Connecticut organizations push for a second chance

April is Second Chance Month to help raise awareness of the barriers faced by people with criminal records.

HARTFORD, Conn. — April is the month of second chances. This is a national effort to raise awareness of the barriers faced by people with criminal records and to better unlock and provide second chance opportunities to reintegrate into society.

Antonio Rivera knows all about second chances and points out that crimes and shootings aren’t worth it. He shared his story with FOX61 and said he spent most of his life inside and outside of prison.

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“I was a gang member, stubborn, and I didn’t want to listen to anyone, stubborn,” Rivera enumerated.

However, two years ago things changed. He chose a different path and walked into the Hartford Reentry Visitor Center at City Hall when he came out.

“I made the decision to change my life,” Rivera said.

Community Partners in Action (CPA) runs the Reentry program, which has been around since 1975. It is one of the oldest organizations in the country, offering a range of resources to those coming out of prison.

“Our goal is really to prepare them and welcome them back to their community because it is their community,” explained director of operations Deborah Rogala. “We work with human beings; we don’t work with numbers; we work with people who deserve a second chance, and when we do that everyone benefits.”

Due to the continued need for services and resources, Community Partners in Action will move into a larger space on Monday, April 18, from City Hall to 716 Windsor Street in Hartford. Rogala explained that this would allow the reintegration reception center to expand its services.

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“What’s fantastic is that we’re going to work with anyone coming out of prison on anyone with a criminal record,” Rogala said.

Rogala stressed that reintegration programs are essential as they help reduce recidivism and improve public safety.

“It’s really that web that everyone benefits from when someone is successful,” Rogala said.

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It’s a second chance for which Rivera is now on the front line.

“It was a blessing; it was a defiant blessing,” Rivera explained passionately. “To have that opportunity and make them believe in you, and give them the time to help you get through life.”

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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