I first came into contact with the criminal justice system at age seven, and never spent a whole year free until I was 29. But after a degrading incident with a corrections officer, I finally wanted to change.
On the morning of the incident, I was getting ready to go outside when an officer coughed in my face and yelled a racial slur at me. That night, I became frustrated at how vulnerable and worthless I must have seemed to him. I then reflected on the mistakes I’d made since childhood— ones that I kept repeating. I knew things had to change.
When I came to The Fortune Society in 1969, I found exactly what I needed to turn my life around: an abundance of love and understanding.
Fortune became my family. They welcomed me with open arms and I felt valued for the first time in my life. I became close with the staff, as well as founder, David Rothenberg, who often invited me to his house to chat and watch basketball. Group counseling sessions emotionally prepared me for reentry, and my formerly incarcerated counselor always knew how to help.
The close relationships I formed at Fortune were crucial for me. I was a man who wanted to change but never had the support— until now
Fortune also helped me grow professionally. I developed marketable skills and was overjoyed when Fortune offered me a job. This allowed me to overcome the employment barrier many formerly incarcerated individuals face, and gave me an opportunity to help others rebuild their lives like I did.
Fortune changed my life because they saw goodness and potential in me despite my past mistakes. With their encouragement, I’ve stayed out of prison for good. Now, I know my worth, and have finally learned to thrive.