When a person walks out of a prison gate he or she does not say, “My release date is here, now I can’t wait to commit another crime and come right back.” Instead, a person returning back to the community is filled with hope for a future that will keep him or her from ever going back to prison. But there is also a feeling of trepidation when one is thrust back into society.
In too many cases the hope of success is blocked by numerous obstacles that make the transition difficult. Barriers to housing, employment, continuing education and family reunification are all problems returning citizens face when released. Without support these individuals can easily get stuck in the revolving door of release and incarceration.
Connecticut, which has already reduced the number of incarcerated people in the state by closing prisons, has taken things a step further. Governor Dannell Malloy has been working with Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple over the past several months to develop a new program designed to help people who are almost at the end of their sentence get a jump start on obtaining the second chance they deserve.
Malloy stated, “It is a priority of my administration to reduce recidivism and continue lowering our crime rate, and we can achieve this by ensuring that incarcerated individuals have the resources and supports they need to succeed both during their period of imprisonment and after they re-enter society We can do better as a society by focusing on effective solutions that break the cycle of crime and make our communities safer.”
In February, Malloy released an announcement of the state’s “Second Chance Society” initiatives that included:
Reclassifying certain nonviolent offenses
Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug possession
Streamlining our parole system to make it more efficient and effective
Streamlining our pardons system to give people with a criminal record a greater chance at employment
Creating real job and housing opportunities for people who were once incarcerated
On April 21, Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman attended the dedication of the Cybulski Community Reintegration Center in Enfield, CT.
The Reintegration Center will provide:
Intensive preparation for re-integration utilizing staff, non-profit providers, volunteer and inmate resources for direct program and service delivery.
In-reach efforts to ensure pre-release relationships between community, parole and probation parties and the offenders. Connecticut’s experience suggests that in-reach efforts combined with service delivery post-release increases engagement and reduces recidivism.
Eight to ten hours of meaningful activity per day. This may include work, educational or vocational instruction, programming or community services.
An assigned rehabilitative path(s) based on assessed needs consistent with the assessment provided by the Department. Such assessments include Statewide Collaborative Risk Offender Evaluation System, the Addiction Severity Index, and the Treatment and Programming Assessment Instrument. The pathways will directly address the person’s risk for re-offense and attendant re-entry needs.
The opportunity to apply to, and be selected for, specific units. This will ensure a positive, mutually supportive and forward thinking climate within the unit.
Malloy also announced that the Reintegration Center is designed to:
Promote public safety by ensuring that offenders are reviewed for Community Release in a consistent manner, by one decision maker, pairing the right intensity of supervision and dosage of community treatment for each program participant. This will be accomplished using new assessment tools such as the Statewide Collaborative Offender Risk Evaluation System (SCORES).
Promote staff safety by allowing staff resources to be reallocated and focus more on facility operations. The time that was spent reviewing applications will be used for other critical functions such as clinical supervision of necessary programming.
Improve the facility environment by enhancing internal communications, allowing supervisors to focus attentions on staff development, training and supervision of employees.
Simplify the review process to make it more understandable to the people in prison and the line staff who interact with them.
The Reintegration Center currently houses 110 men, with additional participants in the program expected in the near future. Commissioner Semple and the Governor also announced that a similar Center is planned for Connecticut’s only prison for women, located in Niantic.