In 1988, Troy Rhodes was released from prison for the first time. He had served three years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. He vividly recalls the first thing his parole officer told him during his intake: “You won’t make it.”

It was a cruel thing to say, and it was an unfair thing to say, but she was right. There were 318,889 people released from prison in the United States in 1988. Approximately a third were reincarcerated. Mr. Rhodes was one of them. By the time Mr. Rhodes was again released in 2018, the recidivism rate was even worse, and the size of the prison population had more than doubled. The first time Mr. Rhodes returned home, his parents were his support system (in addition to his parole officer, although she had already made clear that she had made up her mind about him). He was lucky to get a job and have a stable place to live, but it did not prevent him from abusing drugs, and, ultimately, it did not prevent an arrest that would send him to prison with a 99-year sentence.

In 2018, he was released from prison for the second time, and this time, in addition to his wife, he was greeted by a group of supporters whom, three decades earlier, it was illegal for him to associate with: six men with felony convictions, including some former bunkmates from prison. A few years earlier, this group came together to act on a plan they had begun to formulate while incarcerated: repurpose an old bail bonds office into a transitional house providing supportive wraparound services for people leaving prison. They decided to call themselves “The First 72+.”

Kelly Orians & Troy Rhodes, Community-based Re-entry: Breaking the Cycle of Reincarceration, in Transforming Criminal Justice: An Evidence-based Agenda for Reform, NYU Press, 173–197 (2022).
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