6:30 a.m. – Janette is dropped at the front steps of the court house where she received her sentence. The same stairs she climbed the day she lost her freedom she now sits upon unsure of what to do next. She’s been released and is no longer the responsibility of the DOC. With no money in her pocket or family support, her choices are limited at best. In her hand she grasps onto her only option, a letter from Community Partners in Action, informing her of her acceptance into the Resettlement Program. The slow moving prison system has prevented her from receiving her first meeting with her case manager; however, she’s heard from the other women inmates that all the gals in Resettlement go to the Women’s Y. It takes her all day by foot but she finds her way across Hartford and into the shelter.
6:30 a.m. – Wake up call for Michelle. She now has thirty minutes to get herself ready and her bed made before breakfast. She hears house staff as they continue down the hall banging on hollow wooden doors, stirring the rest of the halfway house’s inmates. She sits up in her bunk bed and looks out the window; although there are no bars there is little difference between her stay here at the Hartford House and her previous at York Correctional Institute.
Both of these women have criminal histories. Both of them are in alternative housing. Neither of them have options.
Janette successfully navigated her way to safety, armed only with her letter of acceptance. She convinces the shelter staff that she is a member of the Resettlement Program. She soon finds herself at the Mart House, a voluntary transitional house that works with ex-offenders dealing with mental illness and/or substance abuse. The average stay is about sixteen months but there is no move-out deadline. Janette will be welcome to stay as long as it takes for her to gain psychological and financial stability.
Community Partners in Action was established in 1875. Originally named Friends of the Prisoners Society, it was the first organization in Connecticut to address reentry issues. Mark Twain held a spot on the first Board of Advisors.
The Mart’s House is old and large, with lots of space, allowing the women to feel comfortable and secure. The walls in the common areas are coated in cheerful colors and covered with framed art. Maximum capacity is eight women. Here they have their own rooms, cabinets in the kitchen and racks in the refrigerator. They voluntarily enroll themselves in the program and the support services that accompany it.
There are a few rules: no cars (only public transportation), no visitors, plenty of required meetings, and, of course, a curfew. The house manager is the only full-time staff member at the house, so self regulation is crucial to the success of the house.
The most significant difference between the Resettlement Program and others like it around the state is that the case workers enter the prison and build a relationship with their clients six months prior to release.
“When you sit across from a person [who is incarcerated] who is really naked, transparent, you can really see them. You see them without the makeup and the earrings and the clothes, sometimes that stuff defines who a person is. You get a real good look at this person,’’ says the house manager.
When people perceive the police acting in an unfair and biased manner, they will tend to have less trust in police.