Hedy Tung, Staff Photographer

EMERGE Connecticut partnered with Dwight Hall in a Tuesday event to discuss preventive measures against reincarceration in the New Haven community.

EMERGE supports previously incarcerated individuals with reentering their community through paid training in construction work — the organization is a certified and fully insured home improvement contractor. EMERGE and Dwight Hall collaborated in the Zoom webinar, titled “Ending the Incarceration Cycle: Finding your Role in Local Communities.” During the event, former Yale employee and now EMERGE Supervisor and Peer Mentor Maurice Keitt; Assistant Supervisor and former crew member at EMERGE Tabari Hashim and EMERGE Executive Director Alden Woodcock engaged in conversations about their experiences as incarcerated individuals reentering society.

“[EMERGE] is like a human beings’ organization,” Woodcock said at the event, emphasizing that EMERGE is unlike other employers. “We’re not developing a workforce.”

Only 14 percent of EMERGE crew members — people who participate in EMERGE programs — find themselves reincarcerated two years after release. According to the most recent statistics, in 2014, Connecticut’s recidivism rate was at 34 percent.

Woodcock added that EMERGE’s philosophy is centered around the fact that a job is not enough to keep an individual from engaging in the “same patterns of behavior as a result of various traumas and experiences.” Woodcock hopes EMERGE can be a place where people can start to heal from the trauma of incarceration.

EMERGE works with crew members through a coaching framework, where incarcerated individuals are mentored while simultaneously taking on paid jobs that the organization helps them find. The coaching addresses employment, housing, food insecurity, education and emotional needs of participating individuals. EMERGE believes that fulfilling these needs will lower the chances of reincarceration. 

Hashim said that the job application processes he faced after being released from parole were arduous and made reentry difficult. His parole officer then recommended that he interview with EMERGE.

Still, Hashim said that despite the economic security his job at EMERGE provided, he most valued the emotional support EMERGE provided for “healing.”

“I know I can do what I need to do to rise to my greatness and awaken my greatness,” Hashim said. “That’s how I feel like the program is. It [is] just assisting you to be whoever you want to be to spread your wings, but it’s doing it in a healthy, in a comfortable, relaxed state.”

Keitt agreed, stating that his personal tie to the organization is rooted in how he is now able to tap into personal experiences and trauma to help others navigate their own trauma. 

Hashim emphasized the need for a receptive environment — and one where they do not face homelessness and job insecurity — for formerly incarcerated individuals in order to prevent those individuals from recommitting past crimes or similar crimes. He said that EMERGE provides such an environment, where the community pushes participants to be the best version of themselves.

At the start of the talk, Joseph Gaylin ’19, advocate-in-residence for Dwight Hall, commented on the state’s racially disproportionate incarceration rates. He said that approximately 72 percent of Connecticut’s incarcerated population come from communities of color.

EMERGE was founded in 2011.

Razel Suansing | razel.suansing@yale.edu