6th Annual Hartford Job Fair for formerly incarcerated people

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6th Annual Hartford Job Fair for formerly incarcerated people

A few weeks ago, I attended the 6th annual Hartford job fair for formerly incarcerated people. Who knew there was such a thing?

It was my first, but it was attended by dozens of returning employers, large and small, and a breakfast panel of employers and State officials all extolling the virtues of giving a highly motivated former inmate the 2nd Chance that they so desperately want and need.

We heard from the owner of The Pond House Cafe, Louis Lista, who trains formerly incarcerated people in his kitchen there, and then hires them either there or in his new project, the Zest 280 Cafe on Park Street in West Hartford, which is entirely staffed by these graduates.

Cheryl McDonald from Bear's Smokehouse, whose staff is now about half formerly incarcerated people, spoke glowingly about her experience hiring formerly incarcerated people.

Commissioner Semple from the Department of Corrections was there as a full supporter of many kinds of anti-recidivism efforts and spoke about progress in recent years. The D.O.C. has converted considerable resources to pre-release programs designed to prepare and support incarcerated people as they are released and reintegrated into society.

We also heard from formerly incarcerated people themselves, speaking about how the opportunities they received changed their lives.

These included panel participant Daryl McGraw, a Board Member of 2nd Chance Planet who spent a total of 10 years in CT prisons before deciding to do something more productive, and then in just five years, got a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in counseling, a drug and alcohol counselor certification, and got hired in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services where he is now Director of the Office of Recovery, Community Affairs. On the side, he is starting a halfway house for returning citizens in New London. Daryl is an amazing person and dynamic speaker and got a standing ovation. We are so lucky to have him on our Board.

We took about 25 job applications at the fair, and expect to be hiring one or two of the applicants as soon as the purchase of Value Office is complete.

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  • Gregory Spear
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