Imagine this: A man with justice involvement has reached his last day of probation. He is fully committed to starting this new life chapter with renewed purpose. Driving home, he reflects on the future, his plans to succeed in the community—and smiles. Finally, he thinks, there is an opportunity to start over. But then: Flashing lights and sirens appear in his rearview mirror. Police officers pull him over and begin interrogating him. They ask to search his car. He complies, whereupon they plant an illegal substance in his car.
What happens now?
It’s an intense question and scenario that Sandy, a former participant at The Fortune Society, played a part in bringing to life within a theatre production created by Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, one of our Creative Arts partners. The experience—his first time acting—led to new doors of understanding. “It opened a new perspective to me about life in general,” he shares, “not just what goes on in the justice system, but what goes on besides that. You come to the realization that there are many people who, just like you, can go through difficulty, can go through struggles. It made the story…much more relatable…”
Relatability. Finding threads that connect participants to staff members is commonplace at Fortune. It’s no wonder why: More than half of our staff have history with justice involvement. Surrounded by people who truly understood his story, Sandy found a space of belonging after being court-mandated into our Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program.
In a supportive environment, Sandy discovered his ability to reach longstanding goals. Within our Education program, he worked hard to prepare for the High School Equivalency test. On his first try, he successfully passed and obtained his diploma. Soon after, he became an intern in our Jails to Jobs (J2J) program. Today, he is successfully employed full-time. Sandy’s journey didn’t end up like the character in the play he was a part of. On the contrary, his story has an ending that gets happier by the day.
To other individuals with justice involvement who may walk through The Fortune Society’s doors for the first time, he encourages them to enter with an open mind. Our resources and services , from Housing to Mental Health Treatment to Food and Nutrition, serve as affirmation that we truly understand what they need to thrive—and are here to help:
Article by Root Stitches LLC