HBJ: Nonprofits say state funding boost would save taxpayers money

Diana, a 49-year-old resident of a Hartford halfway house, is looking for a job. Any job.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning toilets,” Diana said, adding that she is eager to reenter the workforce after years of addiction and incarceration. “Even if it’s 150 dollars [a week], I would be proud because it’s not coming from something illegal,” she said.

Diana, who asked that her last name not be published, works daily on her job hunt with her counselors at Community Solutions Inc., a Bloomfield-based nonprofit with a $32-million annual budget and programs in 10 states and Canada. The majority of the funding that pays for the agency’s six-prison reentry programs in the Hartford area comes from state and federal sources, and Community Solutions CEO Fernando Muñiz is among other nonprofit executives asking for more money in the coming legislative session.

Up to 400 people are in prison at any given time in Connecticut who could be in work-release programs like the one Diana participates in, Muñiz said.

“We’ve got folks sitting in the most costly part of the criminal-justice system when we could be serving those folks in the community and integrating them back into the communities from which they come,” Muñiz said. Gesturing toward the halfway house in which Diane lives, he added, “This is less expensive than prison … running this kind of program is a cost savings for the state.”

Muñiz and others are making this argument to state legislators in the wake of Gov. Ned Lamont’s initial fiscal 2021 budget proposal, which saw little in increased funding for nonprofits.

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