The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving submitted the following testimony to the state legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee on Thursday, February 16, 2017.
Testimony Regarding Bill No. 6219, An Act Concerning Community Reentry By Persons Who Were Incarcerated.
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Labor and Public Employees Committee
February 16, 2017
Good afternoon, Senator Gomes, Senator Miner, Representative Porter, and members of the Labor and Public Employees Services Committee:
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region. We are the largest community foundation in Connecticut, and among the largest 20 community foundations in the country. With a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region, we have long prioritized investments in programs and systems-building to provide education, job training and other support services to reentering citizens to enable them to participate in the workforce.
Bill 6219 recognizes the critical need to provide adequate supports to reentering citizens to prevent recidivism and enable these individuals to contribute to Connecticut’s economic prosperity. We urge the Committee to consider how such efforts will build upon existing public/private collaborative, holistic approaches. To ensure long-term success, training and employment programming must be coupled with a variety of supports such as stipends, counseling, transportation, case management and job retention services.
According to a recent report issued by the Malta Justice Initiative, Connecticut’s recidivism rate has been as high as 67 percent and still remains over 50 percent, well above the national average of 43 percent. According to the City of Hartford's Returning Citizen's workgroup, approximately 23% of the 16,594 offenders residing in Connecticut Department of Correction facilities declared Hartford as their town of residence, making Hartford home to a disproportionate number of the Connecticut prison population. Of those incarcerated Hartford residents, people of color are disproportionately represented. About 52% are black, and over 42% are Latino. Juveniles and transitional age offenders represent a large share: 22% of all incarcerated Hartford residents are between the ages of 14 and 25, and residents age thirty and under represent over 50% of all incarcerated Hartford residents. Similar to many urban communities, these residents return to communities challenged by poverty and inequitable access to opportunity. National research and our work in the Greater Hartford region confirm that reentering citizens are likely to return to prison because they lack access to adequate supports that can provide them with basic needs and access to education and job training necessary to obtain employment.
The Foundation has provided supplemental funding to enhance state and federal programs in our region targeted to reentering citizens to prevent recidivism. These efforts have provided individuals with jobs and other supports such as substance abuse counseling, stipends, and job coaching to support participants during job training, recruitment, hiring and retention. Specific examples include:
There are opportunities to explore many other credentialing programs in areas where individuals could obtain higher paying jobs. Unfortunately some of these currently prohibit previously incarcerated people from obtaining certain occupational licenses. We urge the Committee to eliminate blanket prohibitions and develop more specific criteria that considers both the nature of the crime and length of time since the conviction that would allow the state and other organizations to open additional opportunities for reentering citizens to contribute to our state’s economy.
We know that the state faces significant long-term financial challenges, and efforts to preserve and even increase support for this type of programming is a wonderful example of a commitment to reducing recidivism and giving reentering citizens a second chance. Successful reform efforts, coupled with changes in sentencing, are already reducing Connecticut’s prison population. There exists new opportunity for these savings to build on successful current efforts and contribute to programming that reentering citizens need to be successful.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.