Every year in Connecticut, more than 10,000 individuals are released into the community from one of our correctional institutions. Without support, about half will end up back in jail within two years. But with a job, returning citizens are far more likely to become productive members of our communities, reintegrating successfully and living independently without re-offending. That’s why education and job training programs are so important.
CPA has assembled a Collaborative Leadership Team powered by state agencies, respected organizations, training and educational institutions, and socially conscious employers. They all have strong connections to their communities and excellent relationships with other agencies benefitting formerly incarcerated men and women.
Billings Forge Community Works and Zest 280 are two such partners.
Participants start their training in The Kitchen at Billings Forge, Hartford’s premier farm-to-table catering business and café. Their culinary education combines classroom instruction with on-site experiential learning in food handling, cooking methods, plating and presentation, culinary math, facilities management, and more. The full-time, 10-week paid training program yields the industry standard certification required for all food service managers.
Once this initial training is complete, participants move on to a 10-week paid externship at Zest 280, a mission-based eatery in West Hartford owned by Louis Lista, who also owns Pond House Café. Individuals are trained by the Café Manager and Executive Chef in a variety of culinary skills, and by the Lead Server and Operations Manager in front-of-the-house skills.
Once participants have finished the entire program, they receive assistance with job placement, along with nine months of follow-up support and mentoring to help them keep that job. Potential jobs with a living wage include restaurant chefs and positions in university or corporate cafeterias.
Funding from the Foundation enabled CPA to hire a dedicated job developer to build and maintain relationships with employers like Zest 280, and to support their efforts in job training, hiring and retention.
Launching a long-term career builds independence and well-being for the returning citizen and their family. It strengthens Connecticut’s workforce, reduces recidivism and increases public safety. The investment is also highly cost-effective. It costs the state approximately $39,000 annually to incarcerate one person, while the cost of STARR T2W2 is $8,000 per person.
Together, we can give Connecticut’s returning citizens a fair chance to rebuild their life, attain family economic security and contribute to a thriving community.