Stories of the First Step Act

These four stories highlight individuals that have worked hard while inside the prison walls and, with a little support, have quickly gotten back on their feet and are making positive contributions to society now that they are home.


Troy PowellTroy Powell:  Troy spent 15 years in prison and returned home to Lenoir, North Carolina in February.  Nine days after returning home, he was quickly hired by Boone Lumber Co. Troy is grateful to have a job and hopes to save up to by a house of his own. He talks a lot about the classes he took while incarcerated that helped him upon release - he took some advanced software classes like CNC Blueprinting, AutoCAD and SAP along with physical fitness, drug treatment, and anger management classes. All of this helped him return home successfully and eager to be a positive asset to his employer, family, and society.

Katherine Toney: Katherine became the first woman released under the First Step Act when she came home to her daughter and granddaughter in February, after serving 16 years in prison.  Reentry was not easy for Katherine. Her family lives in Spanish Fort, Alabama where public transportation is scarce. Without a car, Katherine struggled to find a job and make it to her probation meetings 20 minutes away. She kept her head up and began working part-time with #cut50 to help think through how reentry can be improved for everyone coming home. #cut50 brought her to Washington DC in early March, where she met with Administration Officials to share her experience, including Jared Kushner. She talked candidly and honestly about her difficulties. She was able to save up for a car and last week she began orientation for her new full-time job at the local Walmart!  Katherine is grateful to her community, the local Goodwill that gave her clothes, Walmart for giving her a chance, and her daughter, whom she had last lived with at 14 years old, for welcoming her home with open arms.


Yvonne Fountain: Yvonne came home to Asheville, North Carolina in February after spending 10 years in prison. Yvonne was charged with a conspiracy to sell drugs, even though she did not sell drugs herself. She was employed full time but had friends who were involved in the drug trade. However, federal prosecutors refused to give her her own trial and charged her alongside her friends. She went to trial, because she felt strongly about her innocence but was handed down a 20 year sentence. Unlike many people, upon her release she did not have to look too far for employment.  Her former boss at the Holiday Inn had thought so highly of her skills as a cook before she went to prison, he happily hired her back. Luckily, Yvonne had kept up her skills, working as a cook in the prison as well as taking culinary lessons while inside. She is grateful to be able to be home with her grandchildren and have a job she is passionate about.

April Johnson: April came home to Georgia in February through the First Step Act's compassionate release caregiver section. April was released at the end of February to take care of her 24 year old daughter who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. April is grateful to be able to be there for her daughter and help take care of her two grandchildren while their mother is sick.  

Gregory Allen: Gregory was incarcerated for 18 years. He lost his mother, father, and grandparents while he was in prison - he said the experience of losing his family had more of an impact on his rehabilitation than any prison programming. But he also saw many men with decades of time walking around the prison lost and soulless. He committed himself to being a positive influence in the prison, mentoring young men and encouraging them to take as much programming as possible - not just spending time in the rec yard or in front of the TV. Before going into prison, he ran an auto detailing business. Now, he has returned home to Leesburg, Florida where he joins his wife. They had just married three years ago but have known each other since high school. His wife runs a beauty salon and he helps her at the shop. He got his driver's license and a truck. He is hoping to apply with his wife for a small business loan so he can re-open his detailing business to be the best in Leesburg. He's got a great spirit and is looking forward to his new life.