Sara Seymour

After receiving $2.3 million worth of grants to curb recidivism in the state of Connecticut, local and state officials spoke about their plans going forward at a press conference Wednesday.

Mayor Toni Harp welcomed Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Gov. Dannel Malloy to City Hall, highlighting the progress of Connecticut’s “Second Chance Society,” a grant that aims to cut Connecticut recidivism by half in five years. Harp also drew attention to the $1 million grant awarded to New Haven’s Project Fresh Start program this year — funding which also aims to cut the number of former criminals returning to prison. Connecticut’s six Second Chance Act grants make up 23 percent of the $53 million awarded to states and organizations across the country. New Haven received the largest Second Chance grant of any city that applied, despite being the smallest city that applied for a grant.

“These federal grants very closely align with our Second Chance Society initiatives to reduce crime, reduce recidivism and ends the school to prison pipeline,” Malloy said at the press conference. “These efforts are focused on breaking the cycle of crime. We cannot be a perpetually punitive society.”

The six federal Department of Justice grants were awarded to two state departments, local organizations, a clinic and the city’s Project Fresh Start, which aims to cut recidivism by half in five years by partnering former prisoners returning to the community with up to three reintegration centers, depending on the individual’s needs.

The State Department of Corrections received nearly $100,000 in Second Chance grant funding for their 12-month strategic plan to reduce recidivism by 10 percent in two years and 50 percent in five years. Additionally, the state’s Office of Policy and Management and the University of New Haven’s Tow Youth Justice Institute were awarded $190,000 for their joint application for a project to improve outcomes for juveniles under community supervision.

Emily Wang, School of Medicine professor and co-founder of Transitions Clinic Network, was awarded $258,113 to focus on the health care needs of those reentering the community from prison. Family ReEntry Inc., a nonprofit organization, received $420,000 to help young fathers transition back to family life. Families in Crisis Inc., another nonprofit, received $366,881 to expand services for children who have an incarcerated parent reentering the community.

Other city and state organizations have been awarded funding to work towards reducing recidivism through grants not associated with the federal Department of Justice.

During the press conference, Malloy, Blumenthal and President Pro Tempore of the State Senate Martin Looney each stressed their pride in Connecticut for being a leader in criminal justice reform.

After the conference, Blumenthal told the News that New Haven has been a leader in curbing recidivism by helping former criminals build new lives after prison, with the help of community networks, skills training and drug abuse treatment.

“Reintegration of nonviolent offenders is a priority in New Haven because it unites families, it rebuilds trust and faith and restores men and women to becoming contributing, productive members of this community,” Harp said at the press conference. “We know now what reintegration requires in terms of providing opportunities, programs, training and counseling, as necessary.”

Fifty-five organizations have partnered with New Haven’s Project Fresh Start.