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Connecticut Receives $2 Million To Support Second Chance Society Efforts


Connecticut has received six federal grants totaling more than $2 million in support of efforts to reduce recidivism and better reintegrate nonviolent offenders after they are released from the criminal justice system.Gov. Dannel Malloy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal met with other leaders in New Haven Wednesday to announce the grants awarded to the state’s corrections department, the city of New Haven and a number of nonprofits. The monies support Connecticut’s Second Chance Society, which Malloy signed into law this summer.

“To reduce crime, reduce recidivism and end the school to prison pipeline which surely does exist,” Malloy said. “These efforts are focused on breaking the cycle of crime. We cannot be a perpetually punitive society. We cannot permanently punish nonviolent offenders for the rest of their lives – swelling our prisons and creating lifetime criminals out of people who simply made a mistake.”

The Department of Justice awarded $53 million under the federal Second Chance Act nationally. The city of New Haven is receiving $1 million of the total $2.3 million granted to Connecticut-based programs.

“These issues are particularly poignant in New Haven and Connecticut’s other cities because there is a higher concentration of poverty here, economic disparities are more pronounced here and because admittedly a greater number of local residents are incarcerated,”  said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp. “Reintegration of nonviolent offenders is a priority in New Haven because it unites families.”

According to The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, 100 people are dropped off from prison in the city each month. New Haven’s grant supports the city’s Fresh Start Reentry Initiative. By reaching out to incarcerated people a year before their release the goal is to cut recidivism in the city in half over five years. Martha Okafor, New Haven’s community service administrator, says people coming out of prison will be assigned to a worker at one of three city reintegration centers.

“We are already trying to work on family reunification and connecting for housing, health as well as for jobs,” said Okafor.

Connecticut Senate President Martin Looney says in 1980 there were less than 6,000 people incarcerated in Connecticut. By 2007, more than 19,000 were in prison even though the state’s population did not increase. Gov. Malloy says the FBI reported Connecticut had the fourth largest drop in crime in 2014: a decrease of 9.7 percent. In 2013, the drop was 10.1 percent. He says it’s a road the state started down in 2011 when it decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says part of what can limit support for reentry and recidivism reduction programs is their very names.

“There’s a magic four-letter word here: ‘jobs,’” Blumenthal said. “These programs are about jobs. Giving people jobs so that they can work hard and give back. Giving people jobs so they can be trained and skilled. Giving people jobs so they can be better dads and raise children who stay out of the criminal justice system.”

The remaining grants support children whose parents are incarcerated and efforts to reduce juvenile recidivism. The University of New Haven is a research partner on three of the six grants, while Yale University received $258,000 to continue studying reentry efforts.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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