Within the walls of a building in Hartford is the business of turnarounds.
“I was addicted to drugs for almost five years and I ended up going to jail and getting incarcerated for almost two years,” Cassandra Johnson said.
Johnson says the work she did with Community Partners in Action during the last nine months of her incarceration gave her the hope she needed for life after being released.
“I felt like I was getting a second chance. I was doing what I needed to do and they were giving me a second chance at building my life back up again,” Johnson said.
After her release, Johnson was able to continue her career as a cook, landing a job as kitchen manager at Market Grill.
Since 2018, the Re-Entry Welcome Center in Hartford has helped 1,000 formerly incarcerated people re-enter society at its City Hall location, and Friday, it expanded to a location on Windsor Street.
“When God brings the blessings he just allows me to hand them out,” said George Dillon, Lead Case Manager at the Re-Entry Welcome Center.
Dillon calls the center a one-stop shop for inmates who can now be dropped off by the Department of Correction to the center’s front door, helping them with basic needs immediately.
“Everybody knows you when you’re in prison clothes, so we make sure you’re able to change out of there so you return to being a citizen and you are no longer an inmate,” Dillon said.
The center also provides ongoing support services like employment, housing, healthcare, behavioral health, and recovery support.
“Everybody deserves a second chance,” Johnson said.
A second chance that Johnson says is a testament to the staff supporting and believing in people just like her.
“When all this happened I was like 'you have a career, you have assets, you have ambition, you have optimism. Use it. Don’t waste it, because you have people out here that you could be an inspiration for,'” Johnson said.