Earl Bloodworth is our inaugural Re-Imagining Justice Mentor-in-Residence. He’s been supporting the development of the RIJ initiative, and connecting Wesleyan faculty, staff, and students to organizations and partners working on justice across the state of Connecticut. He is currently the Director of the Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs (MIRA) in Bridgeport. Read our first interview with him here.
Join Earl as he facilitates a panel discussion on 10/11 at 4:30pm on Voter Engagement and the Formerly Incarcerated.
Highlights from our most recent interview with Earl:
What work are you currently engaged in locally in Bridgeport, statewide, and the Reimagining Justice Initiative. Why this work?
I have said this many times before, while it cannot be expressed enough that helping people get a fresh start, and second chance programs, are crucial — most of the folks these programs serve never had a first chance. Everyone that has come out from being incarcerated in our criminal legal system has experienced some type of trauma. This trauma may be what landed them in our carceral system initially. They may have been additionally traumatized while incarcerated. This undealt with trauma can lead many to recidivate because they have not healed fully from this trauma and it will continue to impact their lives in a negative fashion.
My reentry department in the city of Bridgeport overseeing the Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs (MIRA) will be focused on solidifying our program delivery supports around Bridgeport Breaking Barriers : providing state IDs, vital documents, and pardon/record expungement to Bridgeport Residents, Bridgeport Families First : where we work from inside the prison to the community by focusing on parents that are incarcerated and their families in the community, voter registration and education, full employment with a living wage for folks that have been impacted by the US criminal legal system, connecting those impacted by the criminal legal system with resources to entrepreneurial training for those seriously looking to start their own business, hiring some new staff to fill any openings in my department, and providing access to absentee ballots to those that are eligible to vote while incarcerated in pre-trial status. I am looking for some assistance with launching MIRA’s data platform, data mining, and analyzing almost two years of files on people we have assisted at MIRA with housing, continuity of care, employment, and other needed reentry resources.
2022 has seen the opening of 3 new reentry welcome centers in the state– located in Bridgeport, Waterbury, and New Britain. This makes a total of 5 Reentry centers in the state for newly released individuals to be warmly reintroduced back into the community and connected to resources upon release. The other two welcome centers are located in Hartford and New Haven respectively.
As a member of the CT Reentry Collaborative Policy and Advocacy Committee I will be working with this statewide body focusing on the lack of housing in the state meeting the needs of the formerly incarcerated and criminal legal system impacted. We will also be focusing on housing leading up to the 2023 legislative session. The Collaborative will look to conduct a day in the life reentry simulation in CT’s Legislative Office Building in the spring of 2023.
The state of Connecticut has been the recipient of a great deal of funding for work force development, training, and education. As a member of the Governor’s Workforce Council, I chair the Diversity Equity inclusion and Accessibility for Reentry Committee. We are developing a strategic plan to leverage these resources for both pre and post release individuals. There is funding for what is being called a vocational village for multiple industry and sector training along with expanded/increased pell grant funding for secondary education. There will also be CDL training to help in addressing the shortage of truck drivers providing a highly sustainable living wage.
There are at least 100,000 open positions and 67,000 unemployed people in the state of Connecticut. For post release individuals, the state of Connecticut is supplying $70 million dollars in federal funding to multiple agencies to ready the formerly incarcerated for the more than 6000 highly skilled positions that local businesses are struggling to hire folks with proper training and qualifications. The $70 million will be divided amongst 19 agencies in various fields under the banner program called Career ConneCT.
My agenda for the rest of my tenure as Mentor-In-Residence is to establish some wrap-around programming that occurs in perpetuity in the fall and spring for newly released participants of CPE programming. I also envision this programming to take place inside for the prerelease and where applicable, for lifer CPE participants as well.
Along with getting this programming up and running, I hope to implement, I will be working with the Jewett Center’s team to assist with planning and execution of at least two to three programs. Currently we are looking to put on a program discussing the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated during this election season. We will also be hosting a workforce development panel discussion – focused on sharing information about resources for employment and training for the reentry population.
You can learn more about the Mentor in-Residence (MIR) program here. If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Bloodworth’s work or explore potential points of collaboration, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.