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'It could be a lifesaver' | New Haven PILOT program working to reduce recidivism

20 people have been selected to get $500 a month, for a year.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — What would you do with an extra $500 a month, for a year? It's something 20 men in New Haven are now receiving after they spent some time in jail and are having trouble reentering society. It's all part of a guaranteed income PILOT program just launched in the Elm City.

"Cities like New Haven in Connecticut have a significantly challenging population of people who are coming out of prison," said New Haven Mayor, Justin Elicker. 

Elicker said in recent years, the problem of recidivism has shown its true colors. Throughout the state, he said 26% - 32% of people released from jail in Connecticut have gone back within one year. In three years, that percentage grows even higher, ranging from 43% - 61%.

"Things like housing, securing employment, job training, barriers to education, reunification, you name it, folks are having trouble when they get home," said Dijonée Talley, Special Projects Director with the Department of Community Resilience in New Haven. 

This PILOT program, launched this March, is an attempt to reduce those issues for people and make the community a safer place. It's a partnership between the city, Project M.O.R.E, and 4-CT. However, the whole thing is funded exclusively through philanthropic dollars raised by 4-CT. 

The 20 people were selected through a long process. Each now has a Mastercard, which gets filled with $500 each month. The card also acts as an Elm City Resident I.D. 

"This card is something that is not just a piece of plastic, but is a lifesaver for so many people out there," Elicker said.

"In fact, the first purchase made with one of these cards was by a father of two, who went to a children's shoe store," said Sarah Blanton, CEO OF 4-CT.

The people selected for the program have all been convicted of different offenses, and have been recently released from prison.

One of those men is Donald Moody.

"They gave me a second chance, a second chance to come out here and be a productive citizen," Moody said.

For Moody, his whole adult life has been about second chances. He's in his 40s with a job, a wife, and three kids. All after spending 25 years in prison.

"I went to jail in 1994 when I was 17 years old for killing Markease Clark and shooting Frank Doughty," Moody said. 

Moody was let out of jail about a year ago. And those first few months were not easy. 

"We can't do things that we want to do because we're thinking about the next bill," Moody said.

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Now, with the extra money, Moody said he can start paying his own bills instead of having to rely on friends and family. 

"That extra cash could be, it could be a lifesaver," Moody said

The program benefits come with one rule: Stay out of trouble and work to be better. Right now, only 20 people have been selected to receive the benefits. However, those involved say they hope to expand on it soon and get more cities like Middletown and Hartford involved. Those plans, however, are in their early stages. 

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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