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Testimony Regarding HB 5531 An Act Concerning Enhanced Employment Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals

On Wednesday, March 28,  Hartford Foundation for Public Giving offered testimony to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee in support of House Bill 5531, An Act Concerning Enhanced Employment Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals. 

Historically, the Foundation has supported a broad range of community programs that serve people released from prison and their families.  We recognize that returning citizens have a variety of needs that must be met in order to successfully reintegrate back into their communities including securing job training, basic literacy and other educational supports, job placement, housing, and issues related to sobriety or physical and mental health. The Foundation has provided nearly $800,000 in support of the Second Chance Integrated Basic Skills and Education Training & Employment through the IBEST Second Chance Society Initiative since its launch in 2015. Many of the Greater Hartford reentry efforts require public and private partnerships.  Our shared interest is to ensure that returning citizens have the support needed to transition successfully to prevent returning to prison.  In December 2017, the Foundation funded a new reentry welcome center in Hartford, designed to coordinate services across providers of reentry services to support immediate access to basic services. Returning citizens are also one of the populations served  in the Hartford Foundation’s $4.5 million Career Pathways Initiative which is working to increase the job skills and employment of low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents of the Greater Hartford region through nine cross-sector collaborations.

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Testimony Regarding House Bill 5531, An Act Concerning Enhanced Employment Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals. 
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Judiciary Committee
March 28, 2018

Good afternoon Senator Doyle, Senator Kissel, Representative Tong, Representative Rebimbas and esteemed members of the Judiciary Committee, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving appreciates this opportunity to testify in support of House Bill 5531, An Act Concerning Enhanced Employment Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals. 

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.  Historically, the Foundation has supported a broad range of community programs that serve people released from prison and their families.  We recognize that returning citizens have a variety of needs that must be met in order to successfully reintegrate back into their communities including securing job training, basic literacy and other educational supports, job placement, housing, and issues related to sobriety or physical and mental health.

The Foundation has provided nearly $800,000 in support of the Second Chance Integrated Basic Skills and Education Training & Employment through the IBEST Second Chance Society Initiative since its launch in 2015. Many of the Greater Hartford reentry efforts require public and private partnerships.  Our shared interest is to ensure that returning citizens have the support needed to transition successfully to prevent returning to prison. 

In December 2017, the Foundation funded a new reentry welcome center in Hartford, designed to coordinate services across providers of reentry services to support immediate access to basic services, including housing.  This requires collaboration.  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 are to implement the new Center to support immediate access to basic services for returning citizens. 

The Hartford reentry welcome center emerged from a year-long planning process to establish a community resource that will support former offenders returning to Greater Hartford.  A critical aspect of the planning effort included providing additional research on reentry challenges, developed by engaging people who have returned to the community, to inform further our knowledge of supports in place and what is missing. Returning citizens participating in the study prioritized needing food, housing, employment, clothing and healthcare.

Returning citizens are also one of the populations served in the Hartford Foundation’s $4.5 million Career Pathways Initiative which is working to increase the job skills and employment of low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents of the Greater Hartford region through nine cross-sector collaborations. This effort seeks to:

  • Build and refine career pathways for low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents.
  • Support and promote partnerships across sectors to develop career pathways for low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents.
  • Foster an integrated career pathway system to respond to workforce needs of low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents.

Informed by these efforts, the Foundation asks Connecticut policymakers to consider the following:

  • Develop tools to assist workforce development providers in establishing strong employer relationships to hire and support workers’ transition to employment.
  • Provide workforce development programs with access to access to quality data and evaluation tools.
  • Recognize that programs designed to serve low-skilled, low-literacy individuals not typically served by workforce development programs require additional resources and services and may have lower success rates.
  • Provide support for intensive case management and job retention services that are vital components of high-quality workforce training for low-skilled workers.
  • Provide resources to address the costs of remaining out of the workforce during training, such as stipends, subsidized employment, and childcare.
  • Design workforce programs as a “pipeline” to specific employment sector or employer partner offer great promise for employment success.

The public/private partnerships in the BEST Chance and Career Pathways programs have generated positive results, and informed our collective knowledge of what it takes to implement successful programs.  The reentry welcome center has the potential to help us more effectively and efficiently address the individual needs of returning citizens by providing immediate access to services.  One approach does not fit all--and can drive up costs. Connecticut needs a continued and sustainable public and private sector commitment for reentry programs, as well as a commitment to effective coordination across programs and funding streams that affect returning residents.

We appreciate working in partnership with all of you to ensure that all our residents can thrive and contribute to Connecticut’s growth.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. 


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