

    • lidja, I've given this quite a bit more thought and received more emails from Defy and Catherine. Re-reading The Daily Beast story, I'm getting the sinking feeling that one not very well fact-checked emotional story brought down all of Defy and left prisons and hundreds of incarcerated people and volunteers without one of the best things to happen to them.

      For example, the part about Catherine saying Defy regularly does the line exercise with EITs only is true. The EITs confirm that. It's the humane thing to do before they have the public pressure of doing it in front of volunteers like me. Here is what Catherine actually said about it:

      And finally, as for The Daily Beast’s misleading reporting about Step to the Line: we regularly do this important exercise with EITs only – when donors are not present – and EITs consistently report it to be one of the most humanizing and empowering experience of their lives. At the end of the exercise, we call out the question, “I might not be able to explain it, but even though I’ve been revealing difficult things and have made myself vulnerable in this exercise, right here, right now, I feel safe, accepted and loved.” In 13 years of leading this exercise with thousands of EITs, they overwhelmingly agree with this statement. Prison officials who not only witness Step to the Line, but sometimes even participate themselves, frequently say it is one of the most remarkable, game-changing elements of our innovative programming.

      She is not denying that they also do it with volunteers like me. With each session, they take extensive photos of us doing it that we can share on social media. It's not something they have a reason to cover up, it's one of the very best, most life-changing parts of the program.

      Some of the other stuff The Daily Beast seemed to be critical of, that she made a $150,000 salary... Really? Have they any idea how hard she works, how much she has to travel, how much she has accomplished? After witnessing the program, that number doesn't seem out of line to me.

      I really wonder how much Kelly Weill, who wrote the piece, really knows about the program or if she has ever been through it. The two inmates my wife and I were sponsoring didn't pay tuition, couldn't have paid it I don't think, we paid it for them. Their dreams were to learn a trade (body shop) and another to open a tattoo parlor. Aren't those worthy ideals after being drug dealers? The Daily Beast article made it sound like these guys don't succeed after they get out. Now that Defy has collapsed, the wardens in Stockton and the incarcerated kids who loved the program and didn't agree with what Kelly wrote are out of luck.

      I can't answer for the other things, I don't know who could. But I feel I have to defend what I saw and lived.

    • But I feel I have to defend what I saw and lived.

      Yes! Absolutely you should defend what you saw and lived!

      There is a life-cycle that every non-profit goes through. It appears that Defy is struggling and may not make it through some critical transitions in that life-cycle.

      Apparently, when Roger Gordon was hired he quickly realized (within a couple of weeks!?!) there were some major problems at Defy—some of which stemmed directly from Ms. Hoke’s leadership. It may be that the non-profit’s success was based more on the founder’s personality and practices than it was on the efficacy of the mission and its implementation, so when Gordon called some of Ms. Hoke’s (and the board’s?) practices into question, he was silenced and then fired.

      I find it rather difficult to believe that a legitimate board would fire an experienced and impressive leader (an attorney) they had just hired based solely on unsubstantiated accusations of sexual harassment. I am suspicious that there is a much bigger story behind these headlines and that sexual harassment is a smoke screen everyone is using to avoid talking about the real systemic problems. But that’s just my intuition...I could be way off base.

      (PS - I think the idea of providing training and opportunity to incarcerated individuals so they can build a life after they are released is not just commendable, but absolutely critical. Bless you and your wife for supporting such an important effort!)

    • It's hard to hear challenging things about people we admire, but this is the SECOND time something like this has happened to Ms. Hoke. Behavior at odds with what she portrays (and there is always a very religious element to it) and at odds with professional ethics suddenly causes her to resign. This is disturbing behavior. I'd also ask how, at the non-profit salaries listed in the article, the Hokes could afford the $1.1M house in Boulder county.