Nearly eight months ago, the First Step Act was signed into law by the President. On that day, it was nearly impossible to look ahead and see just how many lives that bill would impact for the better.
Today, 2,200 people are returning home from prison and reuniting with their families thanks to this legislation.
DeWayne (center) pictured here with his wife and daughter.
Many of the people walking out of prisons and halfway houses today were never given a fair chance. They didn't get help with their homework, or money for lunch, or support exploring college or career options. Too many were defined by their circumstances instead of by their potential to be something more. Yet while incarcerated, they pursued education, personal development, and community building.
2,200 people are finally getting a fair chance to prove to society that they are more than the circumstances that led to their worst mistake.
How we're supporting 2,200 new community members:
Transitioning back to society after years or decades in prison is incredibly challenging. For some, today will be the first time seeing a smartphone or a computer, two devices essential to finding housing, transportation, and meaningful employment. Tech challenges aside, doing any of those things is difficult enough when the only thing in your pocket is a criminal record.
We are familiar with these challenges because as a team of people directly impacted by incarceration, some of us have faced them ourselves or watched as our loved ones faced them. So we’ve spent the past eight months forging partnerships across the public and private sector to make sure the 2,200 people returning home from prison today, and the thousands more that will follow them, can take advantage of their fair chance at success.
We’ve partnered with Lyft to fill some of the transportation gaps in those first few days home. We are working with TalkSpace to provide free online therapy. HR firms and volunteers across the country are joining us to provide resume and job application assistance. And leaders from within our own Empathy Network are stepping up to help by being good neighbors and reaching out to offer personal support.
And we partnered with Root and Rebound to publish the First Step to Second Chances Guide: drm.to/guide to help people coming home successfully navigate those first few days and months. Thanks to the generous support of The Margaret and Daniel Loeb Foundation, we are printing thousands of copies to ship to individuals and partners across the country.
How we're sharing the journeys of our returning neighbors:
Last week, Brian Johnson walked out of prison after serving 20 years of a life sentence. He missed the birth of his grandchildren and countless other moments now impossible for him to re-live. But today, Brian is home in Baltimore and settling into his new life. Even though his daughters are well into adulthood, he still hugs them every night before they go to sleep.
Brian is only one of thousands of people to benefit from the First Step Act, and we are excited and honored to be standing alongside community members like him as they chart a new path forward for themselves and their families.
There are not words to describe the pride we feel as our returning neighbors come home, earn their first paychecks, and get behind the wheel of a car again; it’s about time for them to be in the driver's seat of their own lives.
We are also grateful to YOU for all your support and encouragement. We can make miracles happen when we come together to fight for people, when we stand up for ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones, and when we lead with empathy and love.