NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven leaders highlighted one of the prongs of their fight against gun violence on Thursday — a re-entry program for people just leaving prison.
“I was incarcerated for two-and-half years,” Jose Fernandez, a participant of Project M.O.R.E. said. “I’m not proud of it for domestic violence. I was a bad person to my spouse, and I paid a price and I learned my mistakes.”
When Fernandez got out of prison, he told News 8 he faced his demons and turned his life around with the help of Project M.O.R.E.
The program helped him with housing, therapy, and a job.
“I was able to talk to people,” Fernandez said. “It allowed me to reach out to people and tell them what I was going through, and they listened.”
“This is part of a number of our initiatives to ensure the supports for people that are formerly incarcerated,” Mayor Justin Elicker said at a resource fair outside Project M.O.R.E.’s Grand Avenue headquarters Thursday. “We talk about us being a second-chance society. We have to live like we’re a second-chance society.”
Re-entry programs are key to the city’s fight against gun violence.
“We don’t give people an either ‘take treatment, or we can’t help you’ approach,” Dr. Mehul Dalal, the community services administrator said. “It means figuring out and assessing where people are in their relationship with drug use and trying to help them at that specific time and moment.”
Assistant Police Chief Karl Jacobson said the program is a proven avenue of reducing crime before it gets to the point of police intervention.
“Substance abuse is a major problem,” Jacobson said. “I think if you look at all the crimes committed and the different things, even down to assaults, drunk driving, larcenies, it stems from some type of substance abuse. So, it’s important we address the root problems of crime here. They may not take it the first time. They may not take it the second time. But at some point, they’re going to be sick and tired of being sick and tired, and hopefully, they’ll take the services.”
For Fernandez, coming to Project M.O.R.E. out of prison, resistance softened into redemption. He hopes others can find that, too, especially those who find themselves in the throes of raging street violence right now.
“I came here with a negative attitude, but as I came in, I met good people, people that cared about me,” he said.
Elicker said in the last couple of weeks, shootings have gone down, but it remains to be seen whether that’s part of a larger trend.