The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:22-24
Cornerstone Builders is a servant leadership program for formerly incarcerated men and women based on rehabilitation through service. Cornerstone Builders also provides free family bus rides to prisons and mentorship to children whose parents are incarcerated.
Cornerstone Builders is grounded in the belief that community service equips people with the skills and assets necessary to be responsible, productive citizens, while also acting as the foundation of a transformative experience that benefits not only the individual, but also the families and victims of crimes and society.
Cornerstone Builders is one of 4 local organizations participating in the Vincentian Re-entry Organization Project led by the National Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The organizing project rebuilds lives through leadership development and collective advocacy.
Cornerstone Builders Bus Project
Since 2007, Cornerstone Builders’ Bus Project has been providing free monthly bus service for New Orleans families who have loved ones in five Louisiana detention facilities. By providing free transportation for family visits, we promote healthy relationships, encourage a network for family support, provide an incentive for good behavior by inmates, and inspire better cooperation between inmates and prison officials. Cornerstone Buses travels to all 13 state correctional facilities and connects hundreds of family members with incarcerated loved ones each year. Bus trips are paid for by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and a group of bikers called “NOLA to Angola” (www.nolatoangola.org/about-cornerstone-builders-bus-program/). Cornerstone also provides parent training “behind the wall” with Director of Prison Ministry, John Messenheimer.
Cornerstone Kids Mentoring Program
Empowering At-Risk Youth
Cornerstone Builders also provides a mentoring program for children ages 4-18 who have at least one incarcerated parent. Mentors make a one-year commitment to develop a positive relationship with the mentee. Through one-on-one activities and group meetings, mentors provide support and encouragement that promotes trust, confidence, enthusiasm, personal growth, and positive thinking.
Reentry 72 is an initiative of Cornerstone Builders in conjunction with the local sheriffs’ offices to provide emergency housing, immediate employment and linkages to support services to persons within the first 72 hours of release from local correctional facilities. Studies have shown that immediate employment and shelter assistance within this crucial period of time greatly reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Participants are able to earn an income and receive intensive case management while looking for a job and connecting to community resources of substance abuse and mental health counseling, legal aid, food and clothing at Ozanam Inn, St. Vincent de Paul, and Catholic Charities.
Annual Symposium for Systemic Change
Every year, Cornerstone Builders hosts a symposium that concentrates on systemic change in the criminal justice system and actively engages more than 150 individuals in the issues of criminal justice reform. Government officials, non-profit leaders, religious clergy, local business owners and formerly incarcerated individuals come together to discuss strategies to end mass incarceration. The purpose is to bridge the gaps in a seamless network of services by designing and implementing strategies for systemic change in the community re-entry process. A major emphasis is on re-entry bills on removal of legal barriers, revision of sentencing laws, and national trends to end mass incarceration.
A Vision of Justice
Cornerstone Builders promotes a 5-fold vision of justice in terms of rehabilitation and re-entry for the individual and systemic change in the criminal justice system:
- JUSTICE a judicial system of fairness and mercy
- RESTORATIVE JUSTICE spiritual healing, reconciliation, and transformation
- CIVIC JUSTICE rehabilitation through service
- JUSTICE REINVESTMENT advocacy for public dollars to be spent on rehabilitation and job creation for returning citizens rather than mass incarceration
- SOCIAL JUSTICE promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity
- ECONOMIC JUSTICE economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other
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‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.’ -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have Been to the Mountaintop’ speech. Delivered April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee