Joseph’s eyes sparkle with dreams of the future. “I’m 67 years old right now. I guess you could say I can retire,” he notes, “but I don’t want to retire. I’m working so I’m pretty good. Since I’ve been home, I think I’ve accomplished a lot.” This kind of optimism is a part of Joseph’s story—even while incarcerated for 35 years, it never left him.
Joseph learned of The Fortune Society in 2007 when he was up for his first parole board. It took him five additional attempts before he was successfully granted parole. With each try, he knew that The Fortune Society would be his primary destination upon release. The stories he heard from other individuals he was formerly incarcerated with affirmed Fortune as a place that valued each person and believed in their ability to succeed.
“…how [Fortune treats people], how they talk to you, how they listen. It wasn’t more of…telling you what to do,” he shares, “They would ask you questions and you would answer them. And together, you would decide what you wanted to do, how it would benefit you.”
Now, over two years after his release back into the community, he aids in the transformation of other participants at Fortune as a recovery peer specialist within the organization’s Housing program. As someone with firsthand insight on the impact of incarceration, his wisdom reminds participants that moving forward from their past is indeed possible.
Take it from me: Change can happen through one conversation at a time. I learned this at The Fortune Society after serving 35 years in prison. Here, people genuinely listen to what you have to say rather than tell you what to do. It’s through a mutual exchange that you determine the best way to move forward after justice involvement. It also helped that I came to Fortune with a plan—I knew the programs that would help me achieve my goals the best, including Seeking Strength, a group within Fortune’s Substance Use Treatment program.
Soon, I wanted to inspire others the way Fortune inspired me. So, after completing my programs, I worked hard to become a recovery peer specialist within their Scatter-Site Housing program. I also shared my story in front of decision makers in support of the Fair Chance Act, a law that would stop employers from asking about an interviewee’s criminal history before making a job offer.
Today, I work with people who are exactly where I was. Their whole attitude changes once I tell them about me—with a shared understanding, we’re able to communicate openly.
Article by Root Stitches LLC