ENFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — The state has launched a new program to help people leaving prison find work or return to the classroom, aimed at giving them a second chance and keeping them from coming back to prison.
The new program was dedicated in a ceremony at one of the facilities in the complex of prisons on the Enfield-Somers line Tuesday. It’s similar to successful programs being offered to inmates entering the final months of their sentence in Ohio and other states.
Connecticut’s prison population is shrinking, and because of that, the Department of Correction has been able to convert parts of one prison to a “Community Reintegration Center.” The 110 men currently at the center are among the 1,000 Connecticut prison inmates that will be coming to the end of their sentence in the next 18 months.
What the state is doing for the first time is centralizing and concentrating all of the re-entry services in one place. Things like job search training, vocational and technical school placement, substance abuse help, and housing. Up until now, all this was scattered among the 18 prisons and administered by each warden.
“They’re giving you classes to lead into whatever field or occupation you want to go into and trials to get through, you know, show you right from wrong, interview techniques, appearance, how to act structurally,” saud Andrew Phillips of Windsor, an inmate who has started the program.
“It gives us skills to be able to speak with employers, everything from tying a tie to speaking to employers, so it’s very helpful so far,” said Serafettin Senel of Bridgeport.
“This is not a ‘coddling type’ of situation,” said Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple. “This is not a soft on crime approach, it’s a smart re-entry approach. We’re trying to target the population that has done what we’ve asked them to do, and then have a place for them to go and a program for them to be at that sends a message to the rest of the population that you should do the same.”
In others words, the inmates that truly and honestly seem to want a second chance should get every opportunity for that second chance. This program will make their final six months in prison a concentrated, high impact study program of what it takes to get back in the game of being a productive citizen, but it won’t be offered to everyone.
“You have to apply, you have to be accepted, and quite frankly, the institution as a whole, the department, has to believe that you’re as committed as you say you are,” said Governor Dannel Malloy.
The Governor says they are also planning a similar center at the women’s prison in Niantic.