Today, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, Waterbury Chief of Police Fernando Spagnolo, Community Partners in Action Executive Director Beth Hines and public officials and participants cut the ribbon on the Greater Waterbury Reentry Welcome Center, 77 Bishop Street, Waterbury, CT 06704.
Since its opening in December 2021, the Reentry Welcome Center served 163 individuals (as of 3/31/2023) who returned home to Waterbury from prison or were already living in the community with a criminal history. The Center serves as a hub offering case management, information, and referrals to 30+ community partners. Participants now have a central location to have their basic needs met and services provided such as housing assistance, employment training and referrals, support groups, family reunification and much more.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary spoke of the inspiration for the new Reentry Center and his steadfast commitment to the people living in the Waterbury community. “Because of the will of the city and the dedicated, compassionate people at Community Partners in Action, we now have a hub where people can get the support they need to move their lives forward in a positive direction, for themselves and for their families.”
Individuals with a criminal record need substantial support to successfully transition from life in the system to life in the community. These individuals have the highest risk of homelessness, joblessness, hospitalizations and may return to crime as a means of survival. Community Partners in Action and the Greater Waterbury Reentry Council, chaired by Beth Hines, aim to fill the service gaps and advocate for those who face a daunting set of challenges in rebuilding their lives after prison. Many of the council members, comprised of state agencies and community partners, provide services for the center’s participants as well.
Beth Hines, Executive Director of Community Partners in Action spoke of the steadfast work of so many who made the welcome center possible, including those who served on the Greater Waterbury Reentry Council.
“The Waterbury Reentry Welcome Center aims to reduce the risks of recidivism through extensive on site and referred services,” said Beth Hines, Executive Director of Community Partners in Action. “The Center would not be possible without the strong partnerships with the City of Waterbury, the Department of Correction and the generous contributions of our funders and donors.”
Tracie Bernardi Guzman is a formerly incarcerated woman who now works as a Case Manager at the Waterbury Reentry Welcome Center. Guzman was released in 2015 after 23 years in prison and was fortunate to have family in the area. She began working at Community Partners in Action in 2022 and was quickly promoted for her ability to draw on her experience to help those she serves. Guzman is a dedicated ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) Smart Justice Leader, where she advocates to end mass incarceration and the inhumane treatment of those in prison.
“I love my job because I relate to participants in a way that a person who has not been justice-impacted might not be able to do,” said Guzman. “I understand what it’s like to be in prison and I do everything I can to ensure that the men and women I serve have as many opportunities as possible, so they don’t ever go back.”
Waterbury Chief of Police Fernando Spagnolo shared his support for the new center and his understanding for those who want to rebuild their life after prison. “It’s frightening to come home to no family or support network,” said Spagnolo. “This Welcome Center will give people a fresh start and hopefully interrupt the cycle of crime.”
Other speakers included Elisha Chornoby, Director of Reentry Services for the Connecticut Department of Correction, State Senator Joan Hartley, Trayvonn Diaz, Senior Outreach Assistant for U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and Samuel Gonzalez who is a participant of the Waterbury Reentry Welcome Center.
The opening was timed to coincide with Second Chance Month, a nationwide effort to raise public awareness about the importance of a successful reentry from the prison system.