On Thursday, January 25, 2018, Hartford Foundation Director of Grants and Partnership Investments Judy McBride submitted remarks on the BEST Chance Program to the Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission. Below is her full testimony.
Remarks on the BEST Chance Program
Before the Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
January 25, 2018
Good morning, Chairman Lawlor, and distinguished members of the Commission. Thank you for the time you have allotted to again review progress of the BEST Chance program. This Commission well represents
all the public safety, justice system, victim support and other essential
mental health, substance abuse, employment services we know need to be involved in justice system reform, and especially reentry programs.
My name is Judy McBride, Director of a Grants and Partnership Investments at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. As the community foundation for the Greater Hartford region, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving serves hundreds of nonprofits and more than 750,000 residents in 29 towns. We are committed to ensuring that all residents in the region can thrive and contribute to the prosperity of the region and state. As part of this commitment, the foundation has supported reentry programs since 2007, in addition to long-standing support to related community programs that serve people released from prison and their families.
The Hartford Foundation has supported BEST Chance since its launch in 2015, addressing gaps in services to complement state resources. The foundation increased participant stipends so people have some modest financial support during job training, and helped nonprofits to provide job retention services, which you know are important in promoting long-term success once people secure employment. More recently, we provided bridge funding to sustain this effort while state funding decisions were pending.
We recognize how incarceration affects the economic and emotional health of families. We know that many people who experience incarceration have children, and without proper support, research shows that their children can be more likely to become involved in the justice system. We see the ripple effect unsuccessful reentry has on families and community in our region.
The foundation fully recognizes, however, that no one entity or sector can do this work alone, and the need to continue to partner with state and local government and nonprofits to support best practices, track outcomes, and ensure that adjustments are made based on data, including the perspectives of people served in the programs. The public/private partnerships BEST Chance has developed have demonstrated promising results, and if adequate resources do not continue, those partnerships and the staffing lost are difficult to reestablish, and we lose one of our best opportunities to effectively serve returning citizens.
Connecticut needs a continued and sustainable public and private sector commitment to BEST Chance and related programs, as well as a commitment to effective coordination across programs and funding streams that impact returning residents. Collectively, we can be strategic about how we weave together existing and new resources, like the new Reentry Welcome Center in the City of Hartford recently funded by the foundation. Community Partners in Action is working with the City of Hartford, Capital Workforce Partners, Department of Correction, Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Branch, the Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division of the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, and other public/private partners to implement the new Center. The goal is to provide returning citizens immediate access to basic services and referrals to other programs, including the BEST Chance program, when they first return to the community.
Reflecting on research, we also know that individuals returning back to their communities after incarceration need different levels of support. One approach does not fit all--and can drive up costs. We urge the Commission to continue to recommend adequate pre-release needs assessment as an essential component for ensuring that programs needed are timely, relevant and cost-effective.
We appreciate working in partnership with all of you to ensure that all our residents can thrive and contribute to Connecticut's economic growth.