Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Second Chance Society — a collection of programs and legislation to reduce incarceration and decrease crime — advanced this month with the opening of the state’s first reintegration program for women.
Malloy announced the creation of the reintegration program, which began Feb. 1 at the York Correctional Institute, last week. The program accommodates up to 68 inmates and now provides 56 offenders with a full schedule of activities to acclimate them to civilian life, such as trauma counseling, job training and yoga, said Karen Martucci, director of external affairs for the Connecticut Department of Corrections. She added that programming, which can last for weeks, months or even years before release, aims to reduce the state’s recidivism rate. According to a 2012 study from the state Department of Correction, 79 percent of inmates were rearrested within five years of their release and 50 percent returned to prison with a new sentence.
“Most of the ladies said this wasn’t their first time in jail, but they really felt that they had a chance and that people were rallying around them,” Martucci said. “Of course it has only been a couple of weeks in, but if you have already impacted the way they feel then you’re halfway there.”
Though Martucci witnessed immediate emotional gains in the inmates, data regarding the success of the program in preventing recidivism will not be definitive for another three years — the time span during which most recidivism occurs, Martucci said. She added that the programming also aims to decrease the number of women incarcerated, which has remained constant at 430 inmates in the state while male incarceration has decreased over the past several years.
The York Reintegration Center is the third such program that Malloy has launched since he took office. In April 2015, the state launched the Cybulski Community Reintegration Center at the all-men Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institute in Enfield, Connecticut. Seven months later, Malloy announced the creation of a reintegration program for incarcerated veterans in the same facility.
Around 40 inmates at Cybulski have signed up for Project Fresh Start — a state-funded program that helps former inmates secure jobs, housing, health care and other services in the Elm City. Program Manager Clifton Graves said Malloy has also indicated to state activists that he will soon open a fourth reintegration program in the state for young adults aged 18 to 25.
“We’re excited about this,” Graves said. “It reaffirms that the state government, through Gov. Malloy’s Second Chance acts, is giving serious consideration and action to their words.”
Prison commissioners in the state adopted this model from a similar one in Ohio that yielded lower rates of behavioral issues during incarceration, Martucci said. She added that the reintegration programs have also been cost-efficient because they concentrate re-entry staff and all of the inmates ready for release and into one unit.
She added that the York Reintegration Center’s budget also benefits from its number of volunteers — the most of any other prison in the state. Volunteers run many of the program’s offerings, such as religious groups, crafting and yoga classes, she said.
Yale students hoping to join those volunteers can mentor through the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project. YUPP Co-President Simone Seiver ’17 said the organization runs a mentorship program at York Correctional Institution.
In the last seven years, the prison population in Connecticut has dropped by 19 percent, according to the Connecticut Department of Corrections.