In 1989, more than a decade before the Amachi program began in Memphis, another organization was already working towards a similar goal.
According to its founder and executive director, Andrea Payne, Families of Incarcerated Individuals began as a support group for two that soon grew to 20. Payne recalls that during one of the early meetings, a couple of children came to blows over whose father committed the worst crime. Struck by the understanding that adults can make choices about a relationship but the children have no choice, Payne and others set out to do what they could to make life as normal as possible for those kids.
Today, the nonprofit FII, located at 1300 Monroe, continues its support group, which is designed to help family members understand the prison system and other issues that affect prisoners and their children. The organization sponsors other services as well, including, with LeMoyne-Owen College, an entrepreneurial program to help former inmates, their spouses, or children start their own business; workshops for life skills, parenting, and job readiness; and a referral system that connects clients with counseling, training, and tutoring.
Like Amachi, though on a somewhat smaller scale, FII matches young people with caring adults; they spend at least two hours a week together. To date, the organization has some 120 matches.
For more information on FII, call 726-6191, or visit their website at www.familiesofincarceratedindividuals.com.