By CSG Justice Center Staff
This Second Chance Month, The Council of State Governments Justice Center staff asked governors from states across the country why reentry is important to them and the communities they govern. Below, find Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s reasons why #ReentryMatters, and check back here for new interviews over the course of the month.
What does reentry mean to you?
Reentry means success for a 25-year-old mentee I met at a specialized program for the emerging adult population, called the TRUE Unit, while visiting a prison in my first month in office. He is in final stages of our mentor program and told me he had to come to prison to get an education. It’s a sad reality, but if we can take this unfortunate moment for people like him and turn it into an opportunity, we all will benefit.
In the past decade, what progress have you seen in your state regarding reentry?
As a new governor, I have great respect for the innovative work that past Connecticut leaders have done to reduce our prison population and prepare people for their return to the community—all while driving crime down. But we have to build on that success. There’s far more work to be done to ensure that Connecticut is as safe and successful as possible.
What issue—or issues—related to reentry do you want to address in your state in 2019?
Connecticut’s economic revival can’t just be about creating opportunities for some people. We need an economy that works for everyone—and that includes people hindered by a criminal record. I understand the hesitation some employers may feel about the risks of hiring someone who has a criminal record. I’ve also heard success stories from businesses that have taken that chance. To improve economic mobility for formerly incarcerated people, and for our state as a whole, we need to reduce not only the stigma surrounding this vulnerable population but also the barriers the government has imposed on them.
Why should an average citizen in your state, not necessarily connected to any part of the criminal justice system, care about reentry?
The success or failure of reentry impacts us all. For too long, many of us viewed public safety as the assurance that people in prison would stay there for as long as possible. Few of us thought about what that meant for the 95 percent of people in prison who would eventually return to their communities. Public safety means supporting people leaving incarceration and giving them a fair chance to succeed, to support families, and to contribute to our economy and society. If that’s not offered, it’s unreasonable to assume that anything will change. And that change is something we all have a stake in.
If you could say something directly to a person on the verge of leaving prison or jail and reentering society, what would you tell them?
There’s hope. Connecticut is committed to identifying ways to make sure your return from incarceration is supported by treatment and training, and not impeded by unnecessary barriers. It’s a two-way street, and your commitment to change is critical. I’m confident we can work together to create a better life for you and your family.