Event gives a second chance to those behind bars

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) — Families separated by incarceration will be reunited Monday night thanks to the Freeing Fathers Bailout event at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

We spoke to two of the event organizers, Gabrielle Perry and Laketa Smith.

Perry is the founder of The Thurman Perry Foundation, named after her late father. “We are dedicated to removing obstacles for societal reentry, for women and girls that are formerly incarcerated,” said Perry. 

Smith is the founder of A Bella LaFemme Society.

“The society promotes mental wellness through minority women’s fellowships. We do free self defense and gun safety classes as well as advocate for returning citizens,” said Smith. 

The two initially partnered with The Bail Project for an event on June 19, but the risk of severe weather postponed it. 

The event’s goal is to release prisoners to their families and provide resources for them to reenter the community. 

“We just want to celebrate them returning and make sure that they have a good boost on getting their lives back together, getting back on track,” said Smith. 

They say people who leave prison often face discrimination when looking for a job, leading to them getting trapped in a cycle of incarceration. 

Perry said she experienced it first-hand, “my entire world shattered overnight. I struggled with homelessness for almost a year. I would have starved to death had it not been for Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. I was literally just surviving day-to-day on just hope.”

EBR Parish Prison is a pretrial detainee facility, so many prisoners have not been convicted and are being held until their court date if they cannot afford bail. 

“Everybody’s innocent until proven guilty. So these are alleged crimes,” said Smith. 

Each prisoner undergoes an extensive interview process to determine eligibility. “We ensure that these people do not have parole holds, that they do not have any bench warrants that they do not have any types of deterrents that may be able to keep them inside,” said Perry. 

“Listen, people make mistakes but listen, let’s put some things in place so that those were, those mistakes are not repeated… it’s time that we welcome returning citizens back with love and not scrutinized them for what they have done but help rehabilitate them,” said Smith. 

For more information on these organizations and how you can help, you can visit the links below:

The Thurman Perry Foundation

A Bella LaFemme Society

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