Meet Tracy Pratt

Criminal Defense Attorney Tracy Pratt
Determined to Make the World a Better Place

Project 180 is delighted to welcome attorney Tracy Pratt to our board. Tracy, 45, who hails from Michigan, was the first person in her family to obtain a college degree. Born to a plumber and day-care provider, she grew up in a blue collar industrial town where the most commonly traveled path was straight to factory work after graduation from high school.

Knowing nothing about college or even where the universities in Michigan were located, Tracy followed the well-trodden path to the factory. At 18, she landed a job in a plant where she pulled foam protectors over strips of conduit, leaving work each day with bloodied hands and only enough money to afford one meal a day. She lasted a month.

Packing everything she owned in her “beater” car, she moved back and forth between Michigan and Texas after enrolling in community college and failing a class. “No one had ever taught me how to attend college” she says, and juggling two jobs plus relying on public transportation had taken a toll on her class attendance. Tracy moved to Sarasota in 1994 and enrolled again. With greater stability, her grades improved and she completed her Associate degree at MCC (now SCF).

While she studied toward a Bachelor degree in human development, Tracy landed an internship in India working at a school for developmentally disabled children. After completing the internship, she traveled extensively and volunteered in one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages. When a friend suggested that she enroll in law school, her blue collar background stopped her cold. Her first reaction, “I don’t even know any lawyers. What do they do?,” shifted to confidence in knowing she’d found her place in life when she reviewed a law school’s curriculum. She knew that a career in the law would lead her exactly where she wanted to go: the place where the buck stops in making a better world.
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Today, Tracy is married to Cole Pratt, a local physician. Cole and Tracy’s meeting had its genesis in Tracy’s volunteer work in India where she met a child on the streets of Kathmandu whom she came close to adopting. She paid for the child’s board at a school in Nepal and, upon her return to Sarasota, held a fundraiser for the school; her fundraising efforts were reported in the Herald Tribune. Cole read the article and was deeply inspired by Tracy’s work. By chance, weeks later he and his mother heard Tracy speak at a Buddhist center that both Tracy and Cole attended but through which they’d not previously met. So, how do you introduce yourself to the woman of your dreams at a Buddhist lecture? Put your mom on the case.

Cole’s mother set it right up. “What a great talk! You just have to meet my son. He’s a doctor! He’s about to travel to Thailand to work at a medical clinic in a refugee camp but he just happens to be here tonight…” and the rest is history.

Tracy and Cole have two children, Atticus and Eleanor (as in Finch and Roosevelt). Tracy received her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in New Orleans and has a private practice in Bradenton focused on criminal appeals and post-conviction cases. Tracy is a member of the Manatee Bar Association, the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Manatee County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU, and is on the board of the Sarasota Cooperative Learning Project. Tracy is Vice Chair and Secretary of the Project 180 Board of Directors.

Tracy, welcome to the Project 180 Board of Directors!

The Impact of Imprisonment

The Impact of Imprisonment
Considering Prison’s Lasting Effects
MARCH 2017

“The Prison Experience”
Considering Prison’s Lasting Effects

It may be difficult for a regular citizen to empathize with the challenges inmates face in the hidden and sometimes mysterious world of prison.

Yet those of us who have always resided outside prison walls can certainly relate to having felt traumatized at some point in our lives and to feelings of loneliness and isolation, common experiences both during and after a prison sentence.

Recently released inmates often call Project 180 seeking assistance and, during our conversations, reveal challenges they face after release. We discussed some of these in a recent Herald Tribune Media Group guest column, “Consider prison’s lasting effects:”

Formerly incarcerated individuals report a lack of self-confidence and coping skills, loneliness, a fear of large crowds, and difficulty approaching and crossing busy streets. Others state they are extremely reluctant to interact with strangers by phone or in person, sometimes for months after release.

Those who have served long sentences report that they are in a ‘fragile state’ when they leave prison. Former inmates who relied upon a code of polite and respectful interaction in prison in order to maintain a safer environment, often experience co-workers and supervisors in the outside world as rude and disrespectful.

To expect recently released prisoners to immediately begin functioning in the outside world without a supportive social network reflects a troubling lack of knowledge about the prison experience and its aftereffects.

Behind the Scenes: Sal D’angelo & Sarasota Magazine

Project 180 volunteer Sal D’angelo‘s remarkable life journey began on the dangerous streets of Far Rockaway, NY, a section of Queens infamous for its violence and crime. The child of parents who both suffered with addictive disease, Sal developed his own by the age of 13, using cocaine, angel dust, ecstasy, and PCP.

Sal moved with his family from Far Rockaway to Tampa where he lived with his father during his teenage years. Arrested on charges of strong-arm robbery, burglary, grand theft, and dealing in stolen property, Sal was incarcerated in Lancaster Correctional Institute in Trenton, a Florida “gladiator” prison where violence among inmates and correctional officers was the norm.

Upon release, Sal’s reentry did not go smoothly. His addiction resulted in a return to crime, an overdose in a trailer park ditch, and another round of stealing to support his habit. Eventually a Sarasota County jail program helped him begin again. “’I was 29 years old. I’d been on the streets my whole life. You have to start your whole life over and forget everything you’ve ever known. It’s not simple’” (Levey-Baker, Sarasota Magazine, September 2017). Through hard work on himself, his faith, and the faith of others in him, he’s now giving back to others.

Today, in addition to holding a full-time job and being a new father, Sal volunteers to help run Project 180’s weekly Thursday night Support Circle for formerly incarcerated citizens where his leadership and quiet authenticity provide an anchor for others in the room. A thoughtful and reflective man, his willingness to share encourages others to speak up.

Sal is also the subject of a recent feature article by Cooper Levey-Baker in the September issue of Sarasota Magazine (freely quoted in this newsletter article). To read Cooper’s excellent piece about Sal, other justice-involved citizens, and Project 180, click here. A tale of struggle and triumph, it’s well worth the read.

Help advance Project 180’s Support Circle for formerly incarcerated citizens. Donate today.

Strong Voices Lecture Series 2018. “Coming Home: the Effects of Incarceration and Reentry on the Family”

Joyce A. Arditti, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Human Development

On Friday, March 2nd, Project 180’s annual lecture series on prisoner reentry issues begins with Joyce Arditti, PhD, professor of human development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Her book, Parental Incarceration and the Family, won the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Outstanding Book Award in 2014 and garnered Dr. Arditti the Virginia Tech 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence in Research. For tickets, see the link below.

On April 6th, join us for “In Their Own Words,” a panel discussion moderated by Joy Mahler, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Suncoast, who will be introduced by Nancy Detert, County Commissioner. Our panelists—a mother, a father, a daughter, and a spouse—will discuss how their lives have been and continue to be impacted by the incarceration of a loved one.

On May 11th, in “A Mother’s Story: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on the Family,” Heather Palmer Roberts will discuss the intersection of addictive disease, the criminal justice system, loss, and love.

Luncheons will be held at The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota beginning at 11:30 am and ending at 1:00 pm. The recommended arrival time is 11:15 am; free parking is available above Louie’s Modern.  Tickets are available at $30 each and include lunch. For sponsorships, please contact Barbara at ceo@project180reentry.org.

The Latest News: Tom Melville

Tom Melville

New Leadership at Project 180

Project 180 welcomes Tom Melville as our new Board Chair. Currently the Executive Director of The Literacy Council of Sarasota, Tom is well aware of the low literacy levels that plague incarcerated individuals and how adult low-literacy rates impact all sectors of a community. His drive, strategic thinking, and goal of helping adults meet their educational objectives and get ahead in life have already greatly benefited Project 180.

Building on the groundwork laid by former Project 180 Board Chair Veronica Brandon Miller, Tom brings a wealth of experience to the organization. “Thanks to a solid foundation built by previous boards, Project 180 is now moving out of the start-up phase as we institute additional internal structures and create more sustainable, long-term programming. We’re excited to begin providing direct services, including our Support Circle for formerly incarcerated individuals and, most notably, our Residential Program.”

With over 20 years of nonprofit executive management experience, Tom is providing key leadership in board-level oversight in his new role as Chair. A military veteran with over ten years in active duty, his previous positions include working with homeless organizations, coalitions, and HIV/AIDS service agencies as well as in community foundation development and fundraising.

Tom’s accomplishments and experience are extensive but it doesn’t hurt that he also has a superior intellect and a wickedly funny sense of humor.

Tom earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Administration from State University of New York in Oswego, then spent ten years in the US Army. He spent most of that time at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) Foreign Language Center. For those unfamiliar with the DLI, graduates include senior US government officials, senators, and active duty service members from every branch of the US military. At DLI Tom studied Russian, in which he became fluent, as well as Central and Eastern European languages and cultures.

At Project 180, Tom keeps board meetings well-organized, purposeful and on point, staying actively engaged between meetings. Since assuming the Chair position in July, he has held officer elections, updated bylaws and policies, and formed committees, all with a clear sense of purpose in moving the organization to the next level.

Enthusiastically embracing tough community issues, Tom believes that the best way to help others and achieve social change is by combining leadership, compassion, and resources to create lasting solutions. It’s a great honor and pleasure to welcome Tom to such an important position at Project 180. Tom, we’re immensely grateful for all you do.

Help Project 180 achieve its Vision of reducing poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and criminal behavior among formerly incarcerated citizens.