(WFSB) -- Reentry into society after you’ve been in prison can be tough.
Getting a job, a place to live, emotional support, it can be challenging. However, some people go on to make valuable contributions to their communities.
In fact, there’s a program called The Great Eight that honors people who have turned their lives around and are now giving back.
“I found myself in federal prison for 10 years,” said Tiheba Bain.
Before she went to prison in 2002 and served a decade for dealing drugs, she promised herself she would come out a better person.
“I was sitting at home and I was holding my two babies and I realized I’m not going to see them for a long time if ever again. And I said if I ever get a chance, I’m never going to do this again. My life has to change,” Bain.
Tiheba founded a nonprofit organization called Women Against Mass Incarceration, which mentors women when they get out of prison.
“We are the last person to be considered for employment, the last person to be considered for apartments,” she explained. “The reason is the taboo, the stigma with being formerly incarcerated.”
Bain’s work has earned her the honor of being part of The Great Eight, which honors eight people from Connecticut, all formerly incarcerated, who’ve gone on to make substantial contributions in their communities.
It’s a recognition of four men and four women who’ve turned their lives around and are giving back.
Bain’s name and the seven others are part of the Connecticut Hall of Change exhibit at the Old New Gate Prison, which is now a museum in East Granby.
There is a certain poignancy that the former inmates are now being recognized at a museum that was once a prison.
Their names on a wall being honored for their contributions to society, something they probably never imagined when they were sitting in their cells.
“To be a part of the Great Eight and the Connecticut Hall of Change it became surreal at the time of induction and I am so grateful,” said Kelvin Young, a Great Eight honoree.
The Great Eight and the Connecticut Hall of Change is the brainchild of Charlie Grady. He works for the FBI and is a retired Hamden detective. The nonprofit is his passion in his free time.
“Not only have they overcome those challenges, but blew those challenges out the water and have done extremely positive things in the communities that often times they once created havoc in,” Grady explained.
During his career, Grady put a lot of people in jail. Now, he’s helping former inmates when they get out. He says it all started back in 1993 when he arrested a drug dealer.
“He sat at his kitchen table and cried like a baby about having to go back to jail and he swore that this was the last time that he would ever do such a thing. He says ‘if I can only sort of reverse this and change my path.’ He says ‘I promise I will never be involved with this again and I promise to do great things,” Grady said.
The man’s words changed how Grady saw his role as a peace officer.
“And I said ‘listen, when you are done with all of this that happens, whatever it may be, if you truly mean you want to turn your life around, I’ll be here waiting for you and I will help you turn your life around’,” Grady explained.
When he got out, Grady was waiting.
“I was there, and I helped him to reestablish himself. I helped him to get a new job. To get training as a tractor trailer operator and he now owns several trucks and he’s all over the country, owns his own home, the whole bit,” he said.
The Connecticut Hall of Change will soon be inducting new Great Eight members for 2021, and the program is expected to expand nationwide, honoring people in every state who’ve rebuilt their lives in exemplary ways and have refused to let prior bad decisions define the rest of their lives.
Channel 3 had met up with Bain and Grady at the Legacy Theater in Branford where they are rehearsing for a series of plays to be held there called Expanded Voices. Some of the Great Eight are cast members and will tell their stories through monologues.