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CT should boost efforts to help formerly incarcerated reenter into communities, advocates say

Inmates walk through Enfield's Cybulski Rehabilitation Center in 2016.
John Moore
/
Getty
Inmates walk through Enfield's Cybulski Rehabilitation Center in 2016. Scott Wilderman, president and CEO of Career Resources Data Team, a nonprofit that worked to produce a reentry report, said: "Believe it or not, they're going to face nearly 50,000 federal, state and local legal restrictions that will make it difficult for them to reintegrate into society."

A new report is calling on Connecticut to provide more funding and social services to help people who are formerly incarcerated.

Criminal justice advocates gathered at the state Capitol to present “The State of Reentry,” which provides an analysis of the demographic information of people released from prison.

Officials say Connecticut has been moving away from mass incarceration by expanding mental health and substance abuse treatment options and programs that divert people from the criminal justice system.

Still, the residual effects of incarceration persist long after people are released, said Scott Wilderman, president and CEO of Career Resources Data Team, a nonprofit that worked to produce the reentry report.

“Believe it or not, they’re going to face nearly 50,000 federal, state and local legal restrictions that will make it difficult for them to reintegrate into society,” Wilderman said.

They struggle with finding housing. A survey of a group of people in Department of Correction custody found that up to 22% of face housing insecurity.

“We can assume that one of the incarceration results is that you lose your housing,” said David Garvey, director of research at Career Resources Data Team.

Garvey said that Connecticut’s incarceration rate continues to be considerably higher than other countries such as Canada and France.

Nearly 95% of incarcerated people whose sentences were ending in six months reported having substance use issues. Almost 75% had experience with a mental health disorder – and more than one-third described their disorder as moderate to severe. And 75% said they had nursing care needs.

The survey found that Black and Latino residents are disproportionately represented in Connecticut’s prison and jails relative to their population. Black residents represent 13% of the state’s population, but they make up 35% of incarcerated people whose sentences end in six months. While Latino residents represent 18% of the state’s population, they make up 28% of the incarcerated population.

State Rep. Chris Rosario, D-Bridgeport, said that as a member of the Appropriations Committee, he’d work to facilitate funds to support people reentering into communities.

“Whether they’re halfway house, probation, parole, they are still under our care,” Rosario said. “So those funds need to go directly to where they need.”

Whatever funding is spent on helping with reentry efforts would save money in the long term by reducing recidivism, officials said.

State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said the justice system is not providing people the opportunities they deserve, such as education, supportive counseling, mental health services and housing.

“Unless you create a new environment, we’re creating a return to that same behavior,” he said.

Fred Hodges, program manager at the Family ReEntry Enterprise House, was formerly incarcerated and is working to change the lives of people coming out of prison. He said that there’s not enough funding to help support the formerly incarcerated – and that they face many hurdles, such as obtaining IDs.

“I’m talking about real opportunities where people can have careers and individuals can have homes again,” Hodges said. “Where’s that money going to go? We got to do better. I’m calling on the government.”

Virgilio Rosario, who was formerly incarcerated and is the brother of Chris Rosario, said the challenges are real. Still, it’s up to a person to move on and better their future.

“I came … to look for employment,” Rosario said. “I own a business now. I employ people. I change my community. Society is realizing that they can allocate these job opportunities to men such as myself, to have companies hire men such as myself, that are transforming the lives, their neighborhoods.”

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.