What's New at The First 72?
This Giving Tuesday, we hope you consider making a donation to The First 72+. Every donation you make will help a returning citizen have a fighting chance to become a productive member of our community. Together we can help make our neighborhoods safe as we work to stop the cycle of recidivism. You can donate online HERE!
We’re looking for book donations, and writing submissions from our community for our new First 72+ library! We’re working on starting a community library for our clients and community. We are particularly interested in self help books, textbooks/educational books, or anything else you think our community would enjoy. Additionally, with the hope of amplifying the voices in our community and individuals impacted by incarceration, we’re creating a section of our library that is writing from our community and clients. Do you want to submit some of your own writing, or do you know someone else who may want to? Bring any donations and writing by our office, and contact email@example.com with any questions or interest!
We recently capped off semester one of the Small Business Incubator at the NOLA Talk Series hosted by New Orleans & Co. Next semester we’ll be focusing on computer skills and technology, so it was awesome toattend this “Nola Talks Tech” event!
This past month, our office and community celebrated the life of Donald Muse. Muse has been a part of our team from the very beginning, as one of our original peer mentors, we are what we have grown into today because of his commitment and passion. His values as a husband, father, grandfather, veteran, and formerly incarcerated person shaped our values as an organization. Muse was a beloved member of the First 72+ family and will be dearly missed.
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:
This past month, Programs Manager Juliana Matz sat down and talked with Troy DeLone, the newest Re-entry Case Manager at The First 72+. Troy has been a part of the First 72 family for a long time, and we couldn’t be more excited to have Troy on our team as a staff member. The interview has been shortened to fit this newsletter, but if you would like to listen to the whole thing please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
J: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at The First 72+?
T: I guess for the context of this article, I would say I’m a returning citizen who has now been released two years and 10 months- almost three years in December. I served 16 years and ten months to be exact, but I round it off at 17 years. While I was at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, I had an opportunity to obtain a Bachelor's degree in Christian Ministry, and I’m currently working on my Master’s degree in Social Work at SUNO, and as of this spring I’ll have 4 or 5 more classes left to finish my degree. I was recently hired by the First 72+ to be our new Re-entry Case Manager, and that was kind of like a full circle moment for me, because while I was incarcerated at Angola I was a re-entry social mentor for the same program- I was actually one of the first mentors that was selected. So, having the opportunity to continue that work here outside in society and take the next step in that process is an amazing opportunity and I don't take it lightly. I’m very honored and humbled to be able to serve in that capacity.
J: Would you talk a little bit more about your journey through the First 72+?
T: Yeah, everything started from The First 72+ since I’ve been released. Everything I’ve been able to accomplish, man, The First 72+ has been there every step of the way. When I was released in December of 2016, I came straight to The First 72+. Ever since that day I have received nothing but love, support, care, and consideration from everyone here. I got help with getting my state ID and Medicaid, I got set up with STRIVE, I got help operating my phone and sending emails, and I lived here for 6 months and was able to save some money so I could rent my first apartment, even my first job came as a result of The First 72+, a lot of amazing opportunities came up for me because of all of those things. Another thing- it was funny, I remember when I was focusing on saving up for an apartment I didn’t even think about having money to buy furniture, so Kelly made a Gofundme page for me and people all over the country were sending stuff and donating. It was a lot of love, people showed me a lot of love. Even later on, I got help working on the application to the Social work program that I’m doing now…. I really received all of the wrap around services they provide here. Anytime anyone from The First 72+ calls me, I don’t care what it is, I’m dropping whatever I’m doing because I know it’s gonna be something helpful and beneficial towards the community. They can call me anytime.
J: What do you think the most important part is of someone’s re-entry experience when they’re coming back home?
T: I would say surrounding yourself with positive energy and positive people, and having a great support team where you can receive guidance. And also being open to receiving that, not refusing to ask for help and not worrying about people to see you as weak if you ask for help. Also knowing that this help is a hand up, and not a hand out. Its not for you to become completely reliant on whatever assistance you’re receiving, but knowing that it’s for you to get to that next level yourself. And then when you get there, you pay it forward and you help other people. For me, that’s one of the most important things that’s been a key for me being able to grow an develop in society, was the support system- my family, and not just your biological, but really the first 72 was my family. Family is those who in this walk with you, and are supporting you.
J: Do you have any last thoughts that you’d like to share?
T: The last thing I’d like to share about entering back into society as a returning citizen is, I don’t want people to be discouraged about the process. It is a process. You hit periods where it don’t seem like things are going how you want or planned, and instead of becoming discouraged and frustrated and shutting down, use it as motivation to make you work even harder. There are some hard days where its easy to throw yourself a pity party, but I would tell myself “I’m going to make the best out of this situation and keep a positive mind frame and whenever another opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready”. That’s what I want people to know- don’t get discouraged and frustrated with the process.
We’re so grateful to Troy for sharing part of his story with us, and The First 72+ is lucky to have him as a part of our family and team.
Intersections of Mass Incarceration...
Immigrant Detention as a Form of Mass Incarceration
This is a new section of our newsletter, where we discuss how the work that we surrounding mass incarceration and re-entry overlaps with many other societal issues and injustices. We are excited to continue educating ourselves and our community about the broader context of the work we are doing! We hope that this section prompts further discussion in the community.
For this month's segment of Intersections of Mass Incarceration, we're looking at unparalleled levels of immigration detention in Louisiana. Although the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2017 passed by the Louisiana Legislature has been celebrated for reducing Louisiana's prison population by about 10%, this article from PBS exposes the fact that Louisiana has become an “unlikely epicenter for immigrant detention" and our jails are being filled with asylum seekers and migrants, at levels that exceed the number of people released after the Justice Reinvestment Act. The executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana describes the situation as “a complete betrayal of our commitment to decarceration in Louisiana,” in this video that reports on the high concentration of ICE detention centers in Louisiana. Photo from PBS.
In other News…
Local and national news stories or projects relating to our work at The First 72+.
Local news: ICE deports worker who survived Hard Rock Hotel collapse, despite concerns over investigation “Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma, a Honduran national who'd worked in construction in the New Orleans area for the past 18 years, escaped from the Oct. 12 collapse despite falling several stories as the upper floors of the unfinished project caved in...Ramirez was arrested by Border Patrol officers two days later in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans East, where he was fishing while recovering from his injuries. He spent more than a month in privately run federal immigration detention facilities in central Louisiana before being deported.”
Alternative approaches to public safety and mass incarceration: Imagining safety without prisons: Seeking a holistic solution to violence in Detroit. Check out this Detroit based organization that is completely reimagining the criminal justice system and public safety. They encourage people to deeply question and reflect on the nature of violence, its impact on communities, and the underlying “conditions that make violence inevitable”.
Spreading awareness about education in US prisons: Incarcerated People Can Do More than Beat Harvard in a Debate. Ken Burns released a new PBS documentary series this past week, College Behind Bars, about the power of education for people incarcerated. Burns claims, “When Thomas Jefferson said, ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ he wasn’t after material things in a marketplace of objects. He was after lifelong learning.”
Thanks for reading!
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