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02 June, 2016

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE ON RE-ENTRY: TRACEY L. FISHER

          The fact that the 600,000 souls – Men and Women, some of whom are parents -- released annually from correctional facilities throughout the United States return to our families and our communities without being equipped with at least some of the minimal psychological and emotional tools they will need as they struggle to transition from years and decades of institutionalization is not lost on Tracey L. Fisher.   Heralded as the “Face of Re-Entry”, Mr. Fisher is the founder of “June Is Re-Entry Awareness Month” which is being observed by individuals and organizations in cities across the United States; the Chief Executive Officer of Gateway To Re-Entry; and the architect of a results-oriented initiative that serves as a deterrent to recidivism -- “Ten Steps To Re-Entry”.  Numerous accolades have been bestowed upon Fisher in recognition of his groundbreaking work on Re-Entry and Restorative Justice issues – the Lucien Blackwell Award; Authentic Servant Leadership Award; Black Male Engagement Award in 2015; and in 2016, CBS Philly/KYW News Game Changer Award.  Mr. Fisher,  an author, lecturer, community activist, and Restorative Justice Thought Leader who hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States -- is changing the national narrative on re-entry with meteoric speed.

 

          So, how is it that Mr. Fisher has such an accurately keen insight into what the 600,000 souls who are released annually from American prisons need to successfully navigate the arduous journey to reintegration, redemption, and healing?   Fisher’s accurately keen insight into the needs of incarcerated souls who will pour into our communities once they are released from prison and his development of solutions-based tools to assist them in their transition stems from his own experience with incarceration.  A number of the effective solutions-based tools Fisher offers formerly incarcerated souls through Gateway To Re-Entry were developed by him during his 22 years of incarceration in the Federal Prison system.   He began making an impact within the Social Justice forum long before his release from America’s prison system which occurred on 22 May 2012.  Fisher became the only inmate ever to facilitate orientation sessions for all incoming inmates.  His “standing-room-only” workshops provided incarcerated souls with, for example, decision making tools.  Upon his release, Fisher “hit the ground running” and has never looked back.  He has conducted an aggregate of approximately 50 seminars and workshops which include Crime Summits, Seminars for Men (Transformation to Manhood) and Women (Let Go So You Can Hold On), Emergency Preparedness, Civic Engagement (Voter Education), Annual Day of Respect, Family Talk, Feeding the Community, Community Treasures (Senior Citizens Health Fair), and Save Our Schools.  Gateway To Re-Entry’s annual d Black Tie Gala which Fisher hosts brings together key stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and introduces the organization’s solutions-based work on Restorative Justice to an expanded audi ence.  Fisher has also specifically crafted the “Dream Your Dream” Tour for school-age children which inspires them to dream and plan for their future and Mentoring Workshops for both youths and adults.

 

            “Re-entry is in everything we do.   Nothing happens in isolation,” remarked Fisher who immerses himself in community outreach work. 

 

           The communities that Mr. Fisher serves are the communities that formerly incarcerated souls pour into.  On Saturdays, you will find him conducting re-entry workshops where he speaks to youths, Returning Citizens, and family members.  His workshops are insightful and get right to the heart of the challenges and issues experienced by individuals and groups who attend his solutions-based and inspiring presentations.  On the second Friday of each month, TIIAI/Gateway To Re-Entry (TIIAI is The International Institute for Advanced Instruction and the non-profit arm of Gateway To Re-Entry), serves a brunch and conducts a free “Produce Give Away” for Senior Citizens who receive fruit and produce.  In December, he organizes the Shoebox Giveaway.  What is the Shoebox Giveaway?  It is an event that provides shoeboxes filled with educational items and toys for children – an event that was inspired by a speech Mr. Fisher delivered at a Pennsylvania Youth Center.  The youths who listened to Fisher were so moved that they felt compelled to do something for others.  In 2014, the youths decided to make 75 shoe boxes.  The following year, in 2015, the youths created 200 shoeboxes and in 2016 they have set a goal of creating 500 shoe boxes. 

 

          The author of “Mental Mentoring”, Fisher through Gateway To Re-Entry, facilitates Re-Entry workshops for Returning Citizens which incorporate, among other things, job readiness skills, self-employment/entrepreneurship, anger management, and parenting skills.  Fisher is on a mission to reduce the rate of recidivism.  His approach to getting the job done is based on an understanding that personal growth happens when an individual changes his or her thinking.

 

            “Our program’s focus is on purposeful mentoring which in addition to helping Returning Citizens develop a positive and long term vision, also identifies their specific goals while simultaneously underscoring how they can personally demonstrate accountability,” Mr. Fisher explained. 

 

            A highly sought after speaker, Fisher speaks at prisons throughout Pennsylvania and at schools, churches, and community centers.  He serves on numerous Mass Incarceration and Re-Entry panels, yet finds time to communicate with a host of inmates and lend support to their initiatives.

 

            Mr. Fisher is moving us to understand that the successful reintegration of the 600,000 souls who pour into our communities after years and decades of institutionalization is a critical path item.  Helping these 600,000 souls transition from years and decades of institutionalization to a new life in which they are encouraged to and succeed in reaching their full potential and become productive citizens is a wise investment.

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