The Fortune Society is excited to announce the release of Episode 1 of its first-ever podcast, “Inside Fortune.” The podcast will discuss the challenges that justice-involved people and their communities face, and the reforms that are needed to empower them. Through interviews with people directly impacted by the criminal justice system, Host David Rothenberg, founder of The Fortune Society, delves into these questions and amplifies their stories.
The first episode, “Reentry Never Stops,” begins with David and JoAnne Page, Fortune’s President & CEO, discussing a recent $1 million settlement reached between Fortune and owners of the Sandcastle Apartment complex in Queens, who blanketly refused to rent homes to people with criminal records.
It was a lengthy legal battle—but after five years, it is finally won.
As discussed in the podcast, the agreement is an unprecedented victory for housing organizers and residents alike, sending a clear message to landlords that discrimination will result in financial loses. Additionally, the $1 million price tag of the settlement serves as a warning shot and deterrent for landlords across the country to respect the housing rights of justice-involved tenants.
Despite the victory, more work remains. One of the largest roadblocks to creating safe and secure housing for justice-involved people is the “not in my backyard” effect, or the reluctance of people in a given neighborhood to house formerly incarcerated individuals in their communities.
In this episode, JoAnne explains how she hit the ground running to combat this problem. She attended countless community meetings with stakeholders and residents at The Castle, our housing unit in Harlem. Contrary to fear-mongering from landlords about justice-involved tenants, JoAnne’s meetings with local residents has not only made the Castle “safer and warmer,” but the surrounding community as well.
In the second half of the episode, Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, shares his personal experiences with justice involvement to illustrate the complexities of reentry and his motivations for changing his life.
He describes reentry as a never-ending process of self-discovery, reflection, and improvement—much like slowly shedding and removing a coat of armor after a long battle.
His interview reflects the plethora of challenges faced by individuals reentering society after justice involvement. For Andre, these challenges ranged from the humbling experience of moving back with his mother as a grown man, the inability to find work, and emotional barriers that made it difficult to ride public transit—all of which compromised his relationships.
Despite these difficulties, it’s still possible for individuals to “take off” this armor and embark on a path of self-discovery after years living in an environment of trauma and violence. For Andre, this motivation took the form of his son.
The process of reconnecting, redeveloping a relationship, and ultimately empowering his son to excel in both school and life provided Mr. Ward with a way to begin removing the armor built by trauma and incarceration, and provided him with a starting point for rebuilding his life.
“Inside Fortune” is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.