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Conn. Advocates Kick Off Month Of Reentry Awareness

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim addresses dozens of guests at the first virtual kick off event for reentry advocacy in February.
Cassandra Bassler
WSHU Public Radio
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim addresses dozens of guests at the first virtual kick off event for reentry advocacy in February.

A new coalition working to help make life easier for people starting over after incarceration has kicked off a month of advocacy events. The Connecticut Reentry Collaborative Policy Working Group wants people who served their time to begin with a clean slate — and they support legislation to do just that.

The Connecticut Reentry Collaborative Policy Working Group, established this year, is made up of service providers and advocates who support progressive reentry policy in Connecticut.

More than 100 advocates and members of the reentry community joined the virtual event Thursday evening. Their goals are to consolidate and coordinate the efforts of stakeholders working on behalf of returning citizens statewide. They discussed how lawmakers could help remove barriers people face when they return home from behind bars.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker celebrated the opening of a one-stop-shop reentry center in Wooster Square. He said it will serve the 900 people who return to the city from incarceration each year.

“When you think about that number it’s astonishing,” Elicker said. “Over 10 years, that’s around 7% of New Haven’s population that are returning citizens. And people that are returning have all kinds of barriers that are put up…”

Elicker said the center will help people with conviction records navigate barriers to housing, employment and health services. He wants more state funding to help.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim applauded the reentry center. He also said he supports the collaborative’s proposed “clean slate” legislation, which would expunge records for some upon release. Ganim spoke about his own experience coming home after seven years in federal prison.

“Even someone who comes from a very large family, not without means, well known, I met obstacles coming back myself,” Ganim said. “They weren’t anywhere near some of the challenges that other individuals have. Whether it’s difficulty getting established with housing discrimination, or substance abuse, but they’re there nonetheless.”

Ganim was convicted of steering city contracts in exchange for gifts during his first tenure as Bridgeport mayor, from the early 1990s to 2000s. He apologized and won reelection as mayor of Bridgeport in 2015 and 2019.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.