NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven leaders are launching a pilot program to help formerly incarcerated individuals transition back into society, hoping it will provide them with more resources and opportunities.  

“There’s increasing evidence that shows that if people have a baseline of income, they are more likely to succeed, they are more likely to have positive outcomes,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said.

20 formerly incarcerated, New Haven residents are receiving $500 each month for one year through an Elm City Resident ID and prepaid MasterCard.  

The money is meant to help with basic needs including housing, paying bills, job training, and childcare.  

“In fact, the first purchase with one of these cards is by a father of two who went to a children’s shoe store,” said Sara Blanton, CEO of 4-CT.  

Blanton said the program is privately funded and provides short-term stability.   

“Cash assistance is really effective. It’s a less-costly way to deliver support and it delivers the same, if not better results,” Blanton said.   

Leaders said the 20 individuals range in age from their mid-20s to mid-50s, have a variety of offenses and time served, and were all released from prison within the last year.  

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Recipients have an average income under $14,000 a year and include people who are working but can’t meet their basic needs, parents who are unable to pay bills and provide for their children, and those who are actively looking for work.    

Project M.O.R.E. provides formerly incarcerated people with immediate access to services and helps break down barriers.   

“Often our clients are judged by the decisions they have made in the past rather than the efforts they are making in the present. This creates more barriers to reentry for our clients,” said Raquel Ferguson, a social worker at Project M.O.R.E. 

In recent years, up to 32% of the people released from Connecticut’s correctional facilities are reincarcerated within one year, according to Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management. That number rises up to 45% within two years and up to 61% within three years.  

“My feeling is that the goal of this program is not just to try something out on any individuals, but if we have an impact of those particular individuals, it can benefit all of us,” Elicker said.  

Leaders say there are similar pilot programs in Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina. 

They’ll have one-on-one interviews with recipients every three months to track the program and could expand the program in the future.