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Life after prison? The first 72 hours are critical

There is a garden next to the house on Perdido Street, and a red dog house on the porch that used to belong to a street dog named Frank. You can tell it’s a place where people feel comfortable, a community center.

It’s also a place where 50 men have found new lives right after they got out of prison.

The group that runs the house, The First 72+, helps formerly incarcerated people transition back into society, and it has pioneered the kind of work that the state is now funding as part of its criminal justice reforms.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week that Louisiana will reinvest $8.5 million in savings from reducing the prison population to lower recidivism, support victims and improve public safety in Orleans, Caddo, East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes.

RELATED: Edwards, Prator still butting heads on state's criminal justice reform efforts

The First 72+ has partnered with Goodwill Industries and Catholic Charities, which will use some of the state money to provide legal services and jobs to the men who pass through the group’s house. The Louisiana Parole Project, a nonprofit in Baton Rouge, will receive $112,165 in state funds to help prisoners from the five parishes return home.

“We’ll work with the community to ensure that their family in Caddo or whichever parish is ready to receive them," said Andrew Hundley, the executive director of the Louisiana Parole Project. His group also will help them find jobs.

The First 72+ takes its name from the idea that what a released person does in the first 72 hours of freedom often determines whether he or she returns to jail, and its efforts are widely seen as a model re-entry program.

Started in 2014 by six men who knew firsthand the shortcomings of the prisoner-release system, the group has raised money through car washes, fish-fry events and private donations. It says that no one who has stayed in its house has gone back to jail.

Watch the video HERE.

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