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What's New at The First 72-- April Newsletter!

Bridging the Digital Divide

Last month, we were honored to be selected as one of the recipients of the “Greater Together Fund for Racial Equity” grant, which were awarded to Black-led organizations that provide leadership in ending institutional racism, helping eliminate inequitable systems, and working to close the racial wealth gap. We are eager to use this funding to address an issue that has become increasingly urgent since the onset of the pandemic: bridging the “digital divide”.

In the past we’ve done informal “us helping us” technology lessons in our office, but we’re excited to make this a more permanent part of our program.

The idea of the "digital divide" refers to the growing gap between the marginalized members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and disabled portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet. Being able to access technology is necessary in order to fully engage in the economic, political, and social aspects of our society, and unequal access further perpetuates already existing inequalities.

For many of our clients, technology access and literacy is a huge hurdle upon their release-- there is limited access to technology in prison, and technology is needed to access vital support services and resources, and to participate fully in society. First 72+ Reentry Coach Eric Smith explains that since the begging of the pandemic, it has become clear to us and our clients that technology isn't going anywhere, and that we need to actively be addressing the digital divide head on: “We don’t have a choice about whether or not we want to learn how to use it… If you’re looking at a guy who just came home after 10 or 15 years, it’s sometimes slow. But, even just learning the basic things like how to send a text or check your voicemail or call the Medicaid customer service line, it makes a huge difference.”

That’s why this past year, we launched our first ever Re-entry Technology Life Skills program. It is clear that providing this foundational technology literacy support is essential for people returning home from prison, and we look forward to being able to make bridging the digital divide a more central part of our work moving forward.

News Features: Our future transitional house and clearing court backlog

New Home for The First 72+: “On the wood-framed structure’s ground level are shared living and office spaces. The second floor features four two-person bedrooms, divided between two suites accessible by separate stairs and served by their own bathroom….Beyond providing shelter, the prototype was designed to support a full complement of services, including health, job placement, education, and business incubation, to help its residents re-enter society. Each home’s shared spaces accommodate and encourage these uses to facilitate positive outcomes.”

Orleans DA dismisses over 400 cases clearing backlog, prosecuting over 200: “Kelly Orians the Co-Director of The First 72 Plus Organization said, "When you look at specifically narcotics cases, you are looking at something that is a symptom to a much larger problem, that needs to be addressed. We cannot arrest our way out of substance abuse disorder. Which is a major public health issue."

Our Last Lenten Fish Fry of the Season THIS FRIDAY!

It’s been so special getting to return to our Friday Fish Fry tradition the past few weeks, and we’ll continue every Friday until the end of Lent! All proceeds go towards our transitional housing program, spread the word and order a plate or 2!

Covid Vaccine Updates and Access: Buzzfeed feature, and our Vaccine Outreach!

As of this past Monday, everyone in Louisiana 16+ is eligible for the covid vaccine!

However, we know that just because a resource is available does not mean that all can access it equally.

We recently spoke to Buzzfeed about ID requirements at vaccination sites, and how ID access has been a longstanding issue and barrier for many of our clients upon release. In this case ID requirements at vaccination sites exemplify the dangers of being released without an ID-- it is preventing people from readily accessing the possibly life-saving vaccine. You can read the full article here.

Want to help us address unequal access to vaccinations in our community?

Whether it’s access to an ID, access to a computer or phone to schedule an appointment, access to accurate information, or access to transportation to get to a vaccination site, healthcare is not available equally in our country, and that is especially dangerous during a pandemic. We know that there are already racial disparities in vaccine rollout, and our clients face even greater barriers to vaccine access. That’s why we are doing ongoing vaccine outreach efforts to make sure that our past and current clients have access to the vaccine. We are answering questions about the vaccine, assisting with appointment sign ups, and supporting with other needed logistics. All outreach can be done remotely, with flexible hours. We can always use more volunteers for this project, if you’re interested in joining our outreach team, please email

Community Spotlight: Creating a Hospitality House at Angola Prison

New Orleans based prison pen-pal and advocacy group, Abolition Apostles, has recently announced a new campaign to create a hospitality house in service to those who are incarcerated at Angola State Penitentiary and their loved ones. In an effort to raise funds for the hospitality house, they are putting on a multi-day online benefit concert to fundraise for the house.

Located on the site of several former slave plantations, Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the United States. Angola is several hours’ drive from any major urban center. Friends and family often spend hours driving to visit their loved ones who are incarcerated there. Due to the lack of affordable accommodations close to the prison, most people are forced to drive to Angola and back home in one day, making for an exhausting trip especially for families with young children or elders.

By making visitation easier and more cost effective for friends and family, the hospitality house will break the isolation too often experienced by incarcerated people. Join them for Abolition 2021 to help make this vision a reality.

Get your tickets for the benefit concert, Abolition 2021, here!

You can learn more about the work of Abolition Apostles at their website.

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