Helping the Formerly Incarcerated Create New Lives

Steve Adubato sits down with David Rothenberg, Founder of The Fortune Society, and Stanley Richards, Executive VP of The Fortune Society, who give us an inside look into this organization helping formerly incarcerated people start a new lives.

6/21/19 #2228






"We're pleased to welcome Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President, The Fortune Society, and the Founder of The Fortune Society, David Rothenberg. Hey gentlemen! How you doing Steve? Hey? Just glad to be here. Give us a short version. The Fortune Society is? An organization that works with men and women who have been incarcerated, when they come out. You started it? I started it in 1967. Because? Because I had produced a play, I knew nothing about prisons. Went to Rikers Island with the actors who wanted to authenticate the roles they were playing. And I was devastated by what I saw. My original reaction is, "Whatever these young men are in there for..." We were in the juvenile section. I said, "How are they going to be better as a result of this experience when they come out?" And we started dialogues at the theater, after performances. The Times did a story on that. I started meeting men and... but then later, women who had been in prison. Right. And I said, "We have a nucleus of an organization." Which was to just educate the public. I didn't think I was going to be leaving my theater world. But as we became visible and audible on radio and television, people were coming to us for help. And our service component joined our advocacy. And 52 years later, we have a staff of 300 people. Wow. And wonderful people like Stanley Richards. Where do you come into this? He gave me an opportunity when I came home from prison. '91? 1991. I was looking for work and went to all these organizations that work with formerly incarcerated... Hold on. Go back. You were in prison...? I was in prison. How long? For four and a half years. I was sentenced to nine years. Were you at Rikers as well? Rikers. I spent close to two years on Rikers before I was finally convicted and sentenced to state prison. But when I came home, I went to organizations that were claiming to help formerly incarcerated people, but didn't want to offer an opportunity to work. And so Fortune was the organization that offered me an opportunity to... to give back. I really discovered who I am when I was in prison. I went to school, graduated from college, and realized that my destiny was really in my hands. It wasn't in my circumstances. It wasn't where I was born or raised, but that I could make a difference in my life if I just believed. And education helped me believe in who I could be. And Fortune gave me an opportunity to put that into practice. How did they do that? They gave me..."