Andrew carries many titles: non-profit organization leader, coalition member, mentor, advocate, and college graduate. But it was not that long ago when he carried the label “juvenile lifer.”
In June 2016 Andrew became the first juvenile lifer in Louisiana to be paroled following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller/Montgomery rulings that prohibited the mandatory sentencing of children to life without parole. The state parole committee recognized that he was not the same 15-year-old that went to prison in 1997.
While incarcerated Andrew completed numerous educational programs and college courses, served as a leader in multiple prisoner organizations, and taught rehabilitation and reentry classes.
In August 2016, he co-founded Louisiana Parole Project to help the nearly 300 men and women in Louisiana who, like him, were sentenced to life for crimes they committed when they were children. Andrew earned an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice from Baton Rouge Community College and received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in criminology from LSU in May 2019. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Criminology and Justice from Loyola University New Orleans.
“When I left prison, I left behind people who are no less deserving of the opportunity I was given,” Andrew explained. “Our mission isn’t simply to gain freedom for men and women who have turned their lives around. We want to ensure they have the skills and prospects to reach their greatest potential upon release.”
An award-winning journalist, Kerry’s track began as a journalism and communications major at LSU and Nicholls State University where he cut his teeth writing for print and radio news. He began working with Parole Project as a volunteer in 2017 to help with media relations, joining the staff as communications director in January 2018 and being named deputy director in July of that year. In addition to his work as deputy director, he continues to produce as a freelance journalist and is active in Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts, working with advocates and policymakers who believe smart reforms enhance public safety.
In April 1990, Kerry was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he, his family, the victim’s family, and the investigating detective maintain he did not commit. Five years after arriving at the Louisiana State Penitentiary Kerry was hired as a staff writer for nationally-acclaimed Angolite magazine.
He was named editor in 2001 and, under his direction, the magazine’s reporting on the death penalty earned national recognition with the Thurgood Marshall Journalism Award in 2007. In 2011, Kerry won the PASS Award for Journalism (now called the Media for a Just Society Award) from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for the magazine’s coverage of juvenile life without parole sentences. During his tenure the magazine also won three APEX Awards of Excellence for Magazine and Journal Writing and was a finalist for several other national journalism awards. Kerry’s 2011-2012 three-part series on the history of women in the Louisiana penal system received critical acclaim. Taking on subjects like human trafficking, aging, Alzheimer’s and dementia in prison, sentencing, pardons and parole policy and more, the magazine became a resource for many top criminal justice and law programs in the country.
In September 2013, Kerry received a unanimous clemency recommendation from the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his sentence. Though Governor Bobby Jindal left office in January 2016 without taking action on his and dozens of other recommendations, three days before Christmas Governor John Bel Edwards signed his commutation and Kerry was immediately released.
Jane Hogan is an attorney from Hammond, Louisiana, who specializes in criminal post-trial procedures that includes post-conviction petitions and parole and clemency hearings. She spent three years as a public defender before joining the LSU Law Center Parole and Reentry Clinic as a supervising attorney. Jane has worked with student attorneys to secure early release on parole for dozens of clients. In 2019 she was named legal director of the nonprofit Louisiana Parole Project where she represents individuals sentenced to life in prison who have served 25 years or more at their parole hearings.
Steven Amort was born an American citizen in Nicaragua and, from age eight, was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He served in the United States Navy in the aviation ordinance filed, rising to become a non-commissioned officer with the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (E-5).
After the military, Steven worked as a fleet service clerk from 1988 to 2004 with American Airlines. From 2004 to 2014, within the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Steven worked as a tutor, held the position of Commander to the Incarcerated Vets program, and was an honorary member of Toastmasters International. He held the position of reentry clerk within the Department of Corrections for eight years and, during that time, had what he called the great honor to work under reentry pioneer and prison ministry founder Michael Ellerbe, who became his mentor and ultimately a dear friend.
After Ellerbe’s unforeseen and untimely passing, Steven began working for Reentry Benefitting Families as an instructor and case worker. In 2014 he became director of reentry programming at Pointe Coupee Detention Center before becoming Parole Project’s reentry director when the two organizations merged in 2018.
Steven was honored by the Capital Area Reentry Coalition in 2015 for his outstanding reentry work in the community.
Ashleigh began her career in reentry and paralegal services as an intern for Reentry Benefiting Families (RBF) in January of 2016. Her paralegal training includes legal research and writing with a focus on family and criminal law. After earning a paralegal studies degree in May of the same year, she was hired on as RBF project coordinator. Ashleigh brings a uniquely diverse set of experiences and educational credentials to Parole Project and is well suited to successfully take on the wide variety of duties associated with her position. In addition to administrative organization and file management, her skill set includes internship management,community outreach, grant writing, volunteer relations, membership campaigns and webpage management. Ashleigh is also certified to facilitate Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) groups. MRT is a systematic treatment strategy that seeks to decrease recidivism among criminal offenders by increasing moral reasoning and empathy awareness.
Ashleigh has a BA in Social Work and experience as a drug and alcohol counselor and an intake specialist in a mental health hospital. She earned an MFA in Theatre from Western Illinois University that led to positions as program director and education coordinator for a performing arts company where she gained extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. After her first round of graduate school, Ashleigh began a seven-year stint as a Ph.D. student and adjunct instructor at LSU while simultaneously earning her teaching certificate and working as an educator in both public and private schools.
However, it is Ashleigh’s life experience that led her to a career in reentry services. She not only understands what it means to have your entire life put into the hands of the criminal justice system, but she also knows the power and grace of a second chance.
A Baton Rouge native who lives with her husband and daughter in Mid-city, Ashleigh began her position as Parole Project administrative director in January 2018.
New Orleans native Louis Gibson was 17 years old when he was sent to prison for life, becoming one of the more than 300 people in Louisiana sentenced to death by incarceration for crimes committed when they were children.
While incarcerated and without hope of release, Louis began his path to redemption by earning a GED and a diploma in Culinary Arts. He became actively involved in the AA 12-step program, Drama Club, and Literary Arts to round out his education and skill set. Following a thorough vetting Louis was selected for the highly-coveted Louisiana State Police Trusty Program, where for 11 years he worked in one of the most essential and important position — maintaining Louisiana State Police aircraft at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.
Made parole eligible through the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana, along with Act 277 of the 2017 Louisiana Legislature, Parole Project successfully advocated for Louis at his parole hearing in May 2018. He was release in August 2018 and became a client in our residential reentry and intensive reintegration program. About two months later he began working for Delta Media in Carencro, Louisiana, utilizing his technical skills before joining Parole Project as a reentry specialist in February 2019.
Goal driven and people oriented, Louis believes in the power of second chances and redemption because he has lived it.
Christi Cheramie, a former Parole Project client, was one of the more than 300 Louisiana juvenile lifers, convicted at age 16 and sentenced to life in prison before the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated mandatory life without parole for children saying that they must be given a reasonable opportunity for release.
While at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women Christi she developed a reputation for learning and leadership. She focused on education and personal development, earning six distinct horticulture certifications, including landscape contractor, before becoming a horticulture tutor/instructor and giving something back to help others.
She was granted parole in January 2019 after having served 25 years. After completing Parole Project’s residential intensive reintegration program Christi began working for one of the largest plant and landscape nurseries in Baton Rouge. She joined Parole Project in August 2019 as a reentry specialist working with our clients to help them navigate the process of life after prison.
Christi sees her incarceration experience as a life-refining process and is grateful to be in a position to be a symbol of hope and redemption to those who are still incarcerated.
The first person to reside in Palmer House is former client Gerald Parker, recently hired by our organization to fill the position of resident coordinator. Parker, a natural leader and a pastor with 34 years of experience in mentoring others, expressed excitement about his new position and the opening of Redemption Homes.
“I plan on leading through example and living a life that models the attitudes, behaviors and habits we know contribute to successful reintegration and a fulfilling life,” he said.
“The men living in these homes have worked to so hard to redeem their lives and get this opportunity. I’ll be here reminding them how blessed we are to have a second chance and encouraging them to make the most of every moment. It’s important that a person becoming self-sufficient really understands what it means to embrace and follow through on all of their responsibilities. My job requires that I step in and correct things if I see issues but I’m not policing anyone. The resident coordinator provides structure with love. I am also their advocate and a person who they can depend on for support and stability.”
parole project pro bono attorneys
Keith Nordyke, Attorney
Carol Greenfield, Attorney
LSU law school intern supervision
Robert Lancaster, Law Professor & Attorney
board of directors
Dr. Mary Livers
Past President; American Correctional Association
Deputy Secretary; Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, Retired
Attorney; Director of Clinical Education LSU Law Center
Certified Public Account;
Commercial Dealer Services Manager for Hibernia/Capital One, Retired
CEO; Mamou Health Resources
Immediate Past President
Attorney; Adjunct Law Professor LSU Law School
Attorney; Nordyke & Greenfield
Founding Member and Managing Partner; Southern Strategies Group Louisiana Office
Partner; Haynie and Associates, Government Relations Consulting
Nancy Roberts, M.Ed.
Honorable Freddie Pitcher
Chancellor; Southern University Law School, Retired
Judge; Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals, Retired
CEO; Meredith Eicher, LLC
Partner, Advantous Consulting, LLC, Retired
President; SJB Group, LLC
© 2018 Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.