/// Albert Jerome Landry
Smitty joined The First 72+ team in August of 2019 as a Re-Entry Coach. After coming home from prison, Smitty reconnected with old childhood friends and original founders of The First 72+, Ben and Tyrone Smith, and soon after got involved with The First 72+. He works to help clients understand some of the challenges they will likely face when coming home from prison, and how to overcome them. Below is an interview feature with Smitty from when he first joined our team in 2019.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the First 72+?
I’m Junius, they call me Smitty around here, and I'm a peer mentor. A peer mentor is someone who tries to help formerly incarcerated guys get acclimated back to society. We talk to them, try to get them to understand some of the challenges that they face coming back into society. I love working here. I was raised with the founders, Ben and Tyrone. After I got out of prison I reconnected with the founders through church, I started volunteering here and that led to my part time position as a peer mentor.
What do you think is one of the greatest challenges you see people face during the period of re-entry?
I mean, housing is one of the biggest challenges that people face. When you've been gone for so long in prison and you come back, your family often isn’t the same. People have changed and grown, your parents might be dead, and you often have nowhere to go. You’re then the new face of the homeless population here.
What do you think is one of the most important things for people during the re-entry period?
Well, I’m geared towards education as something that's important when a lot of the guys come home. I’ve been a tradesman all my life, so a lot of the time I direct people towards getting an education in a trade, like construction, air conditioning, carpentry, electrician, refrigeration. Something you can learn in a year or learn on the job, and something where you can build a career more long term. Once you learn a trade, they can’t take that away from you. You can always feed your family. I try to empower them to go out and get that education for themselves.
Anything last thoughts you have? Anything on your mind recently?
I’ve recently been thinking about the direction that the city is going and the changes that have happened. One thing I notice is that there are less free programs for juveniles these days than when I was growing up, it's almost non existent. Everything costs a buck. Especially children with incarcerated fathers- the father is out of the house, they’re raised by single mothers, they’re often raised in poverty. Sometimes I wonder what we could do to deter some of the juvenile crime that we have in the city? Like in addition to The First 72+, what could be done to help on the front end of the issue? How can we help these kids facing poverty in this city?