In 2017, one of our founding members was released from prison after nearly an 18-year imprisonment. That year he was introduced to Kyle Harless, an entrepreneur with years in recovery, and the two began the work of securing sustainability for the New Freedom Project while investigating various entrepreneurial ventures. In early 2019, NFP and a team of community stakeholders formed a coalition of entities that had a passion for helping men and women transition from prison back into society successfully. At one of the coalition meetings, Joe McDonald, a long-term leader in the recovery community, was in attendance and had asked the group how he might assist them in their efforts to reduce recidivism and get a more effective recovery message into the Arizona prison system.

As a result of that coalition meeting, Joe McDonald joined J Kyle Harless at NFP as they concluded they could do far more together than separately. The three men assisted by their respective teams together formed the Transition Coalition whose purpose was to provide services for helping justice involved men and women receive treatment for substance abuse, anxiety, depression, PTSD, post incarceration syndrome and other behavioral disorders.

Various mentorship methods were explored throughout 2019 in hopes of broadening the message of hope and to better deliver effective reentry services. At that time, Denise McDonald had already long been writing letters of encouragement to hundreds of incarcerated individuals. Through Denise’s efforts, NFP’s new purpose was to mentor individuals who were still inside and prepare them for a successful reentry with tailored services waiting for them outside, all provided by the same group.

In late 2019, the team had met Wealthpoint and Waltz construction and explained the vision of a full continuum of care facility for returning citizens to stabilize, heal and live as a community. The team shared the heart of NFP to be a provider of second chances for people and the New Freedom Project was born. Through their combined business acumen, the New Freedom team successfully acquired, permitted and licensed what was once a 248 room hotel-resort and renovated it into what is now the largest behavioral health facility, all in no less than 9 months. Since its public opening in October of 2020, New Freedom has sprung to life the most innovative approach to reentry ever conceived, servicing 370-400 men and women at a time with the ability to serve up to 1,600 annually. Most of the members that come through New Freedom’s facility were previously mentored while in prison through the Inreach efforts of Denise McDonald’s team. Of all the members New Freedom has treated, whether graduated or not, 95% of them have not re-offended. New Freedom is developing a robust alumni program for continued support after treatment and is now employing some of the first graduates in various roles within the New Freedom facility which is the vision that was conceived nearly 20 years ago, peers leading peers through lived experience.


“I never thought it was possible to be where I am today, just like nobody thought it possible to create a community focused around reentry. When I was in prison a place like New Freedom would have only existed in a dream. Little did I know, seeing a NFP flyer on the wall would redefine the course of not only my reentry, but my entire life. They asked me to write them if I wanted to use their resources, so I did. The love and support that followed was unprecedented from my experience.

When the time came and I was told I would be releasing early and my mind went to going back to what I have always known. Luckily there were these letters, these people who cared enough to question what was on my mind and led me to go with what was on my heart. Taking a chance, trying something completely new.

I came to New Freedom with the building blocks for my new life. That was work I did in prison. New Freedom gave me the platform and the blueprints. Although I was reluctant at times, I followed those blueprints even though I couldn’t see the big picture of what was to come.

By chance, I became the first ever New Freedom graduate. My entire group and the majority of New Freedom staff attended my graduation since it was the first. I sat in awe. I finally accomplished something that I normally would have given up on.

Then I went into the world to work and learn how to support myself, interact with the community, and become a responsible member of society. I did this sober and happy. My only ambition was to a live a good life for once. Finally, after six months I was eligible to come back to work for the New Freedom Project and they offered me a chance to be a mentor and write people still prison.

I had come full circle. Progressing from member to alumni to employee has shown me how hard work and compassion for other people has paid off tenfold. Helping people trying to make a place in the world is so rewarding, especially because someone had helped me. The love I receive is indescribable and the opportunity to share it with others is a privilege. I never would have thought from that one flyer and to my first letter that my life would change entirely.”

– Anonymous | Graduated January 2021


This page was inspired by NF Staff, Wayne Giles

Clinical Executive Assistant
Released February, 2018

11.5 Years Served

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