Betty Williams (far right), a Citizens Project graduate, participates in a community event.

Citizens Project

The Citizens Project started in 2001 to address concerns of community disconnection among people in recovery who have experienced incarceration. It was developed collaboratively from the research of Michael RoweMadelon Baranoski, and people in recovery.

Today the Citizens Project is a multi-part course that many participants have credited with re-launching their lives in community and their understanding of themselves.

For information about how to start a Citizens Project in your community, please contact or

In New Haven, our students receive:

  • Classes on the “Five R’s” of citizenship –  Rights, Responsibilities, Roles, Relationships, and Resources
  • “What’s Up?” mutual support group
  • Peer Support, both in the class and in the community, with a person in recovery who has life experiences similar to the student’s
  • Individual or group community projects inspired by students’ knowledge, passion and experiences
  • A stipend ($10) for each class they attend
  • Weekly social networking activity
  • Certificate of Completion and Graduation Ceremony at New Haven City Hall

Mutual Support Group

The “What’s Up?” Group is an opportunity for students to share successes, provide support, and offer feedback around challenges. It is a mutual support group facilitated by the students and generally takes place in the first portion of each session.


As Citizens Project students, individuals participate in a co-learning process–they learn from each other.

A sample of our classes:

  • Relationship Building
  • Negotiating the Criminal Justice System
  • Advocacy & Leadership
  • Career—Educational and Vocational Development
  • Public Speaking
  • Housing Options and Issues
  • Communication 101
  • Healthy Alternatives

Peer Support

Students are provided with support in and outside the classroom. Peer specialists are staff members who have lived with many of the same challenges as our students–dealing with the criminal justice system and recovering from mental health and/or addiction challenges. Through their personal growth and recovery, peer specialists provide support and share their knowledge and experiences. They partner with students in achieving their goals and working through life’s challenges. Peer specialists help people to help themselves. 

Valued Role Projects 

During the last two months the Citizens Project, students focus on developing a Valued Role Project.  A Valued Role project is a way for students to share their talents, skills, knowledge and experiences and to broaden their connections in the community.

Who can attend the Citizens Project?

Anyone who…

  1. Is 18 years or older
  2. Is a resident in the Greater New Haven area for the duration of the 6 month project
  3. Receives care/follow-up for mental health or co-occurring mental health and substance use
  4. Has involvement in the criminal justice system within the last 3 years, (arrest, probation, parole or incarceration)
  5. Is interested in learning and sharing with others
  6. Will commit to a 6-month project that meets twice a week

Classes are held twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00-4:30 pm) at Christ Church on Broadway in New Haven.