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Support for a Fresh Start

72 Hour Fund is a program through the nonprofit organization called Doing His Time

Article by Allison Bankston

Photography by Courtesy of 72 Hour Fund

Originally published in Arvada Lifestyle

A nonprofit effort in Wheat Ridge is making a big difference in the lives of ex-offenders. The 72 Hour Fund aims to help previously incarcerated individuals during those first, crucial days after their release and beyond. The organization called Doing His Time started the 72 Hour Fund in 2004.

You may remember hearing about the agency's Barn-a-Bus program, named for Barnabas in the Bible, the apostle Paul's traveling companion. The Barn-a-Bus program became the traveling partner of people who wished to visit their incarcerated loved ones. The program offered free transportation to Colorado's prisons. The average ride for a family member to visit a prisoner in the state is 2 1/2 hours or 124 miles one way, and many people can't afford that drive or are physically unable to drive that far. At its height, Barn-a-Bus was transporting more than 2,000 visitors a year. Unfortunately, the program was scuttled after a long hiatus in the midst of Covid, during which the fleet was targeted by thieves stealing catalytic converters. The organization hopes to restart it.

In 2004, the organization launched the 72 Hour Fund, providing casual and professional work clothes, gear like steel-toed boots, and assistance with identification cards, bus passes, and new employment. Director Chris Mays says in the early days of the program, inmates were released with a check including any money they made while working in prison, but without ID cards, they couldn't conventionally cash them. Often, they turned to bars, which were willing to cash the checks as long as alcohol was purchased with part of the money, but that violated their parole. Chris says the 72 Hour Fund stepped in to fix that. “They shouldn't have to violate parole to begin establishing themselves again.”

The 72 Hour Fund helps about 150-160 people a month with about 75% of their clients being men. Chris says many of the people they help have burned their bridges. “Some are walking back into violent homes or homelessness.”

The 72 Hour Fund tracks ex-offenders for several years after release. In Colorado, Chris says 1 in every 2 previous prisoners will re-offend within 3 years. He explains Colorado has one of the worst recidivism rates in the country (4th worst among the states according to the World Population Review), and the lack of affordable housing doesn't help. However, among those who ask for assistance through various programs and networking nonprofits, the success rate increases significantly. Of those who receive services, only 1 in 9 men and 1 in 13 women re-offend, on average.

“We have a provision from the Lord to do this work,” says Chris. “We love our clients and want to see them succeed.” To donate clothing or for more information, call 303-292-2304.