We are thankful to the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for including TFH in the planning of the 24th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit. The Summit will be Saturday, January 16th, 2016 at USC. It’s another example of how TFH residents through the personal transformation required to gain suitability for parole, are now transforming our community.
It’s easy to get excited when we see TFH residents mentoring at-risk youth, having meaningful conversations with active gang members to get them to change their lives, assisting disabled people and working in various industries. But when one resident spent his first month of freedom in the hospital and came to TFH with oxygen tanks, it was also a resident who took it upon himself to help this man every day. We call it peer mentoring. Most people call it family.
There’s a shared understanding which transcends background and race and all of the ways prison culture worked to separate these men. There’s a camaraderie of taking personal responsibility and a need to do something good if for nothing else, to prove that their lives matter. Now, due to positive changes at the Parole Board, there exists a light of hope which has pervaded the lifer community in prison, because now, there’s a possibility to become free again.
Governor Jerry Brown, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have questioned “lock ‘em up forever” knee jerk politics. They ask, “What is best for society and for our community?” The answers, as proven through seven years at The Francisco Homes is that we positively affect the people and organizations around us. The good work done every day by TFH residents shines brightly.
It shines in the faces of our neighbors as they wave to us every day. Men from The Francisco Homes have helped them whenever needed. We are a force for “good” on the block. We really are a good neighbor.
At The Francisco Homes our work isn’t always exciting. Bob’s brain was traumatized at age six when he was hit by a car in front of his home. He was never able to read or write. Today, in his 60s, after 38 years in prison, he needs more care than most. He can’t remember his own address. Another man came to us with significant emotional challenges and has not been able to find work. Two older men have a hard time even walking as far as the bus stop and need a ride. Did I mention we’re looking for a burro to pull our van? The odometer has run out of numbers and is requesting a vowel. It was generously donated by Wilshire Rotary more than five years ago. Pre-owned then, now it needs a new transmission, at the very least. We don’t have another TFH vehicle. We could use one.
According to the Life Support Alliance, on their website, lifers need the type of program which is provided by The Francisco Homes. They don’t need guards or 24 hour supervision in their own homes. They need help re-establishing their identity, connecting with family, friends and faith, learning how to budget money and budget time, catching up on technology and relating to people in a way that’s normal for us but not normal in prison.
We wonder when TFH will be the model for State funding. We wonder when policies will be evidence based, like an almost non-existent recidivism rate for lifers. When will this be the driver instead of fear? We recognize and affirm the rehabilitation of our residents. We thank each of you for your kind support. It’s needed now, more than ever.