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What's new with The First 72? October newsletter!

What’s New at The First 72? updates!

We’re still here to help. There are so many things that we miss about getting to be together in-person in our office: our weekly Red Beans and Rice lunches, old friends stopping by to say hi and hang around for a while, welcoming clients into the office and community on their first day home from prison. It’s been 6 months since our office has been closed, and although we’re doing things differently now, some things haven’t changed, and we know our work is as important as ever. We’re still here to provide support and community to formerly incarcerated people as they transition home during these challenging times. You can find more information about how to access our services here.

“Community change happens when communities vote”. Formerly incarcerated people deserve to be heard. We encourage everyone to request your absentee ballot today! Check your registration status! Check your polling location! Learn what will be on your ballot! Early voting in Louisiana starts October 16-27 (except Sunday October 18 and October 25). Check out these Get Out & Vote resources from Power Coalition. If you have a felony conviction and aren’t sure if you’re able to vote, call Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) at: 504-571-9599.

SAVE THE DATE: We’re so excited to announce that our Friday Fish Fry Fundraiser will be back on Friday November 6th! All orders will be take-out style, masks and social distancing are required. More details to come soon! All proceeds go to support our free transitional housing program.

We are so proud of our Director of Client Services, Kisha Edwards, for forging an amazing partnership with Step Up Louisiana! After witnessing our clients work so hard to rejoin the workforce, only to be denied on the basis of their past mistakes, she decided we need to do more than provide direct services - we needed to speak up. Step Up Louisiana’s campaign for #FairChanceHiring is changing hearts, minds, and laws. We are so proud to be a part of this movement. Check out this coverage of one of their mask and meal giveaways!

We are grateful to wwltv for coming out to spread the word-- but, we also wanted to use this opportunity to remind everyone, please, in the future, do not refer to us as “ex-cons.” We are people, formerly incarcerated people.

Click here for coverage of the mask and meal giveaway, and here for more information about the Fair Chance Hiring Campaign!


First 72+ Team Highlight:

Eric Smith

Peer Coach

This month we talk with Eric, our newest Peer Coach, and learn more about his role and what inspires him to do this work. We’re very grateful to have Eric on our team, and are so happy to welcome him to our First 72+ family!

Would you tell me a little bit about yourself and your position at The First 72+?

I’m a peer coach, so I do intakes with clients, check in on them on things like if they got a job, see if they got their social security card, do some mentoring about relationships and how to acclimate to society when you get out of prison. I’ve always been around The First 72+ in the community, and I was doing construction work for a really long time. I was invited to come on the team, and I took a chance on doing this work, because it’s really different from the work I was doing before.

What are some of the challenges you see people going through right now when they come home from prison?

The main thing I’m seeing is struggles finding housing. Also struggles with technology. Like my uncle is in prison and he’s 72, and although he has somewhere to go, he doesn’t know anything about technology. People like him have been in prison so long they know nothing about technology, and they really need a hand with that in order to be equipped to be in society. There are people coming out of prison every day who not only don’t know how to use technology, but they also don't really know how to talk to people, how to react to people, be with people and feel comfortable around people. If you’re not used to that and you’re coming from a life that's completely different, kind of like me switching from doing construction for 9 years to working here, you're not just gonna have it all at once. It’s really gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time to acclimate.

What inspires you to do the work you’re doing now?

I like to help people, that's just me, I like to see people do better in their life cus I believe in second chances. God gives you a second chance in life, the opportunity to get it right. If I can do something to help people be better and build a better you, I’m just grateful to be a servant and reach out to someone else who needs the help. I have a quote that really hits home: “Don’t judge a man by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant”. It's like what I said, it's about planting the seed, if I can help you a little more and help you be a little better, then my day is gonna be worth it.


Intersections of Incarceration: Policing, Mass Incarceration, and Looking to the Future.

We encourage our team, our clients, and our supporters to explore a diverse array of opinions and outlooks on how to keep our communities safe and reduce our dependence on incarceration. Every month we find authors whose perspectives are shaping this debate, and we have featured some of these voices below.

Art by Kah Yangni

We’ve seen unprecedented uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism taking place across the US over the last few months. As many are reckoning with the role of police and prisons in our society and our country’s legacy of racism, the demand and vision of “defund the police”, a vision that is part of the larger movement to abolish prisons and police, has entered the mainstream and has received more attention than ever before. How do people connect the dots between police brutality and our system of mass incarceration? Why are the terms “defund the police” and “abolish prisons” receiving more attention than ever before? What do these terms mean, and what would it look like to build a society that doesn’t rely on police or prisons? Here are a few jumping off points to learn about this perspective:

What Is Abolition, And Why Do We Need It?: “The U.S. is home to the largest prison system in the world; if prisons kept us safe, we might expect to live in the safest country in the world. We would rarely see sexual assault and other forms of violence. If our system produced safety, people would have clean drinking water, safe and stable housing, quality medical care, and good food.”

A NEW ORLEANS WITHOUT POLICE: “Public safety is not the presence of police and carceral institutions. For abolitionists, public safety is permanently affordable and safe housing, communities and environments free of toxic exposure and polluting industries, sustainable livelihoods, quality education, mental health resources—universal, non-coercive health care services, and community of accountability and transformative justice practices when harm occurs.”

Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind: “Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.””

If you’re surprised by how the police are acting, you don’t understand US history: “Policing in America was never created to protect and serve the masses. It can’t be reformed because it is designed for violence.”


Thanks for reading!

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