Our History

The First 72+ was founded on one guiding principle –
“Us helping us.”

With over 100 years of collective experience in prison on the founding team, the First 72+ builds off of the experiences of Formerly Incarcerated People (FIP) to help others transition out of prison and build for the future. Founded by six men who have all personally experienced the criminal justice system and helped one another upon release, our organization aims to stop the cycle of incarceration that has lead Louisiana to having the highest per capita prison population in the world.

According to statistics compiled by the Louisiana Department of Corrections one out of every two people released from prison in Louisiana will return within five years. There are currently more people returning to prison than entering for the first time, and although there are 15,000 people released annually there are very few re-entry services across the state of Louisiana – and a particularly limited number of services in New Orleans. Most people being released depend heavily on friends and family, but many people coming home do not have the family and friends they need for necessary support.

In fact, there is currently a large population of people in prison who aren’t being released on probation and parole because they don’t have a stable housing plan.

For years prior to our founding every member of our board was providing ad hoc services, big and small, to people returning home.In 2014, in partnership with “The Next Generation of Original Morning Star Baptist Church” we opened our first transitional house, with five beds dedicated to housing men returning home from the Louisiana State Prison System. Our first resident, Nathan Brown, was released from prison after 17 years for crime he did not commit.

Today we have expanded our services to include case management, peer mentorship, free legal services, small business incubation, and our "pay it forward communal loan fund.

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Co-Founders, and brothers, Ben and Tyrone Smith during their time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, LA.

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Calvin Duncan, Co-Founder and President of the Board of Directors, leaving prison in 2011 – with only one shoe.

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Our first resident, Nathan Brown, with his attorneys the day he was released.

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Our co-founder, Norris Henderson, pictured in our transitional house.