What's New at The First 72?
We officially launched our third cohort of the Rising Foundations Small Business Incubator last month with a powerful kick off event. 24(!) formerly incarcerated people are now hard at work building financials skills, growing their business plans, and dreaming big. Check out more photos from the invocation here! Special thanks to our partners, Thrive New Orleans, Capital One, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
We’re so excited to welcome Juliana Matz to our team as the new Programs Manager for our public benefits clinic. Juliana joins us thanks to Avodah, the Jewish Service Corps, a powerful program that brings young Jews together to live communally, develop as leaders, and take action on important issues...like mass incarceration in New Orleans! She’s our third Avodah fellow and we couldn’t be happier to have her!
Our Fish Fry’s are officially back in full swing on the first Friday of every month after a break over the summer. If you missed us this past week, join us again November 1st for the best fish plate in New Orleans. Fried fish, potato salad, mac and cheese, green peas, cake, bread, and soda, all for just $10. Free delivery to anywhere in the 504 if you order 5 or more plates. Call Ben at 504-237-8161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order!
Our office continues to be a support hub for formerly incarcerated people - we provide peer mentorship, free legal services, assistance signing up for public benefits, voter registration, financial skill building resources, and help with employment and housing.
Team Member of the Month
CLIFFORD HAMPTON - REENTRY CLIENT
At the end of September, Programs Manager Juliana Matz sat down with Clifford Hampton at The First 72+ and spoke with him about his experiences since being released from Angola. Mr. Hampton was released this past April after 61 years in Angola as a juvenile lifer. They spoke for over 90 minutes so this interview is edited to fit this newsletter, with a specific emphasis on Mr. Hampton’s reentry experience. If you would like to hear the full recording of the conversation, please email email@example.com. Juliana is so grateful to Mr. Hampton for taking the time to speak with her- it was an honor to sit down with him as he generously shared his story and experiences.
JM: Would you share a little bit about yourself? Really anything that feels important for you to share.
CH: Wow, there’s a lot that I could say. I think it would be best to show the changes I’ve made in my life - some of the things I’ve done and some of the ways I’ve helped people when I was in prison and stuff like that. I believe that that will be more important than some of the other things I could say.
JM: Would you tell me a little bit about your experience since being home?
CH: You’re right... It's been an experience. I still haven’t gotten to the comfortable part yet. I used to tell them when I first got out that I was enjoying being free, but with everything being so different and new to me and me having to get used to so much new stuff and new surroundings, and the proper way of doing things and all of that, you know I wasn’t comfortable or didn't feel at ease, and I was always a little nervous you know jittery. Like even when I was in prison, with me being in prison for so long, I was fairly quick on catching onto things. I could learn quick and I was quite familiar with everything in prison - I was an expert. But, coming out of here, you know this is all new. I’m like a newborn baby learning how to crawl and then walk, it's like starting all over again.
You know there’s good parts and bad parts, you know I’ve told a few people that since I’ve been out because of the things and process I still have to go through, I feel like I’m really not out of prison. You know it feels like I'm still in prison and confined. I still have certain restrictions on me, certain things I have to do. ...Even now that I've been struggling to get my SSI disability benefits…
JM: What do you think is the most important part of this period of time right after release?
CH: I think the most important part is just being free - well I’ll rephrase that, the most important part is being ¾ free. When you’re on parole you’re not all the way free - you know paying parole fees and different restrictions. But you still have a lot more freedom than being inside the gates of prison. At least out here you can be around family members and spend time with them. It's much better than when you’re inside prison and your family can visit for a couple hours, and then they’re gone and you might not see them again for a couple months. Like I have my attorneys on my case who fought to get me outta there, and it’s not just your average lawyer client relationship, we’re like close friends they’re like family. We all still keep in touch. They told the parole board that they’re not just there for me when I was inside prison, but they’d be a part of my life once I got out. They’re always inviting me to hang out and go to events... Like one of them just texted me and said we’re gonna make red beans and rice soon at their house.
JM: What are some of the most challenging parts of life post-release?
CH: Getting familiar with all of this new technology and stuff, you know cell phones, using an ATM machine. That's probably the most difficult, getting u
sed to everything and trying to keep it in your head. Also trying to figure out how I can find a place of my own to live - it’s best when you have your own place to live. You know, everyone has different rules for their house and certain ways they do things. It’s nice to be able to do things the way you want to do them and feel more at ease and more comfortable - that’s my reason for wanting to get a place of my own.
The First 72+ is grateful and honored to have Clifford in our First 72+ family!
(Each month we'll compile some of the most important stories and opinion pieces about mass incarceration and criminal justice reform here in New Orleans, in Louisiana, and across the country)
New data finds that 1 in 7 adults in New Orleans have a warrant out for their arrest. Our co-director Kelly Orians is quoted in this important Washington Post story, lifting up the real-life experiences of our clients.
Thankfully, New Orleanians are fighting back. Stand With Dignity, Councilmembers Jason Williams and Jay Banks, and others are working hard to ensure that a majority of these warrants are thrown out, because “economic poverty should not be a crime.”
The Supreme Court is taking up Louisiana’s unanimous jury law on its first day back in session. Congratulations to Calvin Duncan and the team at the Promise of Justice Initiative for all their work on this!
Watch this powerful Ted Talk on why hiring formerly incarcerated people is a smart move.
Read this harrowing story of a Louisiana veteran serving a life sentence for $30 worth of marijuana. Unfortunately this is just one of many examples of the destructive nature of our criminal justice system, here in Louisiana and across the country.
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