Reentry Welcome Center in Hartford helps those looking for a second chance

Reentry Welcome Center in Hartford helps those looking for a second chance
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - More resources are in place for incarcerated people returning to their communities.

A new and expanded re-entry welcome center just opened its doors in Hartford Friday.

The center is helping connect people home from incarceration with jobs and housing.

The previous re-entry welcome center was at City Hall and had limited space.

This new building here on Windsor Street is much bigger and can connect people with more resources.

“When I got incarcerated, and I was just at the bottom,” said Cassandra Johnson.

Johnson was incarcerated for two years.

While spending time behind bars, she knew she wanted to turn her life around for her son and for herself.

“I did everything I could to pick myself back up. I took programs,” said Johnson.

She was connected with the group Community Partners in Action and got enrolled in the re-entry program.

Today, she’s no longer using drugs and has a steady job.

“It gave me a second chance at life. Which I feel like everybody deserves. It’s not about who you used to be. It’s who you wanna be,” Johnson said.

Since 2018, Hartford’s Re-Entry Welcome Center has helped more than 1,000 individuals returning to the community after being incarcerated.

Its new center opened at 716 Windsor Street.

“When folks were coming back to the city of Hartford before the reentry welcome center opened, all too often the department of corrections would drop them off at a coroner in Hartford with no resources, no connection to resources. Nowhere to go,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

The center offers people coming home from incarceration basic needs, job training, and recovery support.

The new, larger location has a computer lab where people can search for jobs and learn vital computer skills.

“If you continue in the same down slope, you’re not going nowhere. If you continue to grow, the doors open up,” said Peter Diaz.

The Re-Entry Welcome Center helped Diaz after he spent 18 months incarcerated.

He wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to improve himself.

“I said imma grow, mi gonna change my way of thinking the way I speak,” said Diaz.

The new building symbolizes hope for those who want to turn their lives around.

Johnson said she’s proud of how far she’s come as she continues working towards building a better life.

“I always think about the things I went through when I was incarcerated. That’s what makes me push forward each day to be better out here in the community and society,” Johnson said.

The new building received a grant from the Department of Justice.

It’s also getting money from American Rescue dollars.