The F5 Project was started in 2016 with the idea of giving former convicts an opportunity to turn their lives around.
Today, it features over 40 members of staff and 350 participants statewide, with Bismarck being one of its largest areas of operation.
“Early on, we used to just go into jails and prisons and meet with guys,” said Adam Martin, CEO of the F5 Project, “We build relationships with them. I believe Empathy was kind of our goal: build relationships and get them reintegrated into society with success.”
The program aims to help those on prohibition or parole adjust to the outside world.
By banding together with state government, law enforcement and both housing and employment agencies, the F5 Project is designed to help these men and women find steady work and a roof over their heads.
And, so far, it seems to be working.
Many applicants have stayed out of the system and have returned to normal life.
And while some communities may not try to fix the problem, F5 ensures them that it’s the right thing to do.
“We have a lot of people in our communities that are ending up back in the same situations,” said Scott College, the chief program operator of North Dakota’s F5 Project. “They’re running up against barriers that the community has put in place, and are we going to keep burying our heads in the sand, or are we gonna figure out a way we can start collectively wrapping ourselves around these individuals to help build them back up?”
So what makes F5 so successful?
Some of the leaders and volunteers for the program and its allies have spent time behind bars themselves, giving them a front-row seat to the issues many people looking to reform face.
“I lived a life of crime for a long time, and so when everything finally clicked for me, and I changed my life,” said Martin, “It was easy for me to see the gaps in the system. It was easy for me to see the types of conversations that needed to exist. It was easy for me to see that empathy and grace was a game-changer.”
On a computer, the F5 key refreshes a page and starts it over. The F5 Project aims to do just that with its participants: help them begin again.