Exclusive: Education program gives incarcerated individuals a second chance

April is Second Chance Month - a time to help people and communities across the country recognize the importance of re-entry programs for individuals who are incarcerated.

Mark Sudol

Apr 28, 2023, 9:29 PM

Updated 387 days ago

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April is Second Chance Month - a time to help people and communities across the country recognize the importance of re-entry programs for individuals who were incarcerated.
Inside Garner Correctional Institution, a level 4 high security prison in Newtown, 14 men are taking the necessary steps toward a better life.
"I'm in here for accessory to murder. It happened when I was a young kid. I made a mistake and I'm here doing time now," says Christian Bonilla-Jusino, from Bristol.
"I feel bad. I took somebody's life that didn't deserve it over my insecurity of being, excuse my language, of being an idiot, stupid," says Edwin Cabrera, from Bridgeport.
They are each serving separate sentences on unrelated crimes for a combined total of 87 years.
"You know, once you hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up," says Bonilla-Jusino.
They are navigating a once not so clear path to a path of progress by taking part in a program called the Second Chance Pell Experiment through Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.
"It's the highlight, you know, of my days," says Bonilla-Jusino.
"I never thought I'd be going to school, going to college, doing something better to help myself, to better myself so that's good," says Cabrera.
Charles Meyrick started teaching these classes in August.
"I hope that the education is a blessing to them, but the teaching is a blessing to me. So, I can go home with a feeling of real accomplishment at the end of the day because I've made a difference in somebody whose life needs a difference to be made," said Meyrick.
Educators say the numbers are staggering for programs like this in reducing the number of re-offenders.
"Eighty-six percent of those individuals who earn an associate degree, they go out and do their thing and they are contributing citizens to the economy, to our society," said Housatonic Community College President Dwayne Smith.
The men in this class will be earning an associate degree, but it will take several years.
"Hopefully start my own business one day," says Cabrera.
Some of these students have little to no education. They say they are grateful for a second chance.
"It changes your life. It helps you, it helps you out a lot. It makes you feel better about yourself," says Cabrera.
"It's just a blessing to be able to go to school and be presented this opportunity, because in here, you don't get many opportunities," says Bonilla-Jusino.
Educators say individuals who are incarcerated and have a four-year degree or a master's decrease their chances of recidivism even more.
Housatonic Community College is one of several schools across the state participating in the Second Chance Pell Experiment.


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