September 11, 2023 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Since launching a little over a year ago the nonprofit Second Street Second Chances has tripled its original goal.

When the organization first started out its goal was to help 150 people in its first year but as of date it has seen more than 500 people, Executive Director Jason Cuyler said.

Second Street Second Chances works with current and formerly incarcerated individuals to provide the support that they need for a successful reintegration into the community.

It was established when a community coalition started looking into the challenges people go through when being reintegrated into their communities, board President Mark Gold said.

From there, the organization put together key partners from health care, cultural centers, legal aid, and other community organizations to aid in providing formerly incarcerated individuals access to resources, Gold said.

“One of the things that we wanted to do here at Second Street is, we wanted to collaborate as much as possible with all the wonderful local community agencies that we have here in Berkshire County, ” Cuyler said.

“And we really wanted to dig down deep and find out how we can successfully help people transition back into the community.”

The organization starts working with the individuals while they are incarcerated to determine what resources they need for a successful reentry and will continue working with them when they are released, Gold said.

The non-profit aims to provide formerly incarcerated individuals with job readiness skills and access to job opportunities while treating them with respect and encouragement with the goal to make them productive and contributing members of their communities.

On this journey the nonprofit also works towards educating the community so they can embrace these individuals when they are reintegrated.

Recent community educational programming includes the “Insight Out” exhibit at the Berkshire Museum, and the play “Release” at Berkshire Community College

It collaborates with Berkshire County organizations to provide or provide access to resources such as medical, mental health, and substance use disorder services, financial and literacy resources, transportation, employment, legal services, and many more.

The establishment of the organization was also spearheaded by Berkshire Community College in partnership with the Berkshire County House of Correction, and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office.

Over the last 12 years the city has been trying to establish a program like this but despite getting legislators to advocate for it, the initiative did not pan out, Sheriff Thomas Bowler said.

When Gold approached the sheriff’s office showing that he already had a vision and understood what was going on in the community it was clear that the best path would be through the non-profit route, he said.

When a person is incarcerated they are entered into a structured environment that they do not have upon reentering into the community.

“A lot of these individuals lack structure, guidance, direction, resources, access to resources, and they miss out on a large number of opportunities,” Bowler said.

It is vital that the community continues to provide those services and access to resources so they can overcome obstacles such as mental health issues, substance use disorders, or lack of education and job opportunities, he said.

According to its website, since launching it has received grants from the state and city amounting to $1,015,300. It also receives support from a variety of community members and organizations.

More information on the nonprofit here.