“After going through the Phoenix program, I now know what success looks like.” -- Warden, Connecticut
Department of Corrections
In 2012, six people who had once served sentences in Connecticut prisons sat in a circle with six of the Connecticut wardens who had worked in those prisons. All of them in turn told their story.
The six who had served time spoke of the moments that launched and nurtured their positive changes. For one of them, it was support and encouragement from a correctional officer. For another, it was counsel from an older inmate. For yet others, it was school, or a particular prison program, or finding religion. The wardens, too, described experiences that had helped them to learn and grow.
After these stories, the twelve participants broke into pairs and talked with each other about two things: “What is the best thing about the prisons in Connecticut?” and “What most needs improvement?” As the wardens and the formerly incarcerated people found common ground with one another, the usual “us versus them,” dissolved. Later the whole group reconvened and the discussions continued.
At the end, the six wardens strongly praised the program. They said that connecting with people who had come out of prison and become responsible citizens, helped them to see that many inmates in their care might have the same potential.
Thus, the Phoenix Association had found a way to expand the participants’ understanding and empathy for people normally on the other side of a large divide. It also inspires a positive vision for correctional staff to aim for as they work with current inmates.
The Phoenix Association was formally incorporated in 2014. In 2015, we have between 20 and 30 successful formerly incarcerated members and a supportive team including a board of directors, facilitators, advisors and volunteers.
We deliver programs to organizations such as the Connecticut Department of Corrections and the Council of State Governments’ National Reentry Resource Center. Our members also give talks at conferences, colleges, and churches.