“You gave me hope”


United States of America

“America has always been a land of second chances, founded on fresh starts, new possibilities, and the belief that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. During Second Chance Month, we recommit to helping people forge the new beginnings they have earned and building a safer and more just society”

So much has happened in the past weeks. We have celebrated My Father’s House’s fifth anniversary with an incredibly successful gala (you can read more about it here); had the surprising chance to show Unguarded in two correctional facilities in South Florida with two groups of 40 inside students; and continue to see our network expanding across states and communities. In this newsletter, we add our voice to the many who are celebrating Second Chance Month 2023.

Let me start with Kathie Klarreich, the Founder and Executive Director of Exchange for Change, who was graciously involved in the planning of our Florida Unguarded tour in February. Thanks to her, we were able to bring the film into Everglades Correctional Institution, an incentivized men’s prison, and Homestead Correctional Institution, a women’s prison one hour south of Miami. But, as someone pointed out at the panel discussion at Florida International University in Miami: it might seem counterintuitive, or even hurtful, to show the film about a rehabilitative prison system to individuals who are experiencing a highly punitive one.


The film and the discussions that followed offered our incarcerated brothers and sisters the possibility to be seen and validated in their human dignity. Here are some of the comments they sent us in the weeks following our visit:

Richard: ‘You gave me hope. I go home, God willing, in a little over five years, so any major reform will likely be too late to be of personal benefit. However, it does my heart good to know that people out there care about us and that the future is bright. I have often said that 50 or 100 years into the future, Americans will look back and say: “I can’t believe we treated human beings that way!”. I never dreamed those voices are speaking already. Thank you.’

Justin: ‘“The environment [at an APAC facility] is one that allows people – you and me – to understand you have a life out there. This is not the end of your life”. When I arrived at ECI [Everglades Correctional Institution], with a less strict and more peaceful environment, I could focus on purposeful, intentional living. I could work on finding meaning, I did find meaning and purpose. This is the lesson of the film: environment can change everything.’

Devin: “I feel hopeful that through this new progressive model of incarceration, one day the idea will spread in the United States. To see that the same hands that cause harm doing good was amazing. If we had more than a few officers that cared about their jobs and had compassion for another human being this place would be better.

In this line of work, change begins with us. It brews in our hearts and then radiates into our conversations and interactions when we put the dignity of every human person at the center. Our tour introduced us to others with this same vision: Patrick Mahoney, Director of Programs and Reentry for the Florida Department of Correction; Annette Chambers, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; as well as about forty public defenders in Palm Beach County, justice impacted individuals now working within the community (Pre from the Joseph House in Tallahassee and Shon Hopwood from Georgetown);  in addition to common people involved in community-based organizations and prison ministry. Each encounter reinforces the voice of our incarcerated brothers and sisters: there is hope.

The trips this month were a witness to a growing community, a network of people who are doing the work, on a small or large scale, of fostering proximity with those living in prison or transitioning back into society. As Jim said after introducing four witnesses from the men he serves at My Father’s House: “There are forty stories like these that have come through MFH, and I am very proud of each one of them”.

 I have more exciting news: I will be moving to Denver for the summer to work closely with Jim and the men at My Father’s House. Our goal is to produce the first draft of the adaptation of the APAC methodology by the end of August.

This work would not be possible without your continuing support, thank you. Consider making a one-time donation or signing up for a recurring one. We want to continue this journey with you.

Thank you,

Alberto “Desa” De Simoni, Program Manager, Restorative Freedom Initiative

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