Fortune Society visits Emerson College

While in the midst of transcribing the many index cards for the Boston Local News Project, I came upon a card labeled Fortune Society. From my first glance at the title Fortune Society, I initially thought it might be referring to some kind of entrepreneurs’ club or organization.  The subject line of the card, "ex-cons", prompted me to question that assumption.  It turns out that the Fortune Society is something a little different.  It’s true the society’s aim is to improve the “fortune” of those it serves. But its clientele aren’t successful business and professional people.

As the subject of the card indicates, the Fortune Society’s clients and a majority of its employees are formerly incarcerated ex-convicts.  The Fortune Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help ex-cons successfully re-enter society and become productive members of it. It does this by providing programs in areas like family services, job training and transitional services.  The society also participates in the ATI or Alternative To Incarceration program which is a range of life stabilizing programs tailored to meet the needs of the offender, such as mental health, substance abuse or vocational training, while serving out their sentence under strict supervision with the ultimate goal of reducing re-offending.

According to our card, members of the Fortune Society came and spoke at an event at Emerson College in the spring of 1969.  At the time the Fortune Society, which was founded in 1967, was still a fledgling organization.  It was in 1969 that the organization began its first core unit, education.

This timeline shows how the organization has grown over the years.  The Fortune Society got its start as an outgrowth of a play, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, which was produced by the society’s founder David Rothenberg.  After the performance, the audience would stay and discuss issues related to incarceration with the cast.  From there Rothenberg began receiving increasing numbers of requests for assistance and advocacy from formerly incarcerated individuals.  This evolved into the organization.

Do you have any experience with the Fortune Society?  Were you at the event at Emerson College in May of 1969?  Please tell us about it.