It hasn't yet been a year since Andrew Hundley was released from prison.
But Thursday afternoon, he was one of 16 nonprofit representatives and one quasi-government organization accepting a portion of $1 million from the Wilson Foundation for year-long programming to support people reentering society from prison.
A former prison inmate who made a successful transition back to the outside world, Hundley, who now heads an organization that works in prisons to prepare inmates for reentry, is living the goal of the Wilson Foundation's Prison Reentry Initiative.
“I was given an opportunity for a second chance, so I’m working to use this blessing that I was given to benefit others," said Hundley, the new CEO of Refined by Fire Ministries. “There are a lot of friends that I left behind that have a lot to offer the outside.”
The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation began its three-year, $3 million commitment to reentry initiatives last year when it funded 14 organizations working on prison reentry in the Baton Rouge area. This year the foundation funded 17 groups, some for the second year.
The $135,000 granted to Hundley's organization will support its Reentry Benefiting Families program, which provides pre-release life skills programming at Pointe Coupee Detention Center, and the West Baton Rouge Release Program, a program Hundley benefited from when he was preparing to leave prison after 19 years. He was 15 when he was convicted of second-degree murder.
“It’s a program that they wouldn’t normally get in the prison environment that sets them up for success on the outside," Hundley said. People who have gone through this program have lower recidivism rates, he said. Hundley is currently enrolled full time at Baton Rouge Community College with hopes to go to law school so he can help juveniles offenders, like he was when he first entered the penal system.
Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation and a high recidivism rate, numbers that prompted this initiative, said Tristi Charpentier, reentry initiative manager for the Wilson Foundation.
“You spend two, five, 10 years in prison, then you are pushed out the doorway, and told, ‘Go succeed,’ but you’ve got no tools," Charpentier said. "We’re trying to help them with a continuum of care so they can be successful and productive citizens and not go back in.”
One of the greatest successes from last year's funding, Charpentier said, was the expansion of the Capital Area Reentry Coalition, which originally coordinated reentry supports in East Baton Rouge Parish, into Pointe Coupee and Ascension parishes. In 2017, they hope to include all 10 parishes in the region, Charpentier said.
The foundation utilizes a lengthy application process for organizations looking for funding and then requires quarterly reports from the grantees to check how the money is being used, said Jan Ross, the foundation's vice president of grants administration. Four times a year all the organizations also congregate for a "learning day," when the foundation provides support for greater success and collaboration, Ross said.
“This issue is so huge that no one organization can do it all. We really want them to work in a stronger collaborative effort, because it’s going to take all," Ross said. Prison Release is one of the four main priorities of the foundation, though she said it becomes intertwined with their other focus areas: human services, healthcare and education.
Church United for Community Development received $50,000 again for 2017, after success from the past year, said director of operations Bobby Jackson. That money goes toward the salary of a case manager who works with their men's home, primarily formerly incarcerated men, to help them find work and become independent.
"This (funding) would be how we get everything going," Jackson said. "It would be hard to function without it.”
One first-time nonprofit to receive funding is the Louisiana branch of Right on Crime, a national campaign to promote successful, conservative solutions for criminal justice, said state director Elain Ellerbe.
“Returning citizens are your neighbors, your family members, they are part of our community," said Renee Joyal, vice president of research and a trustee for the foundation. "When they are successful, the whole community is stronger and safer."