Re-entering society presents many challenges for those released from prison, but a former Connecticut prison inmate found an opportunity and seized it.
Angel Torres says his employer, Whitcraft, gave him a second chance that turned his life around.
Every morning, Torres arrives in Plainville, walks to the employee entrance, and begins his day at 6.30am. He is a machinist for Whitcraft, an aircraft manufacturer. However, her life hasn’t always had this routine.
“You know, I made a mistake in my life,” Torres said.
He says the mistake was major.
“I was just hanging out with the wrong crew. I got involved in alcohol, drugs. And then I started stealing, stealing, and that’s how I was imprisoned, ”he said.
Torres was incarcerated for six and a half years at the Willard Cybulski Correctional Center in Enfield.
“I was locked up for 20 to 23 hours a day. Sometimes 24 hours, depending on whether there were riots or fights. I thought my life was over, ”Torres said.
Then, as he neared the end of his sentence, he had an opportunity. Torres was accepted into a second chance program.
“I just remember when I got into the second chance program I was so happy, you know, because not many people are selected to go,” he said. “It was very different from all life in prison. They had computers there, we could polish our resumes, we did mock interviews. “
That was in 2017. Two years later, the program sent inmates into the workforce.
“I remember I kept writing essays, paragraphs about how I could change my life, the lives of my family, my kids,” Torres said.
He was selected and started working at another Whitcraft facility in Eastford.
“That’s when my life really changed,” he said.
This catapulted Torres into the job he has today, now out of jail and on parole. But Torres says it would have been very difficult to achieve without the program.
“I think it would have been difficult,” Torres said. “I hear a lot of people say that when they go out, no employer wants to hire them because they have a background.”
Besides Torres, Whitcraft hires dozens of other people who are making the transition from incarceration to reintegration into society.
“We have nine gentlemen who are taken by bus every day during the second shift to the factory, and then they are also brought back by bus at the end of their shift,” said Jacqueline Gallo, COO. from Whitcraft. “When people finish or are released or graduated, as I call it, they continue to work for us. And we hope to be able to fill that place with another person who is in prison. “
Gallo said about 30 inmates have worked for Whitcraft since the program began in 2018. At present, there are also half a dozen staff employed in halfway houses. Gallo is leading these efforts because she believes in second chances.
“Sometimes they just find themselves in difficult circumstances,” she said. “It can happen to anyone. I say sometimes that we are all three or four down to being in a similar situation. And so I think these people deserve that level of respect and humanity.
Gallo knows it can change a life like it did for Torres.
“It was so good. I was able to send money home to my children, to my daughters. And they say, ‘Oh, wow, daddy, how do you do that? How do you send us money? You know, and I told them, and they just couldn’t believe it, ”Torres said.
For him, showing up every day is not just a job. It is also a way to reclaim his family and reconnect with his three children.
“As they got older they understood what I was doing and they knew I had made a mistake,” Torres said. “Now I just have to prove to everyone, and to myself, that I’m not that person anymore.”