Sen. Reed posing for a photo with CRJ staff

Left to right: Houston House Program Director Jeff Korsak, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, Assistant Program Director Brenda Sarkor-Cheaye, CRJ Vice President for Justice Services Ellen Donnarumma, and CRJ President and CEO John Larivee at Houston House on July 2.

PAWTUCKET – Senator Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, toured Houston House on July 2 to learn more about how the program helps men and women successfully transition from federal prison back into the community.

Reed met with Community Resources for Justice President and CEO John Larivee, Vice President for Justice Services Ellen Donnarumma, and staff from the program, as well as John Marshall, Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Rhode Island, and neighbors who’ve supported the center since it was first proposed four years ago.

Before Houston House opened in 2017, CRJ served individuals returning to Rhode Island from federal incarceration at the Coolidge House reentry center in Boston. The location made it difficult for residents of the program to find housing and establish lasting connections with employers and treatment providers close to where they planned to live after leaving the program.

The opening of Houston House enabled men and women returning to Rhode Island to transition directly back into the communities where they’ll be living and working after leaving the program.

“It just makes it so much less complicated for people to access these resources. There are fewer places for them to get derailed,” Donnarumma said. “The program is helping them create a structure that will extend beyond their stay with us.”

Houston House residents typically spend the last four to six months of their prison sentence at the program, where they receive intensive case management, support, and accountability to smooth their transition and maximize their opportunities to succeed in the community.

“This is a smart way to do business,” Reed said. “In the old days, they’d give you clothes and a bus pass. This way people have a foot in the community.”

Sue Mailhot, president of the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association, said neighbors were early and steadfast supporters of CRJ’s proposal to renovate a vacant former convent and open a reentry center.

“We thought it would be a good fit for the neighborhood. We had no reservations,” she told Reed. “We’re very, very supportive of them.”

Houston House has previously hosted visits from Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline.