Andrew carries many titles: non-profit organization leader, coalition member, mentor, advocate, and college student. But it was not that long ago when he also carried the label “juvenile lifer.”
That changed in August 2016 when Andrew became the first of Louisiana’s juvenile lifers to be released after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Miller vs. Alabama prohibited the mandatory sentencing of children to death by incarceration. The state Board of Pardons and Parole recognized that Andrew was not the same 15-year-old boy that went to prison in 1997.
In prison, he completed an impressive list of rehabilitative programs and college courses and served as a peer facilitator for anger management and pre-release classes. He was also elected president of the Kisatchie Jaycees, recognized as the top institutional U.S. Junior Chamber club during his term.
Andrew joined Toastmasters International in 2003, serving as a club president, area and division governor, and district secretary obtaining valuable leadership experience. He earned the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, the organization’s highest individual achievement, and was the only incarcerated member to have ever been named a District Toastmaster of the Year and Division Governor of the Year.
In August 2016, just months after his release, Andrew co-founded the Louisiana Parole Project with attorneys Keith Nordyke and Robert Lancaster to help the nearly 300 men and women in Louisiana’s correctional system who, like him, were sentenced to life without parole for a crime they committed when they were children. He joined a local Toastmasters club and served as a club officer and was appointed to the Baton Rouge Prisoner Reentry Initiative steering team. Andrew was also President & CEO of Reentry Benefiting Families before it merged with Parole Project in 2018. He is on track to earn his BA in sociology with a concentration in criminology from LSU in the spring of 2019.
“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.”
Kerry’s track to an award-winning journalism career began in high school as managing editor of the student paper before majoring in journalism and communications at LSU and Nicholls State University. He has extensive experience in print, radio and television media. Kerry began working with Parole Project as a volunteer to handle media relations. In addition to his work as Parole Project deputy director, he continues to produce as a freelance journalist and is very active in criminal justice reform in Louisiana, working with advocates and policymakers who believe smart reforms enhance public safety to enact much-needed change in his state.
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 The Angolite magazine.
He was named its editor in 2001. Under his direction, the iconic and award-winning magazine continued to be true to its mission to inform, educate and enlighten its readers about the world of criminal justice and prison in a way mainstream media could not or would not. The magazine’s reporting on the death penalty earned 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 on juvenile life 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 won critical acclaim. Taking on subjects like human trafficking, juvenile life without parole, aging, and 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 recommendation from the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his sentence. Governor Bobby Jindal left office in January 2016 without taking action on his and dozens of other recommendations. Ten months later a new board unanimously reaffirmed his recommendation. Three days before Christmas, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Kerry’s commutation and he was immediately released.
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 skillset includes 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.
parole project legal team
Keith Nordyke, Attorney
Carol Greenfield, Attorney
Jane Hogan, Attorney
LSU law school intern supervision
Robert Lancaster, Law Professor & Attorney
board of directors
Attorney; Adjunct Law Professor LSU Law School
Certified Public Account
Commercial Dealer Services Manager for Hibernia/Capital One, Retired
Attorney; Nordyke & Greenfield
Charles Geron “Gee Gee” Hargon
COO Hibernia Bank & Trust, Retired
Former state Board of Pardons and Parole Member
American Correctional Association Auditor
CEO, Mamou Health Resources
Attorney; Director of Clinical Education LSU Law Center
Dr. Mary Livers
Past President American Correctional Association
Deputy Secretary, Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, Retired
Michael L. Williamson
President and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana
CEO, Managing Partner for Southern Strategies Group Louisiana Office
© 2018 Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.