'The first 72' gives ex-cons a chance at a second life

↓ Advertisement ↓

NEW ORLEANS -- The recent release of almost 2,000 inmates across Louisiana has some wondering if they're ready to return to society.

Questions were raised Thursday after news broke one of those inmates was arrested five days after getting out. However, two men Eyewitness News spoke with see the release as a new beginning. And with the help of a local group, they're ready to get on the right path.

James Durr and Reuben Crisp have a new perspective on life.

"I didn't believe it was going to happen," Crisp said.

↓ Advertisement ↓

"It's a wonderful feeling getting out," Durr said.

They're two of the 1900 Louisiana prisoners released on Nov. 1. They appreciate their new freedom, but say it's terrifying.

"Basically I've been scared," Crisp said. "Because I feel so unsure about myself right now and I've never felt that before."

They also have one goal, to look forward, not back.

"I reflect on my past to keep me strong on my future," Durr said. "I'm up in age. The first two-thirds of my life have been a total mess up. When I pass, I want to pass with dignity."

For many, getting out of prison and essentially starting all over again is no easy task. Especially if the person doesn't have any support from family or friends.

However, one local group is stepping in to help. It's called "The First 72 Plus."

"The first 72 hours are critical," expressed Co-Founder, Tyrone Smith. "When the person gets released out of prison that's the make or break point in their life because if they don't have anyone to welcome them home and no one to help them out getting the services that they need, their chances of going back to prison are very great."

It's a group that helps ex-prisoners, including ten who were part of the state's early release initiative, get a job, a place to stay, an ID and more. 

"They're doing everything that society should want them to do which is get their together, right?" said Co-Founder, Blair Boutte. "But if you tell a person to get their act together and be a productive citizen you at least have to give them a pathway to do that."

"Even the guy who got arrested yesterday, who just got out a week ago, I'm willing to bet nobody reached out to him," Smith said. "Had he come this way he'd be still out because the little things that he was trying to obtain he could've come to us for it. I'm willing to bet if somebody would've reached out to him he'd still be out today because nobody leaves prison saying, 'I'm coming back to prison.'"

For Durr and Crisp, The First 72 Plus gives them the chance to prove themselves.

"I think I found the people who can help me face that fear and move on and be independent," said Crisp.

"Don't judge a book by the cover, read that book to know that book, to really get to know that book," Durr said. "Coming out of prison and coming out with felonies, it's hard to find a job and these people are bending over backward to get us back into the workforce and I'm more than grateful."

And they say it's a fresh start, that won't be taken for granted.

"The street is just going to get us back to where we were," Durr said. "I refuse to go back to the streets."

"They're going to show me things and let me do things to where I can be dependent again, because I want to go back to school," Crisp said. "And it takes someone who's been there to know how to help someone."

The First 72 Plus is always looking for donations. If you'd like to help, or if you'd like more information on the program go here.