THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING

Securing help, even for the most simplest things, isn’t guaranteed for lots of returning citizens. I once listened to a talk by Troy Williams, who served 18 years in the California prison system, and he ended by pointing out that the state spent (conservatively) $900,000 keeping him locked up and then one the day of release handed him $200 and waved him off at the prison gate. Anyone can see that there is a sick disproportionate allocation of funds, especially if we’re to believe any argument that prison can improve those subject to it.

Across the United States, picking up the responsibility for care during the crucial post-release days, weeks and months, are volunteer groups. 2,100 miles from San Quentin in Champaign, Illinois one such group FirstFollowers are doing amazing work. Orchestrated by all-volunteer workforce, FirstFollowers is made up of activists and the formerly incarcerated who provide support and guidance to the people getting out of prison, to their loved ones, and the community as a whole.

FirstFollowers is currently seeking $10,000 to continue its invaluable work.

DONATE MONEY AT THE FIRSTFOLLOWERS GOFUNDME PAGE

FirstFollowers are committed to peace-bulding process in the community. Crucially they involve all voices in that. Experienced voices.

“In light of the recent spate of gun violence in Champaign, formerly incarcerated people can play an important role in creating a safe environment in our communities,” says FirstFollowers which opened its doors in March of 2015.

Our program grew out of the struggle to stop a 2012 proposal by our county authorities to spend $30 million on jail construction.

“We argued that the county needed more programs and services for the community, not more incarceration,” say FirstFollowers. “Our efforts paid special attention to the fact that our county was targeting Black people for imprisonment. While only 13% of the population of our county is Black, in September 2015, 71% of the jail population and more than 60% of the parole population was African American. We realized that we needed to stop jail construction but we also needed to provide community-based alternatives. We aimed to make FirstFollowers one of those genuine alternatives.”

DONATE MONEY AT THE FIRSTFOLLOWERS GOFUNDME PAGE

There are many reasons to donate money. Here’s a few. Here’s what FirstFollowers provides–a safe stigma free environment; peer mentoring; assistance with employment searches; job readiness training; advocacy for individuals with felony convictions; family reunification; and service referrals

“We don’t seek financial assistance for salaries but for our activities, equipment, and direct support for our participants when they need IDs, birth certificates, court transcripts, even clothes for a job interview. We also want to provide short-term stipends for formerly incarcerated folks to engage in community work.

DONATE MONEY AT THE FIRSTFOLLOWERS GOFUNDME PAGE

Contribution will fund:

  • Training to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones in advocacy-we need those impacted by incarceration to speak for themselves.
  • Support groups for people with issues of substance abuse, mental health and family reconnection.
  • Training in research skills to our participants so that they can carry out a participatory needs assessment among the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones in our communities.
  • Transportation for family members to visit loved ones, especially those who are incarcerated but are close to their release date.

DONATE MONEY AT THE FIRSTFOLLOWERS GOFUNDME PAGE

For more information, visit the FirstFollowers website. Or contact them via email at firstfollowerscu at gmail.com

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