Non-Profit Spotlight: The First 72+

The First 72+ is a progressive non-profit organization focused around formerly incarcerated people. They envision a world where prior incarceration is not a barrier to secure housing, employment, and community acceptance. Their goal is to end the cycle of incarceration by creating formerly incarcerated folks’ independence and self-reliance through access to education, stable and secure housing, health care, employment, and community engagement. 

The First 72+ was founded by six formerly incarcerated men who share a combined 100 years of experience with incarceration and imprisonment. They offer safe and secure transitional housing to men, women, and children for up to 90 days free of rent. Residents are provided with meals, clothing, groceries, and access to wifi and technology so that they may communicate with case managers, counselors and participate in outpatient substance abuse treatment when necessary.

Case managers, social workers, and re-entry coaches help formerly incarcerated individuals with self-sufficiency. Coaches, also formerly incarcerated folks, assist others in their post-incarcerated journey. Together, the First 72+ team assists residents with connecting to education, employment, healthcare, technology life skills education, public benefits, and long-term housing. Through local partners, formerly incarcerated folks are given access to mental and physical health care and support with managing substance abuse. They also engage in regular social events and promote community/civic engagement. 

Words cannot describe how important this work is, especially in New Orleans. Our community and many others across the state have been ravaged by mass incarceration and the racist and violent prison-industrial complex. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate per capita than any other state in the country. Our state has the most prisons and the largest prison in the country, Angola.

The First 72+  also supports a wrongful conviction project. Louisiana has the highest rate of wrongful convictions in the country, with New Orleans being the largest contributor. First 72+ supports those who were wrongfully convicted and not given access to supportive re-entry options. The wrongfully convicted are given financial support, case management, budget planning, connections to local resources, and regular check-ins and peer support.

According to statistics compiled by the Louisiana Department of Corrections, one out of every two people released from prison in Louisiana will return within five years. There are currently more people returning to prison than entering for the first time, and although there are 15,000 people released annually, there are very few re-entry services across the state of Louisiana – and a particularly limited number of services in New Orleans. Most people being released depend heavily on friends and family, but many people coming home do not have the family and friends they need for necessary support.

Online Optimism is so grateful for the compassionate and dedicated work of the First 72+, which works to bring equity to miscarriages of justice. In a majority Black city like New Orleans, mass incarceration affects the stability and longevity of our community. If you would like to support the First 72+, you can donate or volunteer here. Help is needed with writing resumes, resident intake, and enrollment, which can be done remotely or over the phone!