Last week, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted approval for a house on 75 Henry St. to host a living facility for the Family ReEntry program, a nonprofit behavioral health group designed to help nonviolent male felons transition back into their communities after being released from prison.
The program will officially launch July 1, according to Steve Lanza, executive and clinical director of Family ReEntry. He said the program aims to reconnect individuals to a community and help them solidify critical living skills, such as cooking and managing a bus schedule, to provide participants a “soft landing” from their discharge.
“The state has not had a program quite like this before,” Lanza said. “In an ideal world, every large city in the state would have a program like this.”
Participants will be selected for the program while still serving time in prison, a necessary component for ensuring a smooth transition once they are discharged, according to Lanza. He said participants will undergo a thorough screening process to identify eligibility and individual mental health issues.
The program will enroll up to 15 adult men at a time for a period of six months to one year. During this time, program participants will have access to an abundance of mental health and extracurricular resources.
Lanza said the program’s comprehensive approach to treatment — which includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, support groups, psychiatric advanced practice registered nurses and an on-call mental health parole unit — will prove particularly effective in reducing recidivism. He added that the neighborhood for the program’s living facility was carefully selected, and that similar programs in the state have proven effective in recent years.
The house, located in the Dixwell neighborhood, was first approved to be a group living facility back in 2009, according to Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison. Now, the immediate neighborhood and city administration are showing support for the incoming program, she said.
“I think it is a win-win for the city to embrace the reentry population,” she said. “And it’s a win-win for the men and women that are reentering.”
She added that the program is effective in its ability to prepare inmates for discharge while still in prison — something she considers a crucial component of any effective reentry program.
Morrison said she and the community fully support the program, and she does not believe that it will significantly affect the community dynamic.
“The reality is that these programs are very safe,” Lanza said. He added that, according to studies he has read, placing similar programs in targeted areas can increase surrounding property values.
Family ReEntry also has outpatient treatment centers in New Haven and Bridgeport for people on parole. In addition to these facilities, the city has headed an initiative called Project Fresh Start, which City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said has been a major focus in Mayor Toni Harp’s administration. Project Fresh Start provides a variety of resources to formerly imprisoned people, including job resources and education.
“The mayor is committed to trying to help reintegrate former inmates and restore them to productivity in our community,” he said.