WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Leaders cut the ribbon on a new Reentry Welcome Center in Waterbury Tuesday which allowed Community Partners in Action to provide housing, medical care, and employment — to those recently released from prison.
“This center gives them the opportunity to actually have a new life and move forward,” said Tracie Bernardi-Guzman, a case manager who helps former inmates.
Tracie was once one of them. She was arrested when she was 19 and spent 23 years in jail — seven of those years in solitary confinement.
“When [former prisoners] come home from incarceration, they don’t necessarily get welcomed. They don’t get support. They get a lot of ‘no’ and a lot of closed doors,” Tracie said.
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She’s one of many staff members opening the door to help folks, like Tracie, have an opportunity.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary says the program has helped more than 160 people since it started in December 2021.
“There are some really good [success] stories. I’m not going to say that we’re batting .1000 because we’re not. We’re batting .500 and we’re going strong,” O’Leary said.
The mayor says the program can help former inmates take the step forward, but they have to take stride.
“You have to want to change your life,” O’Leary said. “Even though they’ve been incarcerated, and they come out, they’re not ready. What we’re trying to do is show them that they can be ready and provide them the support to be ready.”
Tracie wants to provide the same support she received.
“I never saw this for myself,” Tracie said. “I never thought that I would come home and be able to help.”
Her mom, Laura, says it can make a difference.
“It’s amazing to me that she’s doing as good as she’s doing, and it’s because of programs that have helped her,” Laura said.