Williamson’s Notes: Creating More Second Chances


April is Second Chance Month 

Josh* found himself in prison yet again, falling back into the same cycle of substance abuse coupled with poor decision making. He knew he wanted to break the cycle for good, but he was always met with the same challenges once released.

Where could he find work, housing, transportation, and other supports with a past that always clouded his future? Josh needed a break to successfully return home and become a productive member of the workforce and his community, but he had no one to turn to for help. 

Stigmas, stereotypes, and restrictions create difficult barriers to overcome for individuals returning home after incarceration. Without access to necessities – like housing, health care, education, employment, and mental health supports – one in three individuals released from prison eventually return within one year. 

United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Louisiana Prisoner Reentry Initiative (LA-PRI) aims to ensure that every individual released into Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes has a chance of securing a job that pays a livable wage, staying out of prison, and living a longer, healthier life — and that translates into a safer, healthier, and more vibrant community for the individual and the broader community.

LA-PRI’s three-phase approach helps individuals get ready for release, transition back to their communities, and stay home once they return. The initiative provides one-on-one case management and post-release supervision to address individual barriers to success, like substance abuse or mental health issues, while ensuring each prisoner can access wraparound supports for housing, benefits, legal aid, employment, education, and the like. 

And we know the program works. 100% of LA-PRI participants in Jefferson Parish did not recidivate in year one.

A kind soul saw potential in Josh and gave him a chance to rebuild his life free from the cycle of poverty to prison and back. She allowed him to stay with her until he was able to get back on his feet. This life-changing moment paved the way for his success, and he is now building a career with his construction skills and mentoring others fighting addiction – all because someone took a chance on a man previously incarcerated.

Today, LA-PRI is creating more chances for individuals like Josh. 

This Second Chance Month, we’re doubling down on our commitment to removing the barriers to successful reentry for every formerly incarcerated individual we serve to create a strong, more equitable Southeast Louisiana for all. Help United Way create more second chances by joining our fight. 

*Name changed to protect client privacy



Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson

President and CEO 

United Way of Southeast Louisiana