DANBURY — Michael Wright got the idea to start a cleaning company from a peer at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.
The others at the facility always talked about what they’d do if or when they got out of prison. Wright usually scoffed at their ideas. But a cleaning company felt like something he could do.
“That made perfect sense,” said Wright, who was in prison from around age 22 to 34 on first-degree assault charges.
He said he used to walk around Danbury with a “black eye,” but now his Wright Way Cleaning company has over 20 accounts to clean buildings in the city.
“This town, Danbury…is very forgiving,” said Wright, now 46. “If you have the skills, they’ll give you the opportunity.”
Finding employment is one of many challenges individuals face after getting out of prison. That’s why the Greater Danbury Reentry Collaborative is hosting a fair this month to bring together businesses, speakers and “returning citizens” looking for work.
“I got into trouble and turned it around, and just to be able to make a full 360, to be a part of this, it means a lot to me,” said Wright, who is part of the roundtable organization.
The collaborative formed in 2019, but due to COVID-19 this is the group’s first public event. It comes at a time when local businesses may be loosening restrictions on hiring people with criminal backgrounds due to the workforce shortage that has emerged from COVID.
“As the job market got tighter because of COVID, they’re (businesses) rethinking their policies and thinking that this is another source for them to consider,” said Michael Taylor, who is involved in the collaborative and local NAACP.
He’s working with the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce and others to recruit companies for the “Welcome Home Reentry Employment and Resource Fair.” The group’s goal is to bring in 20 companies.
The fair is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 11 at the Student Center Ballroom of Western Connecticut State University’s Westside campus.
Phyllis Kinlow, co-chair of the collaborative, became interested in this advocacy after attending a court hearing where a man on his 18th birthday got an 18-year prison sentence. She quickly realized he’d be 36 when he got out.
“What is he going to do?” she wondered.
She got her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and teamed up with …….