In Sitdown with Governor, Ex-Offenders
Share Life-Changing Value of ‘GreenSkills’

dannel malloy uri feb 2016
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, third from right, with members of the GreenSkills team, and representatives from the F&ES-based Urban Resources Initiative and the city of New Haven.
During a visit to Yale this week, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy learned about a life-changing program based at F&ES that employs ex-offenders to plant and prune trees across the city of New Haven.
 
Launched by the Urban Resources Initiative in 2010, the GreenSkills program does more than teach these men and women about ecology; it helps them reintegrate into their communities.
 
Malloy, who has made reentry of ex-offenders into the job market a priority, came to Yale to hear about the program from those who best understand its value: those who are doing the work.
It changed my life, Mr. Governor... I decided I wanted to give back to a community I took so much from.
— Donald Williams, GreenSkills member
During an intimate meeting with Malloy, six current staff members shared their personal experiences and described how they have benefited from the GreenSkills program.
 
“It changed my life, Mr. Governor,” said Donald Williams, a 38-year-old California native who works on the crew, according to the Connecticut Mirror. “I decided I wanted to make a change in my life. I decided I wanted to give back to a community I took so much from.”

Labor for the urban forestry project is provided by Emerge, a nonprofit that arranges work and counseling for ex-offenders after they are released from prison. Emerge partners with Urban Resources Initiative, which since 2007 promotes community-based land stewardship and environmental education and advances the practice of urban forestry.
 
Its GreenSkills program allows ex-offenders to work with Yale graduate students to plant and maintain trees across the city. In addition to improving the New Haven’s street tree canopy, workers learn the value of leadership, develop marketable job and mentoring skills, foster a sense of environmental stewardship, and make meaningful positive change in the community.
 
Colleen Murphy-Dunning, director of URI, said it is the collaboration with Emerge and the city that has made the program such a success.

And for six current crewmembers asked to share their stories with the governor, the program provided another powerful opportunity.
 
“I really think the Governor was here to listen and learn,” said Murphy-Dunning. “And to think what these guys have been through in their lives... it was an amazing opportunity for them to share their story with the governor.”
To think what these guys have been through in their lives... it was an amazing opportunity for them to share their story with the governor.
— Colleen Murphy-Dunning, URI director
Malloy recently introduced a series of legislative proposals to bolster a reform program called “Second Chance Society,” which aims to reduce the state’s crime rate and ensure that nonviolent offenders are able to reintegrate into society.
 
The governor, who has met with inmates and other ex-offenders in other community settings, told the Mirror that such events are educational and a reminder that these are just people trying to rebound from past mistakes.  
 
“It’s a bit of battery charger, I think. I want our communities to be successful, and I want these individuals to be successful,” Malloy said. “We’re playing a role in doing that.”
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
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PUBLISHED: February 25, 2016
 

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