Hartford Foundation Submits Testimony in Support of Senate Bill 572 An Act Concerning Community Crisis Response Team Programs and Reentry Welcome Centers
The Hartford Foundation submitted testimony to the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee in support of Senate Bill 572, An Act Concerning Community Crisis Response Team programs and Reentry Welcome Centers. The proposed bill establishes an alternative police response program and support for individuals reentering the community from prison.
As part of our efforts to dismantle structural racism and improve social and economic mobility for Black and Latinx residents of Greater Hartford, the Hartford Foundation invests in programs and systems-building to provide education, job training and other support services to returning citizens to support their success and prevent reincarceration.
The Hartford Foundation supports the provision in Senate Bill 572 that would create reentry centers to assist individuals reentering the community from prison.
In December 2017, the Hartford Foundation provided a three-year, $450,000 grant to Community Partners in Action, in collaboration with other nonprofits and government partners, to launch the Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center. The City of Hartford committed in-kind resources, including the Center’s space in Hartford City Hall, located on 550 Main Street, and staff time to provide additional support. This public-private partnership has been working to change the course of the lives of men and women returning home from prison at the end of their sentences.
The Foundation is committed to assessing what works and funded an evaluation of the first year of the Center’s operation that included focus groups of participants in the program. The assessment found that this collaboration is an effective means to ensure that returning citizens are immediately connected to the supports and services that can enable a successful reintegration into the community. The evaluation also revealed the need for additional work and policy changes to provide greater access to vital services such as housing and mental and physical health supports. The evaluation also pointed to the need for improved coordination and data collection among the partners. These findings and recommendations could prove to be a useful blueprint if the state were to create additional reentry welcome centers.
The Foundation also supports SB 572’s call for the creation of a Community Crisis Response Team to limit unneeded contact with law enforcement by dispatching appropriately qualified professionals to respond to 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls related to public assistance financial support, homelessness, substance use disorder and mental health crises.
The Foundation endorses the concept of ensuring that responses to 911 calls serve to deescalate situations and provide residents with the supports needed. In July 2020, the Foundation and the Travelers Championship announced a partnership to co-fund a three-year, $400,000 police training initiative led by the University of New Haven’s Center for Advanced Policing and Tow Youth Justice Institute. The CT Institute for Youth and Police Relations (CIYPR) is designed to enhance training delivered to officers in Greater Hartford to assist them in balancing the demands of public safety and the best interests of Black, Latinx and other diverse youth. The goal of the institute is to build bridges between the police and communities they serve. This program has received extensive support from local police departments throughout Greater Hartford. Their buy-in and commitment are crucial to the long-term success of this important initiative.
While additional community relations efforts are a part of the solution, it is also important to recognize that law enforcement has been asked to take on a wide variety of roles and situations it is not appropriately equipped to handle. As we see growing calls for police reform and social justice, Senate Bill 572 will improve first responses and connecting people with the support and resources they need, that many police officers do not have adequate training, time or resources to provide.