Prison unit at Cheshire Correctional supports the needs of young inmates

CHESHIRE --  FOX61 was granted unprecedented access behind bars at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

The maximum security facility puts the spotlight on a first-of-its-kind program that pairs inmates serving life sentences with young inmates who will get a second chance at life.

It’s called the T.R.U.E. Program. It stands for truth, respect, understand and elevate.

60 mentors and mentees live and interact together on the same prison block where they are out of their cells for most of the day.

Inmate Jermain Young, from New Haven was convicted for his involvement in 1997 murder. He was sentenced to 50 years.

“I find myself crying at some of the problems that a lot of these young guys have,” said Young. “I see myself in them.”

Young is mentoring Savon Davis. He’s from Bridgeport and is serving an eight year sentence.

“I come from a rough background,” explained Davis.

He's from the projects and ran with the wrong crowd and said the TRUE Program has put his life back on track.

“We are better than what people assume we are. We are here to achieve greatness.”

The inmates were visited by Gov. Dannel Malloy. They dropped rank and got personal, holding an intimate roundtable discussion about life behind bars.

The inmates have organized a working society outside of the cell; complete with a mini-economy.

They set ground rules and hold each other accountable. They have established a study room, worship space, barber shop and other areas to interact and reflect.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has made criminal justice reform a top priority of his administration.

“If we could think about crime differently. If we could understand that young people are more likely to make silly mistakes,” said Malloy.

Inmates told FOX61 they spend each day inside the prison as a day to better themselves and prepare for the day they get their chance back in society. Inmate Javon Davis plans to get out and stay out.

“They say if you focus on family and stay motivated to help their cause then for me, staying home should be easy.”

First Lady Cathy Malloy called Wednesday’s conference the first step in a long journey to reform the criminal justice system.

But Connecticut has made significant progress, with reported crimes down 30 percent since 2003 and the prison population also down 30 percent since 2008.