THE FORTUNE NEWS A FORTUNE SOCIETY PUBLICATION • VOLUME XLV • NOVEMBER 2014
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT featuring contributions from
The Fortune Society • National Employment Law Project • Community Service Society • VOCAL NY • and more
“THE DEGREE OF CIVILIZATION IN A SOCIETY CAN BE JUDGED BY ENTERING ITS PRISONS” —DOSTOEVSKI The Fortune News 1
Table of Contents Eye on Fortune Letters to the Editor Faces of Fortune On the Record: Notes from Our Founder Employment Services at The Fortune Society A Perfect Match! A Fair Chance for a Stronger Economy â&#x20AC;&#x153;All I want is a fair chance at a good life.â&#x20AC;? From Prisoner to Worker to Full Participation Understanding Gun Violence is the First Step to Prevention White House Champion of Change Garnett Wilson Center Stage
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Our Mission The Fortune Society's mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities. We do this by: BELIEVING in the power of individuals to change; BUILDING LIVES through service programs shaped by the needs and experience of our clients; and CHANGING MINDS through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane, and truly rehabilitative correctional system.
Contact Us 212.691.7554 email@example.com
The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Blvd Long Island City, NY 11101
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Eye on Fortune FORTUNE SOCIETY EXCEEDS CAPITAL CAMPAIGN GOAL! The Fortune Society has exceeded its ambitious four-year capital campaign goal of $2 million. Named Foundations for Change led by Board Chair Betty Rauch, the campaign raised the necessary funds to equip, furnish, and staff the 20,000 sq.ft. Community Learning Center at Castle Gardens, Fortune Society’s 11 story, affordable and supportive mixed-use housing and service facility in West Harlem. Residents, board members and Fortune Society staff celebrated the successful completion of its capital campaign on the Castle Gardens rooftop event on June 17, 2014. Fortune Society launched the Foundations for Change campaign in 2010 to create programs that would give Castle Gardens residents on-site access to Fortune’s wide array of supportive reentry services, including family services, nutrition programs and healthy cooking classes, drug and alcohol treatment, education, computer classes, and so much more. To date, the campaign has raised $2,010,000. Individuals who donated gifts of $1,000 or more received a personalized brick on Castle Gardens’ Wall of Hope, located in the common area of the building. “When we launched this campaign, we had a vision – to offer long-term housing solutions and vital services to formerly incarcerated clients who strive to successfully reintegrate into society, as well as to hard-working individuals and families with limited income,” said JoAnne Page, Fortune Society President and CEO. “Today, that vision is a reality.” Among the costs covered by the campaign were infrastructure start-up costs, technology/IT, furnishings, and a range of key staffing positions.* *This article originally appeared in the New York Non Profit Press
JOANNE PAGE CELEBRATES 25 YEARS AT THE HELM OF THE FORTUNE SOCIETY
JoAnne Page with New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Fortune Board Chair Betty P. Rauch.
JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society, marked her 25th year as head of one of the nation’s most respected nonprofit organizations serving and advocating for formerly incarcerated individuals. Elected officials, supporters, board members, staff, clients, and family gathered in West Harlem to toast her extraordinary achievements and tireless work helping more than 5,000 individuals each year rebuild their lives. Over the years, Page has cultivated and created many of Fortune’s signature programs, including substance abuse treatment, counseling, family services, HIV/ AIDS health services, alternatives to incarceration, mental health programs, job training and employment services, education and parenting initiatives, and supportive and permanent housing. These innovative and successful initiatives are national models. This includes the opening of the groundbreaking Fortune Academy (aka the Castle), supportive housing for men and women released from prison into homelessness. With the Castle, Page took an abandoned drug den and eyesore to the community and turned it into a place of hope and understanding. In 2010, in a lot adjacent to the Castle, Fortune completed construction on and opened Castle
Gardens, a green, mixed affordable and supportive housing development with 114 apartments and 20,000 square feet of service space. In celebration of Page’s outstanding tenure, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer presented her with a proclamation. In part, the proclamation read, “Ms. Page’s tireless work to realize The Fortune Society’s mission has inspired advocates, community leaders, and elected officials to promote the rights and wellbeing of the formerly incarcerated and help improve their prospects for success.” New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery presented Page with a Senate resolution. It states, “From time to time, this Legislative Body takes note of certain extraordinary individuals and organizations it wishes to recognize for their valued contributions to the success and progress of society and publicly acknowledge their endeavors which have enhanced the basic humanity among us all. This Legislative Body is justly proud to commend JoAnne Page.”
JoAnne Page with Fortune Founder David Rothenberg.
Page said, “I am very proud and humbled to be on this journey with these extraordinary and deserving men and women as they work to reach their full potential and to re-establish their place in society in a positive way. At Fortune, our clients need a strong support system to start over and that would not be possible without the dedicated staff, magnificent board, and generous supporters who work tirelessly to ensure that we accomplish our mission each and every day.”
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Eye on Fortune 2014 FORTUNE FALL BENEFIT Hundreds of New Yorkers who are deeply committed to justice, including leaders of industry and business, criminal justice advocates, members of the entertainment industry, and government officials gathered on October 14th at the Tribeca Rooftop for the Fortune Society’s 2014 Annual Fall Benefit. The event raised more than $200,000 to support programs that help Fortune’s clients successfully reenter their communities and rebuild their lives after serving time in prison and jail. Among the evening’s highlights was the presentation of the David Rothenberg Achievement Award to Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. Named in tribute to Fortune’s founder, the award recognizes individuals for their commitment to and support of successful reentry services for formerly incarcerated men and women. Samuel Peabody and his late wife Judith Peabody were also honored with Fortune’s Game Changer Award for their courageous social activism as well as their commitment to helping people with AIDS and addiction issues. Together, the couple founded and worked at Reality House, a drug rehabilitation center in northern Manhattan operating from a net-
work of storefronts and at two maximum security prisons. Sam also served as one of Fortune’s very first board members, helping the organization to grow into one of the most prominent prisoner reentry agencies in the country. In presenting the award to Marc Morial, JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society said, “Mr. Morial has been the primary catalyst for an era of change. His energetic leadership and efforts have redefined civil rights in the 21st century, moving urgent criminal justice and economic reform issues forward through national dialogue and activism. We are pleased to recognize Mr. Morial, a true trailblazer, with this prestigious award.” “Samuel Peabody and his late wife Judith have supported Fortune Society’s efforts to provide life-changing programs to formerly incarcerated individuals, since day one,” said Page. “Their friendship and unwavering support has proven to be invaluable as we advocate for those whose voices would otherwise go unheard. It is with great honor that we present the Peabodys with this special award,” concluded Page.
Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League and recipient of the David Rothenberg Achievement Award, with Stanley Richards, Fortune Senior Vice President.
The evening offered performances by Todd Almond, composer and star of The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale, the first two shows of Public Works, a community-based initiative of The Public Theater, and The Fortune Tellers, an acting troupe consisting of Fortune Society clients, volunteers and staff, who performed an original scene from The Winter’s Tale. Page concluded the evening by saying, “I would like to thank all those who made this year’s Fall Benefit such a stunning success, including our esteemed honorees, the Public Theater, the members of the Fortune staff who worked tirelessly ensuring that every detail was perfect, and all who gather here tonight. Your support will give men and women with criminal histories a strong and positive support network that will put them on a path to becoming successful, tax-paying members of their communities.” The 2014 Annual Fall Benefit was cochaired by Carole and Richard Eisner, Mark Lebow and Patricia Harris, Kimberly and Dennis Kozlowski, Bill McCormack, Betty and Michael Rauch, and Nancy and David Solomon.
The Public Theater Public Works program performance featuring Fortune staff and clients.
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Letters to the Editor Letters in this issue are in response to the May 2014 Education issue.
Dear Editor, Education has not received enough attention as a strategy for not entering prison in the first place. Law makes talk of trimming the budget and education, not prisons, is hit the hardest. Just here in Florida we have schools without a music department and only three sports teams. Our elected officials want to solve the problem of crime but do little to prevent it and even less to stop crime from reoccurring by the same individuals. Samuel Byrd J44465 ACI – East 35 Apalachee Drive Sneads, FL 32460
Dear Editor, If the goal of “Correctional” facilities is to correct wrong behavior and rehabilitate its occupants, providing college opportunities for them is obviously a viable option. Nevertheless, a mass controversy has ensued at the mention of the state doing so. Instead of where the attention should be, it is misdirected by false statements throughout the media: “It’s a waste of taxpayer’s dollars,” is the popular battle cry for those who fight against it. Contrary to their battle cry, allowing prisoners to receive a college education would be money well spent, ultimately saving taxpayer’s dollars in the long run, and causing a reduction in the crime rate. The facts are vividly illustrated through the following Hudson Link statistics: -National rate of recidivism across the US is 43% -Recidivism rate among inmates who have graduated from the Hudson Link college programs is “Zero” percent -260 college degrees have been delivered since 2001
-Over 250 inmates are presently enrolled in Hudson Link It costs an average of $54,000 - $60,000 per year to house 1 prisoner. It costs only $5,000 per year for Hudson Link to help an inmate receive a Bachelor’s degree, totaling an average of $35,000 over a 7 year period. Those facts need to be highlighted, along with the many success stories of ex-convicts who have received degrees through Hudson Link and went on to become lawabiding, taxpaying members of society. I’ve been incarcerated since 1994, and fortunately I already had a degree at that time. However, many of my peers who entered the system with no GED, and no clear path for a crime-free life upon release, have been reformed through education. They studied with diligence, earned their GED, and went on to enroll in the Hudson Link college program. Some have already graduated and now encourage others to do the same. What those men gained from their education was not a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. It was a profitable investment, the results of which have reformed them from being a financial burden upon society, to becoming law abiding men who help build the economy, while influencing other would-be criminals to follow the same positive path. The “Us against them” mentality is so prevalent in the opposing voices, they stand unequivocally against anything that resembles a benefit for inmates. So blinded by their agenda, they do not see the full picture. The general public will continuously be misled by those who vehemently oppose college for inmates—regardless of the actual benefits—until the truth receives more exposure than the propaganda. Juan Rogers Greene Correctional Facility Coxackie, NY
Dear Editor, I cannot answer for the prison system as a whole, or even for a region; but as for whether education has received enough attention as a strategy for successful reentry where I am incarcerated, I can answer emphatically, NO! Who is at fault for this? Those cutting funding for education programs or the prisoner’s lack of initiative in taking advantage of the programs available? I say both! There is certainly a lack of educational opportunities and what’s more is that the existing opportunities seem to be diminishing quickly. The reason behind this is said to be funding, or a lack thereof. Meanwhile, the focus of available funding is funneled into undisclosed areas or directed toward construction projects and the like, including new complexes, new kitchens, the mending of sidewalks, lawn maintenance, and other things aesthetically pleasing. In short, things which are only beneficial to the eye are receiving attention in its place.* Sean Atchley BCCX Site II Pikeville, TN *excerpt from longer letter unable to be printed in this issue.
We want to hear from you! write us at Fortune News C/O The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Blvd. Long Island City, NY 11101
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Faces of Fortune My name is John Halushka and I am a PhD candidate and adjunct instructor in the Department of Sociology at New York University. I study prisoner reentry and volunteer at The Fortune Society because I believe that mass incarceration represents the greatest civil rights crisis of our generation, and Fortune is at the front lines of fighting that battle. I’ve been a volunteer at Fortune since 2011. I learned about the organization after attending “Think Outside the Cell,” a national symposium on mass incarceration held at the Riverside Church in Harlem. It was through this experience that I decided to get involved as a volunteer and conduct a research project at The Fortune Society.
JOHN HALUSHKA Volunteer
My research at Fortune focuses on how clients navigate the barriers to employment and fatherhood, and the role that Fortune plays in facilitating this process. Over the course of the last three years, I participated in the Employment and Family Services units as an intern and ethnographic researcher. In addition to collecting participantobservation and interview data, I have also worked with clients one-on-one and in group settings to create resumes; I designed and taught curriculum on resume writing in the Job Readiness Workshop; I conducted mock job interviews, made outreach phone calls, and performed general office duties as well. I am proud to be a part of the volunteer team at Fortune and I am immensely grateful for Fortune’s openness and generosity in allowing me to conduct my dissertation research here.
My name is Hubert Lila and I currently hold the position of Resource Coordinator for Employment Services at Fortune. I am also the Mentoring Coordinator for our Project Compass Program and was recently elected captain of the Crisis Incident Team. As a formerly incarcerated individual, I had the opportunity to chair several prison-based organizations such as Community Minded Organization, CAU, and ILC. During this time, I was fortunate to cultivate essential skills that have aided my professional development at Fortune. It was also during my incarceration that I was successful at obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science in Business followed by a Masters of Professional Studies.
In the past year, I volunteered for several Fortune events, and witnessed how The Fortune Society’s mission impacts our community at large. I also believe in helping the entire Fortune community by serving on the LGBTQI Task Force and organizing a tie drive where I supervised the collection of 1,100 ties for our participants. I currently volunteer for the Nassau County D.A.’s Community Outreach Program (COTA) helping people reintegrate into society and make a positive transition.
Resource Coordinator Employment Services
I am grateful for the opportunity to work here and to my supervisors for identifying my potential and for continually drawing out my talent and abilities. I am also appreciative of our clients for their daily inspiration. At Fortune, we are blessed to witness miracles every day, where people grow, change, and transform their lives. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn alongside them.
My name is Earl Harriston. I came to Fortune around July of 2013. I did the two-week Job Readiness program in Employment Services. After a month or two, I was working two jobs but remembered learning about the Environmental Remediation Training that Laura Senkevitch, the teacher for the class, had told my workshop about. I thought this training would give me more skills and lead to a better job. So I called my career advisor and she referred me to Laura. After an interview and admissions screening, I was accepted into the six-week Environmental Remediation Training program in April 2014.
EARL HARRISTON Client
It was a great class that Laura made even more interesting. She was clear and patient and taught things in a way that made it easy to understand. After I graduated, I decided to take part in a paid internship provided by Fortune and I was hired by Build it Green in the Gowanus neighborhood. I worked in a warehouse setting with junk lovers for people who donated stuff. I cleaned it off and stacked it. It was good work because otherwise that stuff would have ended up in a landfill. The internship is over and I’m going to continue with Build it Green. I have a full-time job with them now as a floor associate, making sure all the donations get put in their proper place. Fortune means a lot to me. I’m so thankful that I came here. I was in the halfway house and thought I could just do all of this on my own. Once I put myself in these shoes to walk in the journey, it was amazing. I’m going to be around Fortune and stay in touch.
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On the Record: Notes from Our Founder “Send me two more like John. He’s the best.”
DAVID ROTHENBERG Founder The Fortune Society
In the early days of The Fortune Society, I learned something new every day. It was the early 1970s and we were a small group but growing by leaps and bounds as advocates for the formerly incarcerated and also responding to the needs of men and women coming through our doors. Their needs were overwhelming, but rarely verbalized. Most men and women leaving prison don’t talk about their fears of society or about the unchecked demons that, in the past, were ignored with a retreat into drugs or alcohol. The one thing nearly everyone proclaimed with confidence that it would solve all their problems was “I need a job.” We responded by establishing a job placement unit and going into the community, persuading corporations, stores, and non-profit groups to “take a chance” on someone who had done time. One day, I was witness to a guy named John storming out of Fortune’s front door, mouthing obscenities. That surprised me. John was a personable man, hanging out at Fortune for several weeks. Everyone seemed to like him and his rage revealed a component previously unseen. I asked Mel Rivers if he knew the reason for John’s anger. Mel told me: “He wants to be sent out on a job interview and I told him ‘not yet.’ John’s still getting high and he can’t make appointments on time. We can’t recommend him to an employer. The tough part is that John is smart and charming. He’ll be able to find a job on his own and
he’ll blow it in a couple of weeks. I warned him that a small setback will give him an excuse to start hustling again and he’ll be back in jail in weeks.” I asked Mel, “Will he know you are doing what’s best for him?” Mel answered, “I can’t guess what he’ll know. I have to do what I think is right.” Two months later, John returned, humbled by his weeks on the streets. He told us that he was a whisper away from doing a third bid and he couldn’t do time anymore. Mel sat him down and told him to stop talking and start listening. He said, “A guy like you can always find a job, but you have to learn how to hold one. You’re also smart enough to think about a career as well as a job.” The challenge to John was put forth. Could he show up at Fortune at 10 AM every morning on time for two weeks? Did he have the discipline, the sense of responsibility so he could be recommended for a job? The second challenge was the hard part -was he ready to confront his demons, the internal conflicts that were his alone and which, in the past, had led him to drugs and booze? John started going to AA meetings. You can find one anywhere in the city, seven days a week, morning, noon, or night. Yes, he found a job and must have been OK since we didn’t hear from him for awhile.
when we say “Go slow. Learn to live out here. Be ready, not desperate, when you go for a job interview.” Thousands hit the streets each year, out of the jails and prisons. Few are afforded the opportunity to go slow, like the folks at The Castle. The real villain in this tale is unstated. The prison experience does virtually nothing to suggest reality in preparing people for a job, either by training them with an employable skill or by failing to point out the difficulty in adjusting to a fast-moving, decisionmaking existence. And to confronting the demons which are harbored in many, ready to emerge at the first on-the-job frustration. Yes, a job provides security and dignity, the antithesis of doing time. But there are layers of complexities in getting ready to get and hold a job. The good news is that it’s possible. We have a long list of happy employers who “took a chance” with a man or woman who did time. The best thing to hear is when an employer calls and says “Send me two more like John. He’s the best.” There is nothing better than a man or woman who wants a job badly – and then delivers. It’s possible, particularly when you know the traps.
I share that story because that was when the lightbulb was turned on for me. We were meeting men for whom parole had given them a list of what they couldn’t do and one order of what they had to do – “find a job!” It’s reality. It cost something to live out there – pay rent, buy food and clothes, etc. It’s a trap because the failure syndrome is part of the prison/job failure/back to prison revolving door. At the Fortune Academy (“The Castle”), where 62 formerly incarcerated men and women live, they have the luxury of not rushing to a job. Many don’t believe us
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Employment Services at The Fortune Society Our goal in Employment Services is to assist our participants in developing and pursuing their individual career goals to obtain personal and financial sustainability. We do this by utilizing industry professionals, adhering to a strengths-based approach, and consistently finding new ways to improve our programs and curriculum. We raise the bar with intensive coursework and career development support, and remain active in economic and workforce working groups to stay current in the needs and opportunities within the region.
How it Works All of Fortune’s job seekers are first enrolled in the Job Readiness Workshop, Part 1. This workshop provides job seekers with a valuable set of tools for their job search, including instruction on producing a professional resume and speaking to its content, problem solving, time management, and practice in answering difficult questions, especially surrounding their criminal justice involvement. Job seekers who apply and are selected for one of our intensive vocational training programs must first enroll in our Job Readiness Workshop, Part 2 (Sector-Specific). This workshop serves as an entry point and instills the core competencies needed for job seekers to be well-prepared for the intensive, off-site, sector-based vocational skills training. Job seekers who complete this workshop can move on to one of two sectorbased training programs:
Green Jobs Training In the area of Green Jobs Training, Fortune offers two tracks: Environmental Remediation Training includes: • OSHA 10-hour Construction Health and Safety • OSHA 40-hour HAZWOPER • OSHA Confined Space • EPA Lead Renovator • Disaster Site Worker • NYS Asbestos Handler • NYC Asbestos Handler
Green Building Operations and Maintenance Training includes: • OSHA 10-hour Construction Health and Safety • EPA Lead Renovator • GǀPRO Fundamentals • GǀPRO Operation and Maintenance • BPI Energy Efficiency Building Performance
Fortune Green Job Training Students
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Culinary Skills Training In the area of Culinary Skills Training, Fortune offers the following: • proper knife-handling skills • safety and sanitation procedures • identification and use of kitchen equipment • classic vegetable cuts; stock, soup, and sauce production • preparation and seasoning of a wide range of dishes, courses, and meals Upon completion of the training, students will obtain the ServSafe certification and the NYC Food Protection certification, two industry-recognized certifications. Culinary Skills Training students at QEDC Entrepreneur Space
Transitional Work Graduates from either of the trainings described above have the opportunity to connect to paid Transitional Work as means to apply their newly acquired skills with an industry employer. Participants enrolled in Transitional Work earn $9/hour for 21 hours a week for 11 weeks while developing the concrete skills and gaining handson experience needed to obtain permanent sector-based employment. Job seekers also participate in a weekly Job Club, which adds further support and guidance on professional networking and marketing their skills to employers. The supportive nature of Job Club combined with the practical experience of Transitional Work is the key to the success of our program. In a recent cohort, over 75% of Transitional Work graduates went on to gain full time employment.
All job seekers are supported by both an Account Manager and a Career Advisor. Account Managers work with job seekers on direct job placement by developing relationships with employers, understanding a job seeker’s skill set, coordinating job searches, and scheduling and prepping job seekers for interviews, with the goal of obtaining permanent employment. Simultaneously, Career Advisors screen the job seeker to identify needs and potential barriers to employment, assess the job seeker’s aptitude, work with the job seeker to develop and update his/her career plan, make appropriate referrals for services, and track the job seeker’s progress towards goal attainment.
What’s New in Employment Services at The Fortune Society With the assistance of external funding from the Tiger Foundation and Capital One Bank, this past year we have strengthened our partnership with the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) to include job opportunities for our Culinary Training graduates. We have also had a significant presence at multiple QEDC-sponsored events. We have increased our Transitional Work offerings by expanding our employer partnerships and we have also seen great successes from our Green Training program graduates and have fostered new partnerships with local union and government agencies to support full-time employment opportunities. We have enhanced our Job Readiness Workshop by leveraging agency-wide improvements and through increased Board involvement, particularly with assistance in our mock interview process. Fortune Society clients have benefited greatly from agency-wide improvements at our Long Island City, Queens location. These improvements include facility upgrades—funded by The Robin Hood Foundation—for our downstairs open area allowing for additional event and workshop space, as well as our reception
Fortune staff and student at QEDC Entrepreneur Space
and upstairs kitchen area enhancing the supportive, warm-welcome message we bring to our clients. Our newly renovated space downstairs fosters flexible programming and inspiration. Supported by Culinary interns, we have expanded our hot lunch program—the Fortune Café—to serve healthy meals, three times a day, to our clients in our newly renovated space. Courtesy of our Board Chair, Betty Rauch, retired executives generously assist in participant mock interviews as part of our Job Readiness Workshop.
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Employment Services at The Fortune Society Cont.
For our Green Jobs Training, we have worked to strengthen our relationship with our local brownfield office, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER). In the past, their office has provided us with industry guidance to shape our program’s curriculum. More recently, they have begun to open up substantial new networking and employment prospects for Green Jobs Training graduates. Late last year, Ms. Lee Ilan, Chief of Planning, and Daniel Walsh, Executive Director, reached out to The Fortune Society to re-launch their BrownfieldWorks! program. Since its re-launch, the program has enrolled six of The Fortune Society’s graduates in a new mentorship program and aims to create unique opportunities to obtain at least three months of direct brownfield remediation experience on NYC projects. Fortune Green Jobs Training Student at graduation
Get Involved Want more information on how to enroll in our Employment Services? Contact Laura Senkevitch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-571-7942 Want to learn how to hire our trained and talented job seekers? Contact Michael Brundidge at email@example.com or call 347-510-3682 Want to volunteer with our Employment Services department? Contact Benjamin Solotaire at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-510-3645
Thank You Fortune’s Employment Services would not be possible without the funding and support of the following agencies and foundations: Funders:
The Robin Hood Foundation The Tiger Foundation Capital One Bank Cummings Memorial Fund U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Department of Labor U.S. Administration for Children and Families NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
ANDO International Solar One Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)
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A Perfect Match! The Transition Network’s Volunteer Project with The Fortune Society `
BETTY P. RAUCH Board Chair The Fortune Society
In addition to serving as The Fortune Society’s Board Chair, I volunteer with an organization called The Transition Network, or TTN. This national non-profit describes itself as an inclusive community of professional women, 50 and forward, whose life changing situations lead them to seek new connections, resources, and opportunities. I like what TTN says about itself: “TTN is a relevant voice for women who continue to change the rules.”
issue with the program – Fortune staff members, some of whom do not have a lot of outside work experience and all of whom are known by the workshop participants, conduct most of the mock interviews. Thus the workshop participants did not get the valuable experience of interviewing with people they do not know. It seemed to me that this was a perfect opportunity for TTN members with their years of experience and their interest in taking on challenging and stimulating assignments. Eileen Kobin, then Chair of TTN-NYC’s Volunteer Committee, was enthusiastic when I
one another and with the Fortune staff who look to us for our input, observations, and recommendations. Eileen Konrin summed up the consensus of the group: “Like the rest of us, Fortune’s clients struggle with their mistakes. But they face terrible additional odds and carry the scar of their crimes on their records for the rest of their lives. Being able to coach and interview these clients gives them some confidence that they are not totally defined by their conviction. The appreciation they show for our taking the time to talk with them is overwhelming knowing that maybe I helped them to gain
suggested the project.
a bit of their confidence back… I feel I get back more than I give!”
TTN-NYC’s Volunteer Committee works hard to develop and offer challenging and stimulating opportunities to our members – activities that call on members’ existing skills and experiences, provide new challenges and stimuli, and which make a real, direct difference to the organizations we partner with and the lives of the people impacted by the project. That is why I thought that there was a potentially perfect match to be made between TTN and The Fortune Society. As we all know, Fortune provides a wide array of services – from housing and health care to GED preparation to pre-employment and employment services. I focused on the work of Employment Services as an area both in need of assistance and for which TTN members were uniquely skilled to help. Here’s why: Fortune’s Employment Services program is designed to equip formerly incarcerated jobseekers with the skills necessary to obtain employment and thrive in the workplace. The two-week job-readiness workshop teaches clients how to network, excel in interviews, answer difficult conviction questions, and create a professional resume and cover letter. I was aware of a problem
The program was a huge success, and has spread beyond just the mock interviews. Two of the volunteers developed a helpful script/guide for interviewers. One volunteer is assisting Fortune staff members in preparing client resumes. Another is developing post-interview feedback sessions to give general pointers and suggestions about interview techniques to the whole group of workshop participants. At this point we have 15 volunteers, 10 from TTN plus other friends, spouses, and one other Board member, Jerry Eber. Volunteers commit to at least one Thursday a month from 1 to 3:30 PM. One of the best aspects of our work at Fortune is that we function as a team; we have lively discussions with
Ann Travers, director of Fortune’s Employment Services unit explains, “TTN’s volunteers expose our clients to a level of professionalism and valid, real-world expectations that many of our jobseekers are unaccustomed to. Our clients appreciate, and are very open to, the outside perspective they receive from these volunteers. We are all so grateful for TTN’s willingness to help with the professional development of our clients.” So – it does seem the TTN and The Fortune Society are a perfect match! To learn more visit: www.thetransitionnetwork.org
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A Fair Chance for a Stronger Economy “Ban the Box” Sweeps the Country MICHELLE NATIVIDAD RODRIGUEZ Senior Staff Attorney National Employment Law Project Nationwide, about 70 cities and counties and 13 states have now taken the critical step of removing unfair barriers to employment in their hiring policies. Widely known as “ban the box,” these fair-hiring initiatives typically remove the question on the job application about an individual’s conviction history and delay the background check inquiry until later in the hiring process. An estimated 70 million U.S. adults have a criminal record that may prevent them from finding gainful employment. Creating a fair chance for all job seekers to be considered first on their qualifications helps open opportunities for marginalized communities and ensures the broadest applicant pool for employers. In 1998, Hawaii had the distinction of becoming the first state to adopt this policy of removing conviction questions from job applications. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the grassroots civil rights organization, All of Us or None (AOUON), coined the phrase “ban the box” and sparked a movement. Momentum for the policy has grown exponentially since then, particularly in recent years. Just in 2013 and 2014, eight states passed legislation. Today, more than 100 million people now live in states where job applicants are judged on their merits, not just their criminal records. With the addition of Delaware, Nebraska, and New Jersey in 2014, the 13 states that have adopted the policies represent nearly every region of the
country—California (2013, 2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Delaware (2014), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Nebraska (2014), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), and Rhode Island (2013). Six states—Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers, which many advocates embrace as the next step in the evolution of these policies. Several national companies, including Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, have also removed the conviction question from their initial application forms. Throughout the country, policymakers from both sides of the aisle are working to become “smart on crime” by reducing criminal justice spending and recidivism at the same time that they increase public safety. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued the following statement in support of the legislation recently passed in his state: “[T]oday, we are banning the box and ending employment discrimination. And this is going to make a huge difference for folks who have paid their debts to society, who want to start their lives over again and are going to have an opportunity to do just that in our state.” Federally, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) endorsed removing the conviction question from the job application as a best practice in its 2012 guidance for employment decisions considering arrests and convictions. The Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also gave the movement a boost when it endorsed hiring practices “which give applicants a fair chance and allows employers the opportunity to judge individual job candidates on their merits.”
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In an era of extreme mass incarceration, fair chance campaigns provide a platform to educate the public about the stigma of a criminal record and the real consequences to our society of depriving millions of Americans with past convictions of economic stability. Citing public safety benefits and supporting economic vitality, policymakers have included fair chance hiring reform as part of a more comprehensive effort. For example, jurisdictions have also adopted hiring policies modeled on the EEOC guidance that require the employer to demonstrate that the conviction records restrictions are directly related to the job and that applicants are individually assessed for the position. The next big wins for a fair chance for all may come from the two most populous cities in the United States. In New York City, the NYC Fair Chance Act, a measure applying to all employers, was introduced in April 2014 with strong support in the City Council. Campaign partners for the Fair Chance Act, such as VOCAL-NY, Community Service Society, and NELP, believe that the bill will ensure that all New Yorkers have a fair chance to succeed. In Los Angeles, LA Voice, a faith-based coalition dedicated to improving the lives of all Angelenos, partnered with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Curren Price, Jr., to introduce fair chance legislation this year. To support state and local efforts to enact a fair chance policy, NELP published the Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit, which provides a step-by-step guide. Embedded in the Toolkit is a range of resources to draft a law, to build the campaign, to support outreach, and even to develop media outreach. For additional information, contact Michelle Natividad Rodriguez at email@example.com.
“All I want is a fair chance at a good life.” BRIAN PEARSON Member VOCAL-NY
When I came home from prison in 2010, all I wanted was a fresh start for my daughter and me. I knew I couldn’t go back to the way I was living before. I already had four felonies, and I couldn’t imagine spending more time locked up and away from my family. I applied for a dozen jobs a day, but on every application I’d have to face my past with one question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Sometimes I left the checkboxes blank, hoping they wouldn’t ask again; other times I’d write, “yes - will explain in interview”, but only twice got the opportunity. Every time, I felt like I was being judged for who I was when I got convicted, not for the person I am today.
Being denied a fair shot at a job over and over again can take a toll on your selfesteem. With so many people telling you that you aren’t good enough, you can really start to believe it. I started applying to fewer and fewer jobs and felt like employers would always see me as a felon, not a person.
However, things changed for me when someone gave me a fair chance. I became involved in a community organization called VOCAL-NY, where formerly incarcerated people come together to fight for our rights to be included in society. It was soon after Hurricane Sandy and there was massive destruction across New York City. They needed workers to learn how to safely clean up the debris and remove mold so that people could return to healthy homes. VOCAL-NY advocated for people with criminal records to be hired for these jobs – and we won! The employers gave me a chance to prove who I was in an interview and really get to know what I’m about – not just judge me on my criminal record history. I got hired, and now I’m in a union, earning a wage that pays the bills and allows me to provide for my family. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to live a decent life, but I know that there are so many others out there struggling to find work. That’s why I continue to advocate and have been active in the campaign to pass the Fair Chance Act in New York City. The Fair Chance Act is City Council legislation that makes it illegal to ask about a person’s criminal record history until after a conditional job offer. That means that on the application and in the interview, they can’t ask about your record. The Fair Chance Act also says that if your felony is more than 10 years old, or your misdemeanor is over 5 years old, it can’t be used against you
Paths and Choices
anymore. These are major changes that I know would make a real difference for me when I’m looking for a job. The bill is not law yet – but we have more than 35 co-sponsors in the City Council and a hearing set for December. There are dozens of community organizations, like Fortune Society, that support the bill too. I’m hopeful that it’ll pass and that people with criminal records can finally get a fair chance to work. Our society has created so many barriers for people with criminal records. We can’t work certain jobs, we can’t live in certain places, we can’t vote until we’re off parole, and we’re constantly being stigmatized for things we did in the past. I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes – but I served my time and now I should be allowed to live just like anyone else. I’m not asking for anything to be handed to me – all I want is a fair chance at a good life. Brian Pearson is a member of VOCAL-NY, a grassroots community organization that builds power among low-income people impacted by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, and mass incarceration to create healthy and just communities. Contact VOCAL-NY at www.vocal-ny.org
by Frank Bright
Look at your future youngin. There’s more to the streets than just buggin. Take heed to the past, not just yours learn from everybody’s. He didn’t die for nothing, Look at the path he took.
Do you wanna go that route? Believe someone will tell your story too? Or, do you want to tell your own? You have a choice.
The Fortune News 11
From Prisoner to Worker to Full Participation: Getting to the Root of Workforce Development
KIMBERLY WESTCOTT PHD, JD, MSW Associate Counsel, Community Service Society In the last few weeks, the public has received considerable news about our nation’s punishment system. A recent U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report (http://www. bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p13.pdf) placed the 2013 prison population at 1,574,700 – an increase of 4,300 from 2012.1 This is a modest rise, but one that belies the increasingly prevalent perception that United States incarceration rates are systematically declining. Significantly, the report suggested that policy changes adopted by several states, reducing the number of parole violations and increasing the number of prison diversion programs, are limited in reach. In a New York Times article on the report, Dr. Steven Raphael, an expert in criminal justice at the University of California, Berkeley, stated, “The existing reforms can only take us so far.” This is particularly evident when the existing reforms are contrasted with the continual imposition of more life and multi-decade sentences, which offsets some of the other small gains.2 The U.S. DOJ publication followed the release of the National Academies’ comprehensive report (http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/_ images/NAS_report_on_incarceration. pdf), The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, a survey of the causes and consequences of the 40-year incarceration boom in the United States. The National Academies publication provides useful statistical and demographic information. Dr. Jeremy Travis, Chair of the panel that released the report, and President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, emphasized 12
that flawed policies, not escalating “crime,” created the phenomenon of mass incarceration. At a conference convened to discuss the National Academies report and issues it raises, a steady refrain from practitioners and advocates, including Judge Juanita Bing Newton and Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, was the need to examine the influence of race on the system, better articulate our values, and to take bold steps to correct the resultant inequalities not simply to draft more reports or engage in tepid reformism that will at best yield minor variations on the same criminal justice system. We have reached the limits of traditional incremental prison reform and the time to act is now. We must end antiquated practices that perpetuate the separation of persons with conviction histories from the broader community of workers, and this requires forging new alliances. We at the Community Service Society have been examining these issues for some time. The following is an example of a value shift and a new approach that reflects meaningful change. The Mason Tenders’ Navigation Program: A Case Study Although some segments of the union movement have not always demonstrated a commitment to inclusivity, bowing to racism in some instances, organized labor’s historic contribution to the civil rights movement is often underappreciated. It is often over-looked, for example, that the fair employment departments formed within the United Auto Workers (“UAW”) and Steelworkers are the early predecessors of modern anti-discrimination commissions, and how unions such as the UAW and United Packinghouse Workers were at the center of the legislative fights of the 1940s for the first governmental fair employment commissions. More recently, shifting demographics and the desperation of a growing swath of the American workforce for support has led many unions to reach out
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to all workers as a strategy for recovery. These efforts have borne fruit: for example, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute noted that in the New York City area, unionized labor is now more racially diverse than non-unionized labor. In New York City between 2002 and 2011, African Americans comprised 23.3 percent of all employed persons, and made up 21.3 percent of the union construction workforce, in contrast with 13.8 percent of the non-union construction workforce.3 Unions have historically been the gatekeepers to a living wage, and today the wage differential between many skilled and semi-skilled trades and minimum wage work is striking. In New York City, a first year laborer’s apprentice represented by the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York & Long Island on the way to becoming a journeyperson – a two and a half to six-year process – can earn $21.99 per hour with a total earnings package that includes health insurance pension, annuity, and training amounting to $38.85/ hr. These wages increase each year as the laborer gains experience, culminating in the journeyman wage of $38.05 (and a total earnings package equaling $62.79).4 The benefits of union membership do not stop with wages and benefits, however. The opportunity to earn a living wage, access to quality health care benefits and vacation pay, support in normalizing employment conditions through collective bargaining and grievance-handling, and the overall environment of solidarity as a worker is leagues apart from the experience of performing low-wage or off-the-books work without representation. In order to identify more skilled apprenticeship candidates and continue building diversity in its membership, Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79 of The Mason Tenders District Council, has developed and piloted a new “Navigation” program designed to expand opportunities
From Prisoner to Worker to Full Participation (Cont.) for the formerly incarcerated to participate in skilled union apprenticeships. The Navigation program covers soup to nuts on becoming a successful apprentice, in addition to connecting participants to the broader work and social community of Local 79 members and contractors. Construction laborers perform demolition, erect scaffolds, mix mortar, and, among other things, tend to the general conditions of a construction site. Graduates from Local 79’s apprenticeship program are doing remarkably well both economically and in terms of their civic engagement. The Navigation program, in existence since spring 2013, helps a prospective applicant navigate the process of applying for the Laborer’s Apprenticeship Program. Union members help applicants register, prepare for their Apprenticeship Program interviews, and begin the transition process towards union membership. This is done through a series of engaged classroom-style presentations and discussions that introduce applicants to the ideas of apprenticeship, laborers’ work, and active union membership. Once in the Apprenticeship Program, participants receive three weeks of free (but unpaid) in-class training, and are then referred to receive “field” training on job sites, which basically consists of paid work (at the rates described above) under the supervision and guidance of Local 79 journey-workers. The full apprenticeship program ultimately involves a total of 288 hours of in-class training, and 4,000 hours of paid work in the field as apprentices, after which participants graduate into full journey-worker status, with the goal of having successful careers as skilled construction craft laborers. Acculturation to apprenticeship and advance knowledge of the recruitment process – both provided by the Navigation program – is important. The recruitment call, now computerized, is complicated. It begins when the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) announces on its website that certain unions are accepting applications, usually for a 10-day period. For the Building Laborers, the first 1,000 applicants (out of an estimated 2,000 or more) who can get through to register are then placed on a
NYS DOL list for interviews. During the recent NYS DOL recruitments, the 1,000 slots were filled in about 20 minutes. The Laborer’s Apprenticeship Program offers interviews to all 1000 who register, and, in turn, accepts up to 100 people for enrollment in classes of 20-25 people, who then promptly start the Apprenticeship Program and its three-week initial training. The Navigation program has had three cohorts, September 2013, April 2014, and October 2014. After the computer sign-up process, the group continues to meet for several months in preparation for participants’ interviews and hopeful acceptance as new apprentices. The Navigation program brings in speakers, including active Local 79 apprentices, union organizers, a college professor, National Labor Relations Board attorneys, and a job skills coach. They have also had a Christmas party and a barbecue. While the impetus for the program was to recruit candidates from diverse, including criminal justice, backgrounds, Mike Prohaska, Business Manager of Local 79 states, “we were also motivated to develop good union members.” Prohaska continues, “In our experience, many of these guys are very aware of this opportunity, take the apprenticeship training process seriously, and become some of our very best workers and members.” Outcomes have been extremely favorable. The first September 2013 cohort identified 32 potential candidates and set them up at computer stations; 14 would-be applicants made it to the initial pool of recruits to schedule for interview. Of this group, six were accepted into the Mason Tenders’ Apprenticeship Program. The April 2014 cohort identified 27 participants, 12 of whom were accepted into the Apprenticeship Program, nine of whom are still active, meaning they are either now in the three-week initial training, or, in most cases, actively working in the field as apprentices, with the good pay, benefits, and on-the-job training that apprenticeship entails. One Navigation graduate is currently working on the Second Avenue subway construction project. The Navigation program draws both men
and women. Four women are in the nowforming fall 2014 cohort. This program is significant because it moves beyond “reformism” and the type of programming specifically developed for the formerly incarcerated, to a movementstructural solution of expanding access to work (as a “worker”) for all people. People with conviction histories gain a vocation and a new identity (“worker”) along with solidarity and institutional support, having come from another institution as “prisoner.” There should be more intersections of this kind. Kimberly Westcott, PhD, JD, MSW, is Associate Counsel with the Community Service Society, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. For ore about the Community Service Society visit www.cssny.org
Seven of Fortune’s Green Jobs Training graduates have successfully completed both the Mason Tenders Navigation Program, as well as the Apprenticeship, and are now full members of Local 79.
Endnotes E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2013, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (September 22014, NCJ 247282).
Erik Eckholm, “Number of prisoners in U.S. Grew Slightly in 2013, Report Finds,” New York Times (September 16, 2014).
Lawrence Mishel, “Racial Underrepresentation in Construction: How Do the Union and Nonunion Sectors Compare? Economic Policy Institute, October 30, 2013.
Wage and Fringe Benefit Rates for Local 79 Laborers, July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014, entered into by the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York & Long Island and the Contractors Association of Greater New York.
The Fortune News 13
From the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) Understanding Gun Violence is the First Step to Prevention
MARLON PETERSON Director of Community Outreach The Fortune Society This article was originally published in The Crime Report on July 29, 2014.
Gakirah Barnes, 17, was gunned down in a hail of bullets on an April afternoon in Chicago’s South Side, bringing an end to a young life that had seen several lifetimes’ worth of devastating violence. It happened one week before Good Friday of this year—the beginning of a weekend plagued by five gun-related murders and 45 shootings throughout the Windy City. Much has been written about Gakirah since her execution—thought to be in retaliation for the murder of a rival gang member just two days before. (Gakirah, or “K I” as she was known to her crew, the Fly Boys, is thought to be the one who pulled the trigger.) Among the postmortems are condemnations, tributes, commentaries, and lamentations, offered by a variety of pundits eager to make a political point about this young woman’s tragic life. One thing about Gakirah’s life is not in dispute: she had become defined (and confined) by an escalating pattern of gun violence. Two years earlier, 13-year old Tyquan Tyler, a family friend whom Gakirah adopted as her baby brother, was killed by a stray bullet from a gang-related shooting. Another teenaged family friend was murdered the year before. Her father was shot to death on Easter Sunday when she was only a year old. These individual tragedies combined savagely to thrust a young life into a course of perpetuating violence that ended predictably. Gakirah assumed the Twitter handle @tyquanassassin in what was designed to be a homage to young Tyquan, and she became heavily involved in gang activity. In her time on the streets, “Lil Snoop”—an14
other of Gakirah’s nicknames referencing a character on the TV series The Wire—is purported to have been involved in at least a dozen gang-related homicides, including the one that led to her assassination. Some have looked at these events and deduced that a young woman’s death was brought on by the utterly reckless lifestyle she championed. In this case, they might be right. But what if we undertake a more thoughtful examination of the circumstances behind the taking of black lives by other black people? What if we took a real look at the experiences of our young black people and realized that black girls are being killed, too? According to the 2014 Kelly Report by Congresswoman Robin L. Kelly of Illinois, while black people represent only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for 55 percent of all homicide victims. An earlier report, titled “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data, published by the Violence Policy Center, found that the homicide rate for black males was eight times greater than that of white males. For black females, three times that of their white counterparts. Perhaps more alarmingly, the report also stated: “For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 82 percent of black victims were shot and killed with guns.” There is no denying that a gun violence crisis has laid siege to young black people in America’s inner cities. And yet, we keep employing the same failed strategies— chiefly the “arrest as deterrence” model—to try and combat this scourge. A new approach is needed, and it begins with a new understanding about the nature of gun violence itself. We will not see true progress in subverting the culture of violence in our inner cities until we acknowledge that those who perpetuate the violence and those who are harmed by it are really victims of the same life traumas. A kneejerk reaction would be to dismiss any notion that somehow equates the victim of gun violence with one who pulls the trigger. But look deeper.
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Gakirah Barnes didn’t begin her life as a gangster with a gun in her hand. She was the product of a violent society that shaped her and ultimately led to her demise. This is true of a generation of young black people who are growing up in a culture of violence in our inner cities. Exacerbated by generational poverty, marginalization, racism, and their own bad decisions, young black males —and increasingly young black females—have been conditioned to believe that gun violence establishes power, secures protection, attains social acceptance, and makes up for insecurities. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle of trauma that, when exposed to it at an early age and repeatedly throughout one’s life, becomes normal. How else can you explain Shontell Brown’s reaction to her daughter Gakirah’s death ... “At least I don’t have to constantly worry about what’s going to happen to her out on the street no more,” she told a TV reporter immediately after her child’s murder. Ms. Brown’s warped sense of relief can be summed up in two words: normalized trauma. With this new understanding about the underlying trauma that causes gun violence, there is a movement in America’s cities to combat it with a strategy of engagement before the violence takes place. Interrupting violence by engaging those who are deeply affected by normalized trauma—those who might shoot and those who might be shot—is not necessarily a new concept; but it is one that is gaining in both credibility and effectiveness. This approach has its roots in the Cure Violence model (http://cureviolence.org/) first developed in Chicago in the early 2000s (also known as Operation CeaseFire) and has been replicated in cities throughout the country. At its core is the philosophy that gun violence should be studied and treated like an infectious disease. This is a hard pill for traditional law-andorder types to swallow. However, society has come to the realization that it is more effective and cost-efwww.fortunesociety.org
White House Champion of Change Reentry and Employment ficient to treat drug addiction as a public health issue than it is to punish it. Similarly, we must also accept that it makes more sense to prevent incidents of gun violence, provide treatment for high risk individuals, and change social norms. In other words, to treat gun violence like the public health crisis that it is. An essential element to this disease-fighting strategy is to try and interrupt transmission—that is to stop potentially violent conflicts before they escalate. Interruption is achieved by having outreach workers on the streets who identify and mediate potentially lethal conflicts in the community, and who follow up to ensure that conflicts do not reignite. These interrupters are trained, culturally appropriate activists who have a standing and a stake in their communities. Many are former gang members or formerly incarcerated individuals who are often better prepared than the police at recognizing and de-escalating a potentially violent situation. Preventing retaliation is also a critical tactic in interrupting violence. Whenever a shooting happens, interrupters immediately get to work in the community and at local hospitals where gunshot victims are taken to cool down emotions and prevent retaliations. Finally, anti-violence workers identify ongoing conflicts by talking to key people in the community about ongoing disputes, recent arrests, recent prison releases, and other situations and use mediation techniques to resolve them peacefully. Until we recognize that gun violence begins long before the trigger is pulled, we will never stop it from destroying our communities. Addressing its underlying causes—poverty, lack of education, discrimination, homelessness, easy access to guns, drugs, joblessness, fear and despair—is the only way to prevent another Gakirah Barnes from making headlines ... at either end of a gun.
with over 200 colleagues helping thousands of people who have been involved in the criminal justice system.
STANLEY RICHARDS Senior Vice President The Fortune Society
On June 30, 2014 Fortune Senior Vice President Stanley Richards was honored at the White House as a Reentry and Employment Champion of Change. The following was written for the White House Champions of Change Blog. http://www.whitehouse.gov/ champions/reentry-and-employment
I am honored to be selected as Reentry and Employment Champion of Change as there is nothing I believe in more than our capacity for change. Everything I do is based on the belief that change is possible. Change in a person, change in a community, change in a system. I am confident change is possible because I have seen it myself. I dropped out of school in 9th grade and spent my time on the streets involved in crime and drugs. As a teenager, I was sent to Rikers Island, then later ended up in state prison. I didn’t think my life would ever be any different. Drugs, arrests, prison, is what I knew and was all I thought I could be.
For change to happen, we must provide systems of support. Education, employment and family are all key. Education needs to be available to all, currently incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, and I have been a strong advocate for increased educational programs in our correctional facilities. I support The Fortune Society’s education department which consistently delivers outstanding results and I work closely with the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) to improve education policies locally and nationally. We must provide access to jobs. Employment allows people to rebuild lives, and The Fortune Society’s workforce development and employment service programs have helped hundreds to find stable work with decent wages. Finally, you need the support of family. It can be your biological family, or the family you make attending the programs at The Fortune Society where 70% of the staff have conviction or substance abuse histories (like me). The support of people close to you is crucial.
The Reentry and Employment Champions of Change with
This all changed when, after Attorney General Eric Holder entering state prison, I was told I should take classes to prepare for the GED. I am proud to be a role model for those I passed it on the first try and it was like struggling with their experience in the a new door had opened for me. I started criminal justice system. In my 23 years college classes while still in prison (being of this work, I have found it is possible to fortunate to have that now-discontinued see the potential in anyone, often before option) and finished my Associates degree they see it in themselves. I have also been in social science. After my release, I was fortunate to witness the moment, that “a-ha” hired by The Fortune Society as a counselor moment, when someone’s self-perception and began to help others make a change in starts to shift, and real change begins. their own lives. I am now the Senior Vice President of The Fortune Society, working
The Fortune News 15
Garnett Wilson Recently Fortune lost a dear friend and group facilitator, Garnett “G” Wilson. We remembered Garnett and his 19 years of dedication to Fortune at a memorial service on September 16, 2014. Friends, coworkers (current and former), family, and community members, all joined together to read Garnett’s poetry and reflect on his powerful impact during his time with us. His ability to reach people, to help them change for the better, was spoken of again and again. Fortune has created a poetry wall in honor of Garnett on the second floor of our Long Island City, Queens offices. We will miss Garnett’s light here at Fortune, and his work will always inspire us.
You can donate to the Garnett Wilson Memorial Fund at www.gofundme.com/garnett
Can You Dig It?
by Garnett Wilson
Can U dig it ? The deepness of life. Can U dig it? What’s up with the unnecessary strife!? What’s the beef? Why all the grief? Win some you lose some; You understand where I’m coming from; Why cant we just get along? Rodney King should have made a song; I know there are a lot of haters on the planet; Haters is a street for Jealousy, for those who don’t understand it; Jealousy is the ultimate king of spoilers Transforms loving relationships into weekend brawlers Jealousy is hating on another’s advances oblivious to your opportunities, missing all your chances;
This makes our days and nights miserable building emotional walls to avoid being vulnerable; Walls with bricks of self-pity, anger and deception hiding our insecurities and low self-esteem since conception; Can U dig it? The overwhelming need to be right; Can U dig it? Its the spark that ignited the fight; What’s the beef? Why all the grief? Lack of tolerance for others views justifies the destruction caused by the weapons we use; Those who feel that their way is the only way, are too rigid and controlling, that’s what I say;
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Self-righteousness and “Holier than thou” attitudes create fanaticism, Some fanatics use guns and bombs to express their criticism; Even petty arguments in the “Hood”. Guns are drawn, as some expect they would; Its this relentless quest for superiority, Making others wrong proves their inferiority; Can U dig it? If so, you could be part of the new order, The one that attempt to stave off the slaughter; The situation is already very grave, will we ever learn how to behave? Can U dig it? If not, we all will dig it, A grave that is Can U dig it?
Center Stage Fortune and The Public Theater
Fortune staff and clients in The Winter’s Tale in Central Park
The Winter’s Tale is a story of madness and redemption, two lands torn apart by jealousy but reunited by love. And, in September, it was told with passion, energy, and exuberance in the second annual production of Public Works with cast members including clients, staff, and volunteers from The Fortune Society. In a partnership with The Public Theater, Fortune has been a part of Public Works for two years with members being involved in the inaugural production of The Tempest in 2013 as well as The Winter’s Tale. This year, the Delacorte Theater in Central Park came alive with the words of Shakespeare, the songs and music of the incomparable Todd Almond, and the talent of over 200 people from around the city as they provided three nights of entertainment to over 6,000 people. Fortune had eight people in this year’s production, five of whom were featured in their own scene, “What The People Saw.” Director Lear deBessonet guided them all through the process of telling the story in a way that made it accessible to everyone—even included Senator Chuck Schumer and characters from Sesame Street. Fortune looks forward to continuing its relationship with Public Works and to another successful production next September. http://www.publictheater.org/Programs--Events/Public-Works/
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Fortune staff and clients on stage with a cast of 200, including puppets from Sesame Street.
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Aging: In prison and once released
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