Editor’s Note: Nola 2 Angola, which organizes an annual bicycle ride to Angola Prison to support and fund the Cornerstone Builders Bus Project, which connects families to their incarcerated loved ones, is happening October 17-19, 2021. In honor of that organization and the work they do, we’ll be running pieces focused around the prison industrial complex and those trying to fight against it.
Louisiana is notorious for not only having the highest rates of incarceration throughout the United States but also throughout the world. Once individuals are released from jail or prison, they are often left without any connections to transitional services that would assist their reintegration into society; this only perpetuates a cycle of mass incarceration. This curation is designed to spotlight five Louisiana organizations that are working to assist recently incarcerated individuals while fighting to change the criminal justice system as a whole.
A pact made during their incarceration to help others once they were freed sparked the idea for Free-Dem Foundations, as founders Jerome Morgan, Robert Jones, and Daniel Rideau sought to help others escape the cycle of mass incarceration. After two had proven their innocence and one had proven irregularities in his sentencing, the trio joined together to develop a mentoring program that provides many community strengthening services and transitional opportunities for youths in Louisiana. From developmental classes and community service hours to their four-phase curriculum, they teach in their home neighborhoods, Free-Dem Foundations teaches youth many important self-sufficiency and community cohesion skills.
By providing transitional housing services, re-entry programs, and a supportive community, The First 72+ fights to eliminate the barrier incarceration creates in community engagement and acceptance. The name is a nod to the critical first 72 hours after release from prison. Founded by formerly incarcerated individuals with a combined 100+ years of collective experience in prison, this organization focuses on how a lack of housing post-incarceration leads to high recidivism rates, lengthened sentences, numerous health consequences, and other negative impacts. They provide directly accessible services during the first three days post-incarceration (e.g. clothes, food, healthcare), as well as ongoing transitional resources such as case management and support with small business development.
Co-founded by Kelly Orians and Calvin Duncan, Rising Foundations seeks to provide case management to formerly incarcerated men in order to assist with their reintegration into society. They are currently in the process of securing housing services for 25 formerly incarcerated men, and they previously worked as case managers for 28 individuals over the course of their initial program. With a focus on enabling self-employment, home-ownership, and financial stability, Rising Foundations has established multiple businesses, partnerships, and startups that employ formerly incarcerated men.
Website: http://gopropeller.org/ventures/risingfoundations/ (soon to be http://risingfoundations.org/)
Focusing on increasing the likelihood of successful reentry and reducing recidivism is central to the vision of the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC). This organization provides legal services, runs community education programs, and promotes systemic change to criminal justice policy. JAC contains a varied team of attorneys who work to provide legal services to the formerly incarcerated, as well as offer educational and professional opportunities to the general public. By promoting advocacy and acting as direct legal representation, JAC strives for lasting change.
Uplifting the voices of those affected by the cycle of incarceration is imperative to implementing systemic change. Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE, seeks to empower this community at the local, state, and national levels by fighting for the human and civic rights of the currently and formerly incarcerated. VOTE specifically addresses crime survivors, employment, housing, medical, and voting rights through community education as well as direct legislative advocacy and policy recommendations.