“Family ReEntry” feeling sting of state budget stalemate

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The state budget stand off in Hartford is now taking a toll on programs to help those residents coming out of prison.  We told you earlier in the week about non-profit agencies that help the disabled who are feeling the pinch. There’s another segment of the population that’s being hit by this; people trying to make the transition back into society.

As of the week of Sept. 30, there are about 14,200 inmates in the Connecticut Correction System. This is down from nearly 20,000 less than a decade ago. It’s expected it will be down another 200 to 300 in the next few months. This means there are thousands of former inmates around the state attempting to make the transition to life on the outside.

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One that has successfully made the transition is 50-year-old Daee McKnight of Bridgeport. He spent 17-and-a-half years in prison and has been out for 12. He now works with 18 to 24-year-old inmates at Cheshire for the non profit agency known as “Family ReEntry.” McKnight says, “We are promoted as a premier ‘Second Chance State,’ but there’s been a lot of funding cuts that have really hurt us as far as being able to carry out that idea.”

61-year-old Jeff Grant is also a former inmate. He’s the executive director of the eight “Family ReEntry” programs around the state. He notes that non residential behavioral programs were closed across the state following last year’s spending cuts, saying, “It’s a great paradox that we’re reducing prison populations in the thousands but people are on the streets now and they’re not getting the services the need and it’s just a count down until they go back to prison.”

Compounding the crisis at nonprofits like “Family ReEntry,” the budget stalemate is coming at a time when donations and corporate giving appears to be drying up.

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“We have gone, ‘Family ReEntry’ specifically, from having more of a fifty-fifty split in terms of our private donations and government to being very, very dependent on government money now,” said Angela Medina, the Director of Domestic Violence Programs and Grant Development for the agency.

Even with limited funds “Family ReEntry” says they’re doing their best to continue to provide mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence programs, as well as housing assistance, and some soft skill training for employment.

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