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New Haven bets no strings attached $500 monthly payment will lower recidivism

A gate at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, CT. Photo taken April 1, 2020.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A gate at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Conn., April 1, 2020.

A Connecticut nonprofit is betting that $500 per month in guaranteed income will help keep the formerly incarcerated from returning to prison.

The organization known as 4-CT is partnering with the city of New Haven and other organizations on a pilot program providing $500 per month to 20 formerly incarcerated people for one year.

The money is distributed through a series of prepaid, refillable Mastercards.

The program launched in March, according to 4-CT Executive Director Sarah Blanton. “We’re only one month in,” Blanton said, “but most of the money has already been allocated, and we will ... continue to track both the spending patterns and the experiences of these individuals.”

Blanton said the group receiving the money will meet with her every three months for check-in interviews and will fill out surveys about their housing, employment, mental health and other indicators. The goal, Blanton said, is to track recidivism.

“Hoping that there's nothing,” Blanton said. "We'll be tracking these 20 people over the 12 months with hopes that the results are as good as we’ve heard and seen in other pilots so that we can make the case to expand this and bring in additional cohorts.”

The money comes strictly from donations. No taxpayer funds of any kind are used. Blanton said the mayors of Hartford, Waterbury and Middletown have reached out to 4-CT and expressed interest the implementing a similar stipend program for new parolees.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.