Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy has employed a groundbreaking rehabilitation model in one correctional institution which may influence incarceration throughout the country.
The idea for the program called T.R.U.E was developed during several research trips to German prisons be- tween 2013 and 2015, when government officials, including Governor Malloy, witnessed inmates performing tasks such as cooking their own meals, locking their own doors, and wearing civilian clothing.
“When you first come into the American prison, your dignity is left at the door. It’s eviscerated. We’re working to bring that back to people held here,” said Jermaine Young, a mentor at Cheshire Correctional Institution’s T.R.U.E. unit. “Anybody can be locked up, but if they’re not treated like a human be- ing, we’re doing a great dis- service.”
Young spoke during a simulcast discussion between inmates, correctional officers and criminal justice reformers at a Reimagining Prison event initiated by the Vera Institute.
T.R.U.E. is a unique unit within the Cheshire Correctional Institute. It houses men, age 18 to 25, accord- ing to the Vera Blog, and at- tempts to mirror life outside prisons as closely as possible—much like the German prison system.
In the German prison system, staff guides inmates through personalized plans, which prepare them for reentry through counseling and employment programs, according to the blog.
German officials ex- plained to the visitors that the deprivation of liberty is itself a punishment. Their prison system, based on the recognition of human dignity, prepares people for a crime-free life upon their release.
After the horror and shame of the Holocaust, Germany transformed its laws and prison system.
The Vera-sponsored trips to German prisons demonstrated to the visiting officials how the United States might address its own historical problems of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and now mass incarceration.
“The master narrative in the U.S. about people in prison is that they’re depraved and violent and a risk to our communities,” said Vera’s president, Nicholas Turner, “That narrative is rooted in a long legacy of racism, White supremacy and oppression that systemically works against people of color.”
Due to the success of the T.R.U.E. unit in Connecticut, similar programs in Massachusetts and South Carolina are beginning to emerge, the blog reported.
“Whether you interact with the U.S. prison system is too often determined by your birth, income or community circumstance. That isn’t true in other countries [like Germany],” said Governor Malloy, “We have to address disparities before we can ever truly change our system, and that’s what we’ve tried to do in Connecticut.”
He continued: “Prison shouldn’t be where opportunity ends. It should be where opportunities that were previously denied are given for the first time.”