A Word From the Founder
On August 29, 2012 Formers Anonymous held its first meeting in Racine, WI. The founder and Chris M. sat at the table alone. We opened the doors once a month to start. Today (3/15) we have meetings twice a week in Racine, WI., once a week in Kenosha, WI., Once a week in Chicago, Il, two meetings in Milwaukee, WI. (one is an all woman’s meeting) and once a month in Waukegan, IL. We have two meetings a week in the Racine County Jail and once a week in two prisons in Southeast, WI. Currently, we are in several prisons and taking strides to open into several other correctional settings, treatment facilities, cities, states, and other countries.
Why does Formers Anonymous exist? What are the benefits and whose are they? How are we the same or different to other anonymous groups? Who or what gave us the right to take this path? Is it working? How do we know?
All these questions are important and were considered long before the first group was even held. Thousands of interviews were held with many others including those in a process of change or recovery. These ideas presented here were shared. As you will see for yourself the answers to most of these questions resulted in understanding and discovering one thing…there was a need. There was a need to use what not only our predecessors have learned or discovered but what other professionals, researchers, academics, and social service providers had learned and discovered. Perhaps even more importantly what other anonymous people had learned and discovered for themselves. Even what the founder had learned and discovered for himself was found to be a shared idea and need by many others, thousands and perhaps one day millions.
Who should be curious about us? Anyone affected by street-life, crime, violence, and addiction. Who benefits from our program? All of society. As to who gave us the right? It was innate. We are all born with a right to live in freedom and the privilege to do that together. To experience many meaningful relationships that are genuine, kind and intimate…free of judgment and exclusion. As such, we take you as you are, as early in your process as you will have us, for as long as you can endure us.
FA honors and acknowledges our victims, direct and indirect, near and far. To honor them we engage in each relationship we establish and are grateful to have through transparency. We are willing to shed our guilt and shame in exchange for healing and growth. Knowing that this will allow us to grant our forgiveness, invest in reconciliation and ultimately perhaps be gifted our redemption.
To make a difference in this world you have to be one thing…and that is different. Different from the people who would persecute you, judge you, deny you, abandon you, kill you, lie to you. The founder suggests that through practice of spiritual principles such as transparency, empathy, and compassion all relationships and all things may become possible. Despite the fact that there are no promises we find reason to hope and dream again of better days and others to share them with.
The founder believes that in order to overcome your past you must find language that embraces the future. We are a group of criminals and addicts. By calling ourselves formers we are practicing transparency and simultaneously reaching for our strengths and freedom. We are acknowledging our past but heading for our future. We live in this moment as imperfect human beings but satisfied that we are in a process of progress, not of affliction.
True integrity of change and recovery is not about containing your beast. We cannot exchange one cage for another to find freedom. To embrace freedom is to love all the parts of you. Trusting that one day you will have reached a point of moving beyond your past and ailments. The biggest question out there is not about the past, a disease, or action…it is ‘Who am I’ after all the labels are stripped, all the roles are taken away, and all the lies are shed. Who am I?
The founder hopes that FA provides a path toward discovery of the answer to that question. Above all else…to each their own.
Founder of Formers Anonymous
The Story Behind Founder
Sammy is also the founder of Formers Anonymous (FA) (est:8/29/12): a self-help group based on the 12 step model for criminals and addicts addicted to street life looking for support and answers on how to change and recover. However, as the founder he has made significant changes and improvements to the model to better suit the population benefitting from the group. The program is rooted in identifying strengths and solutions, and incorporates the social work perspectives of seeing others as innately good, capable and knowledgeable about how to exist beyond limitations. The Formers title implies having lived once in a certain way but now living differently as a different person. The program is now national with discussion to spread to Canada, Australia, UK, and Hungary. Formers Anonymous is currently in several correctional facilities throughout the state.
Sammy Rangel is the author of the autobiography FOURBEARS: The Myths of Forgiveness. This is not only a book about his life. It also goes in depth concerning the steps it takes to forgive, change, reconcile and recover from wounds many of us have. This book belongs in treatment and correctional facilities as well as in high schools. Reuther High School has replaced the book The Child Called It with it for 11th graders.
Mr. Rangel currently is the Senior Director for Program Management and Development for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wisconsin.
Previously he served as the Program Director for the Second Chance Re-Entry Division of Racine Vocational Ministry. Program goals are to prepare participants for reentry and welcome them home from prison. His program has gained the ability to meet with participants prior to release, and upon re-entry. The program partners with Department of Corrections and other community members to assist and coordinate access to support, services and resources in the name of reducing recidivism among moderate to high risk returning community members. While all of the program participants are voluntary many have required programming that the 2nd Chance can offer in house including mental health, AODA and other types of counseling strategies. Sammy’s philosophy and professional responsibility is to meet clients where they are in the process of change, take them as they are, and prepare them for a prosocial reunification with the most important parts of their community. Previously Sammy was the Program Coordinator for the SAFE Streets Outreach Program for 16 years, working with youth, adults and families who face extreme crisis or danger for 18 years.
Often times the population is involved in gang, drug, and criminal activities that place them in very high risk for incarceration, addiction or worse. Sammy have reached tens of thousands of youth, adults, families, and professionals across the nation over the last 18 years. Many of the participants experience abuse, abandonment, homelessness, and engage in survival behavior such as sex in exchange for food and shelter as well criminal activity.
Google Ideas, in association with the Council on Foreign Relations and Tribeca Film Festival invited Sammy and a partner program Life After Hate (LAH) to participate in the Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin, Ireland June 26 through June 29, 2011. Life After Hate Inc., was created in 2009 by reformed former influential members of the radicalized American right-wing movement. The summit convened over 80 former members of violent, exploitative organizations, from inner-city gangs to right-wing militants to religious extremist groups, all of whom, including Sammy are now actively and publicly working towards helping youth and adults find positive alternatives to violent extremism. As a direct result of the summit LAH, Sammy as a board member of LAH and the founder of FA launched EXIT USA in 2015. EXIT USA is a program to help people leave far right extremist movements and help them begin the process of disengagement and de-radicalization.
The pinnacle of Mr. Rangel’s career is his participation in the TEDxDanubia Conference: Balance On the Edge held in Budapest on May 21, 2015.
He was asked to speak at the Northwestern Law School's Black Law Students Association panel for Collaboraction's play Crime Scene Chicago 2015: Let Hope Rise January 21, 2015. His life story and work are highlighted in this play to create social dialogue and action for inspiring peace.
He continues to provide lead practice presentations through the Anti-Gang and Violence Prevention Summit September 2014 through plenary panels and 4 workshops. And of course he has presented at the Wisconsin Association for Homeless & Runaway Systems Americorp Trainer October 2015 and many preceeding years.
In 2004 Sammy graduated with Presidential honors from Gateway Technical College-Racine as the District and College Ambassador representing 450,000 students in Wisconsin. He graduated from Carthage College with a Bachelors of Social Work Degree with a minor in Psychology, Cum Laude, in 2008. On September 13, 2009 he graduated with a Master of Social Work Degree, Summa Cum Laude, with a mental health focus, from Loyola University-Chicago. Sammy was also awarded An Excellence In Service Award by the school at graduation. Sammy is proud he was awarded on October 19, 2010 the Ren Svanoe Youth Leadership Award by the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services in recognition of outstanding dedication working with youth and families over the last 16 years. In February 2008, Racine Interfaith Coalition recognized Sammy for promoting peace in the community. In 2006, he received the Martin Luther King Award from UW-Parkside for Community Service in Racine. In 2005 he was awarded the Hispanic Unsung Hero Award from the Martin Luther King Center in Racine for his work in the community.
Mr. Rangel also worked at the Racine County Jail from 2004 through 2008 as a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor helping men and women with addictive and criminal lifestyles. In addition to his work with youth he also provided mental health treatment as Racine Psychological Services with patient who are chronically mentally ill and/or dual diagnosed for four years. He started AODA groups for multiple OWI offenders and completed domestic violent training to treat men who use violence against their partners. He makes time as an adjunct teacher for MATC, Gateway Technical College, and for the Department of Transportation and contributes to the community by sitting on various committees that address race, homelessness, crime, gang activity or drug abuse issues among our youth and adults.
Sammy has furthered his credibility by overcoming the grips of addiction, and recovering from a street life of Chicago area gangs, violence and prison. It is worthy of note to mention that he has accomplished all the aforementioned since being released from the Department of Corrections November 11, 1999, after serving more than 15 ½ years through out his juvenile and adult years. He lived out the majority of my preadolescent years as a victim of daily and ongoing childhood physical and sexual abuse. At the age of 11, Sammy set out on his own and lived out the rest of his juvenile life as homeless, throwaway child who very quickly encountered drugs, crime, sex, and violence on the street, just like at home. Eventually, he made a lifestyle of the street life including gangs, crime, drugs, and institutions.
Today he considers his most crucial role in the community being a father, as well as helping as many people as he can. As someone once so aptly stated about Sammy… “The scary thing about Sammy is that despite all that he has accomplished in a very short period of time…He’s just getting started.”
For more information about the work Sammy is doing visit these sites.
His book Fourbears: The Myths of Forgiveness can be found at:
A film crew from Hungary in November 2013 released a short film on the life and work of mine (available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DOJr21efaw&feature=share).