Prison Ministry: A Visit to the Re-Entry Welcome Center

Prison Ministry: A Visit to the Re-Entry Welcome Center

First Church, Congregational in Guilford, CT has had a long relationship with Community Partners in Action in Hartford as part of its prison ministry. Charlotte White brought together Letty Russell, Shannon Clarkson and Deb Rogala of Community Partners in Action to establish a mentoring program with women re-entering society from prison. Rev. Sandra Wiens has kept this relationship alive since 2005. 

Pre-COVID, members of the Peace Affirmation and Justice Committee visited MARTS House at Christmas time to bring party cheer and gifts to the women living there, who were easing their way back to the community after prison terms. This year, COVID kept us from visiting the house. On December 15, Sandra, Gay Harter, Shannon Clarkson and Judi Wallace visited the Re-entry Welcome Center, another program of CPIA, instead (shown in photo). We were enthusiastically welcomed by staff members Virginia Wallace and Amy Arroyo, who received our gifts for the women.
Individuals returning home from incarceration can find welcome and receive support at the Welcome Center. Often people are dropped off there by the Department of Corrections upon being released at the end of their sentence. The Center provides information, referrals and services such as housing, substance abuse/mental health referrals, employment advice, identification help and much more. It has been funded by an Innovation Grant from the Hartford Foundation and support from the mayor in the form of a rent-free office in the basement of City Hall.  Although the physical space had to close for a while during the pandemic, it is now open on a limited basis with safety screening.
Virgina and Amy were excited to share with us that they have been so successful in connecting formerly incarcerated individuals with resources and preventing recidivism that they were recently awarded a federal grant as well as continued support from the Hartford Foundation and the city.  They will now be able to rent their own larger office space and expand their support services. The goal is a center that will provide in one place, not only a homey, welcoming space with telephone and computer access, but room for all the needed service providers in one place, “one stop shopping”.  The first thing many formerly incarcerated people need is identification documents as these are often lost or out of date by the time someone is released. 
During our visit, Judi Wallace, Director of Children and Youth Ministries, discussed with the staff ways to provide programming to the Pilgrim Fellowship about the center’s work, stories of formerly incarcerated people, and the ways the center can assist them. We all left with a much greater appreciation of the crucial nature of the center’s work and delight that we continue in partnership in this ministry.

Find more information about the Re-Entry Center in Hartford and ways you or your congregation can help, such as assembling re-entry backpacks or donating bus passes: Community Partners in Action Ways to Give (

Photo courtesy of Angelica Harter


gay harter.jpg
Angelica Harter

Angelica Harter is a member of the PAJ and Prison Re-Entry Ministry of First Church, Congregational in Guilford, CT.

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