In 2015, a volunteer committee of defense attorneys, clinical social workers and criminologists came together to create Chained Voices. Supported by Denver community members, the first of what would become an annual art show featuring incarcerated artists was born.


The DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI) began managing Chained Voices in 2020 and continues to do so today with the support of members from the original volunteer committee. DU PAI’s mission is to generate creative and collaborative learning experiences that enrich the lives of people who are incarcerated and shift the conversation about prison, and the Chained Voices Fine Art Show has been an impactful addition to our programming.


To learn more about DU PAI’s staff who help showcase hundreds of CDOC residents each year in both virtual and in-person galleries, please visit the DU PAI Website.


Unchained Voices Committee

Ashley Ratliff JD, MSW 

Ashley Ratliff was recently appointed as a district court magistrate in Adams County, Colorado. She is recognized for both her trial work and her scholarship in the realm of juvenile and family law. Ms. Ratliff’s expertise representing youth, young adults and adults has garnered national attention and led to coordinated efforts for policy changes grounded in social science and brain development research. Those changes informed and improved Colorado laws impacting juveniles and adults and are widely used today. Ms. Ratliff is also an author, editor and nationally recognized expert in comprehensive, holistic, child-centered advocacy for youth and families. Working alongside national organizations, Ms. Ratliff has written guidelines, standards of practice and reports for the U.S. Department of Justice and practitioners alike. She also co-edited and authored the seminal textbook, Criminal Defense-Based Forensic Social Work, which is the first publication of its kind in the field. She earned a Master of Social Work at San Diego State University simultaneous with her Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law.

Lindsey Sandoval, MSW, LCSW

Lindsey Sandoval is a licensed clinical social worker and has been practicing social work for sixteen years. She received her Bachelor of social work degree in 2006 and a Master of social work degree in 2014. Lindsey’s experience includes child welfare, respondent parent advocacy, guardian ad litem social work, school social work, and defense-based forensic social work. In August 2014, Lindsey was hired as the first Juvenile Denver Public Defender social worker and helped to create the social work position at the Denver Trial Office. After leaving the Public Defender’s office in March 2019 Lindsey became a contract forensic social worker with Alternate Defense Counsel. Lindsey specializes in juvenile/young adult cases.  Lindsey has worked on countless Direct Files, homicides, and detention cases with experience in both juvenile and adult criminal defense.

Kyle Varvil, LCSW

Kyle Varvil, LCSW, has been providing forensic social work services with the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel (OADC) since 2014.  Kyle also works on private criminal cases and federal cases in Colorado.  Some of the many areas that Kyle has worked in are: juvenile direct file, aging adolescent cases, JLWOP re-sentencings, post-conviction, COCCA, mental health heavy, burglary and assault, ID/DD, SO, DF1s, and, capital cases. In addition to providing thorough mitigation on complex cases, Kyle dabbles in leading trainings and provides clinical supervision for OADC contractors. Kyle graduated from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work with his MSW in 2014.   Kyle was part of their clinical track that focused on the various impacts of trauma and mental health. 

Hillary Vervalin, MSW, LCSW

Hillary Vervalin is a licensed clinical social worker who holds a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Denver with a focus on family systems and trauma-informed care. She has worked as a forensic social worker with the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel (OADC) for eight years and has supervised new social workers at the agency for the past four years. Hillary is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in social work at Colorado State University. Since collaborating with a group of social workers and defense attorneys to create Chained Voices in 2014, Hillary has remained involved and is grateful for DU PAI’s incredible efforts to expand the program.

Ryan Smith, LCSW

Ryan Smith, LCSW, is an alumni of the University of Denver, graduating from the Graduate School of Social Work in 2014.  Since that time, Ryan has worked as a Forensic Social Worker, working with incarcerated juvenile and adult clients.  Ryan joined the Chained Voices team right before the first art show back in 2015, and has been an active member of the committee since.  Ryan loves being a part of Chained Voices not only for the positive impacts it has for all of our artists, but also because it provides a platform to bring awareness to the larger community about incarceration.

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