“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Nelson Mandela
The F.O.R.T.E. House was founded in 2017 by Tia Ryans to provide a healthy and transparent living environment for formerly incarcerated students transitioning through post-secondary education. The founding executive director was inspired to address transformative justice solutions to attrition, elevated recidivism, and disenfranchisement to better her community.
F.O.R.T.E. began as simply a final class project that Tia took during her first semester at college. She was adamant that the assigned housing model could be tangible and is needed within her community. She unenrolled two semesters later to research, network, and build momentum. She returned the following semester after aligning with people who share the same passion and vision she holds. Her persistence paid off when she received her initial funding from Rutgers University- Newark after taking a 9-month entrepreneurial course and her business model and pitch being chosen as one of the competition winners.
According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, left without access to education beyond the secondary level, seven in 10 formerly incarcerated persons are more than likely to return to prison within three years—thus, creating additional financial burdens and harm to their communities due to recidivism. Rand also reported that those who participate in education programs while incarcerated are 43% less likely to return to prison than those who don’t. Access to higher education lowers recidivism and generates transformative justice efforts surrounding mass incarceration. Therefore, the supportive housing and wraparound services that F.O.R.T.E. House offer is a crucial entity within this movement.
F.O.R.T.E. House addresses the educational, social, recreational, and logistical needs of college students with prior justice involvement by using transformative justice programming to enhance community safety. We focus on providing stability and socialization for students through transitional housing and strategic programming. Housing is a stabilizing force, giving offenders a consistent base from which they can access employment, community resources, family, positive social networks, and other supportive services.
Our mission continues to be guided by our founding principles of autonomy, accountability, and economic self-sufficiency.