Progressive Prison Ministries: The First Ministry in the United States Created to Provide Support for Individuals, Families and Organizations with White-Collar and Other Nonviolent Incarceration Issues. Greenwich CT & Nationwide

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jeff Grant, Greenwich White Collar Criminal, Shares His Journey Back to the Board Room By Emilie Munson - Reporter, CT Post


Jeff Grant, Greenwich White Collar Criminal, Shares His Journey Back to the Board Room

By Emilie Munson - Reporter, CT Post

Jeff Grant Speaking at The Nantucket Project's TNP Library in Greenwich

GREENWICH — It was a transformation that Greenwich resident Jeff Grant never saw coming.

Twenty years ago, Grant was a successful business lawyer in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a member of the Rye Neck school board and owner of “The Good Life” restaurant inWestchester County.

But an addiction to prescription pain killers that led to his arrest and imprisonment on charges of money laundering and wire fraud changed all that.

“I was an entitled guy,” he said. “It was a wake up call.”

Grant shared his story at The Nantucket Project Library in Greenwich earlier this week. Grant has spoken twice at Nantucket Project events and has known Nantucket Project Founder Tom Scott for 10 years.

“We do this from time to time as a series of ways to learn,” said Scott, about why The Nantucket Project invited Grant to speak. “We are about what matters most.”

A literal misstep one day in 1992 set Grant on a path from the corner office to solitary confinement and back again. The 34-year-old Jewish lawyer was playing basketball with one of his firm’s biggest clients when he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

On his ride to the hospital, Grant called his orthopedist and asked for Demerol, an opioid pain medication.

“I was just in pain and I needed it,” Grant said.
For the next 10 years, Grant swallowed the addictive medication nearly every day, picking up a new bottle of Demerol multiple times a week from a doctor friend who he said he lied to and manipulated to get the drug.

At work, he said, Demerol-induced boldness made his law
firm, Jeffrey D. Grant and Associates, even more successful — until 2000, when the money started petering out, in part because of Grant’s drug-induced overspending, he said.
Faced with financial disaster, Grant gave orders to dip into the account reserved for funds received from and intended for clients.

“With two key strokes on the computer, it was done,” he said.“That was the day I made my deal with the devil and my life was over.”

Two years later, in the haze of an Oxycontin high, Grant said he decided to embellish an application for a $240,000 Sept. 11 disaster-relief loan from the Small Business Administration. Grant lied on the application, stating that he had an office in Manhattan, and used the funds on personal spending.

That July, when it became clear he was going to lose his law license for ethical violations, he resigned the license and swallowed an entire 40-tab bottle of Demerol in a suicide attempt.

“I had no way of knowing that that was going to be the start of my new life, that moment,” he said. “There was no going back.”

After a seven-week stay at a New Canaan addiction facility and two-years of intensive drug recovery programs, with his house in foreclosure and his wife on the verge of leaving him, Grant said, he felt like he was finding himself.

“Finally (in drug recovery), there were people who were not judging me and willing to accept me with all my warts and my wrinkles and my flaws,” he said. “I just turned myself over to it.”

At 20 months sober, while walking on West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich, Grant got a call from the FBI. Because of his Sept. 11 loan, Grant was under arrest. He handed himself over to the U.S. Marshalls in Manhattan, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

On Easter Sunday 2006, he was checked into the low security Allenwood Federal Correctional Institute in Pennsylvania.

“There were parts of prison that were helpful. Whatever was chasing me most of all, whatever I was running away from, I felt safe in this kind of cocoon, this kind of community,” he said. “I learned a lot about other religions, suffering and depression and I just kind of found my calling.”

When he was released in June 2007, Grant reconnected with his drug recovery community. He volunteered at the New Canaan facility and later at Family Re-Entry in Bridgeport, a nonprofit with wrap-around services for individuals leaving the criminal justice system.
Grant was baptized a Christian, and in 2009 applied to the Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He graduated with a master’s in divinity and a focus in Christian social ethics in 2012. He started preaching at First Baptist Church in Bridgeport.

At the same time, Grant realized there was a need for spiritual guidance and practical advice for convicted white-collar criminals in Greenwich.

“In Greenwich (drug) recovery, anyone who was kind of going on their way to or from prison, everybody said, ‘Go see Prison Jeff. He knows about prison,’” said Grant. “I probably worked with 100 guys who were going to prison, coming from prison, dealing with incarceration issues and these were captains of industry! This is Greenwich! It was crazy — hedge-funders, bank presidents and they have problems just like other people.”

In 2012, Grant founded Progressive Prison Ministries in Greenwich — an organization that provides counseling and support for local white-collar criminals as they transition in and out of jail, which Grant says is the first of its kind in the United States.

“We were finding broken people and there was no compassion,” he said. “Their wives are sitting in these carcasses of houses and their husbands are in prison and they can’t afford to heat the house, they can’t afford to keep the lights on, they’re on social services, they’re on SNAP (food stamps)... It’s a personal family disaster and no one is really telling the story.”

Last year, Grant was appointed executive director of Family
ReEntry, after several years on the organizations board of directors.

“The reason I’m doing it is because I get to be proof that people can come back from prison,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous experience.”

emunson@greenwichtime.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

Reprinted from CT Post, June 29, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Do No Harm: How Can the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community and State Government Work Together to Get Through the Fiscal Crisis? An Open Letter





First Do No Harm: How Can the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community and State Government Work Together to Get Through the Fiscal Crisis?
An Open Letter
An Open Letter to Governor Malloy, State of Connecticut Legislators, and Members of the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community:

The Hippocratic Oath compels those in the medical profession to make certain that they first do no harm. A just and ethical principle to which all professionals should pay heed. History, as well as Connecticut’s recent experience, shows that rescissions to cost effective programs has far reaching detrimental collateral and economic implications. Once cut, restoration simply does not happen. These vital and proven programs will likely vanish.

It costs about $34,687 per year to incarcerate an individual versus less than $5,000 per year to provide services to that same individual in the community.  Too often, economic downturns compel funding cuts to social services, cuts that are both inhumane and end up driving up costs to our state in the long run. Many services have already been reduced to the bare bones over the past several years as a result of the last recession. The current series of proposed cuts to community-based prevention, intervention, diversion and reentry criminal justice programs – as well as to including and mental health and addiction services – will lead to more people unduly suffering, costing the state (and the taxpayers) significantly more money in the end than it would to help provide for their basic needs.

People returning from prison are among society’s most vulnerable – as are their families.  After having served their sentence they are now trying to rebuild their lives with the stigma of a felony conviction that functions as a scarlet letter. Many of these individuals live in the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in our state, with limited opportunities – which is in part why they became susceptible to crime in the first place. Many or most also suffer from mental health issues and addiction problems.

Without public policies that promote social cohesion and well-being for individuals who have been in prison, research shows that they will soon return to the criminal behavior that landed them in prison in the first place.

Nonprofits already do the job with very little funding and resources.
Research, for which Connecticut has been at the forefront, categorically demonstrates that good community criminal justice programs (crime prevention, reentry, mental health, substance abuse treatment, diversion programs) reduce recidivism and incarceration rates thereby saving the state (and taxpayers) money (Fagan & Buchanan, 2016); a lot of money in both the short and long term. These programs have a positive return on our investment by eliminating the costs of returning these individuals back to prison or the court system, and helping individuals become productive, tax-paying citizens. Long-term benefit-cost ratios for some community reentry programs in CT are as high as $405.23 for every dollar invested (see “Results First Benefit-Cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Programs”).

Connecticut can be the nation’s leader in criminal justice reform. 
We propose that that the state and the nonprofit sector jointly adopt a motto of “First Do No Harm.” While we recognize the challenges and competing priorities within social service programs, let’s not rush to reduce spending on or cut critical interventions that have been built over thirty years of thoughtful planning supported by research and measurable outcomes. Instead, let’s create a re-envisioned public-private-nonprofit partnership that is committed to enlightened policy decisions in our state by investing today in programs that work to help reduce recidivism and provide health coverage and addiction services to those in need, so as to help ensure our future prosperity as a state and a country.

We urge the legislature’s passing of the mini-budget this Thursday as an important next step!


We at Family ReEntry welcome all thoughts and comments. My contact information is below.

Respectfully and gratefully submitted,

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director

Family ReEntry, Inc.
75 Washington Street
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604
(office) 203-290-0855
(mobile) 203-957-0162
jeffgrant@familyreentry.org
familyreentry.org

Citations:
Clark, A., Janicki, M. M., & Noonan, J. (2016). Connecticut Results First Benefit-cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-based Programs, Pursuant to Public Act 15-5, June Special Session, Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 4-68r and-68s. Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, Central Connecticut State University.

Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Fagan, A. A., & Buchanan, M. (2016). What Works in Crime Prevention?. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(3), 617-649.

Family ReEntry’s mission is to develop, implement, and share sustainable, cost-effective solutions for the unprecedented numbers of people involved in the criminal justice system, which empower individuals, strengthen families, and build communities.

For more info please visit our website at familyreentry.org and you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. All proceeds go to supporting these valuable programs.
Family ReEntry, Inc.  |  jeffgrant@familyreentry.org  |   501(c)3 Organization  |  203-290-0865

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Nantucket Presents: Down & Out in Greenwich: An Insider's View of Prison and the Road back to the Boardroom

 

Presents:

Down and Out in Greenwich: 

An insider's view of prison and the road back to the boardroom - with Jeff Grant





Greenwich, CT - (June 20, 2017) - It happens more than you imagine. A high-flying executive makes a fateful decision and winds up in legal trouble. He’s sentenced to time in prison and his life and the lives of his family are shattered. 
 
Next week, The Nantucket Project presents Down & Out in Greenwich: An Insider's View of Prison and the Road Back to the Boardroom. On Tuesday, June 27 at 7:00 PM, Jeff Grant will share his story about prison life and his difficult road back to life after incarceration. TNP Library, 123 Mason Street, Greenwich. Grant was a Main-Stage Presenter at The Nantucket Project in 2013.


In Grant’s personal account, the audience will hear full details about a few poor decisions, what life is like in prison, and how one man has been able to successfully navigate a course to become


the first person in the country, who was incarcerated for a white-collar crime, to be named the head of a major criminal justice nonprofit. He has methodically rebuilt his
life, personally and professionally, and was recently named the Executive Director of Family ReEntry, a nonprofit leader that supports families affected by the criminal justice system. He has been the subject of articles in regional and national media and has received numerous business and service awards.

Grant said, “I want my story to be a cautionary tale, but I also want anyone affected by the criminal justice system to know that there is hope and help after prison.” "I am grateful to The Nantucket Project for its support and leadership in justice reform."


 
Currently, there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States and over 70 million with criminal records. Nearly 11,000 individuals will be released in Connecticut this year. "It is vital that we reach these individuals at critical junctures in their lives and provide them with enough support so that they can have every
opportunity to achieve, learn and grow as citizens who are not forced to return to the kind of activity that caused them to be incarcerated in the first place," said Grant. 

To learn more about attending the upcoming presentation at The Nantucket Project,
https://nantucketproject.regfox.com/jeff-grant-tnp-library-event




About The Nantucket Project: Led by co-founders Tom Scott (who also created Nantucket Nectars and the HBO television series "The Neistat Brothers") and Kate Brosnan, TNP brings live events, short documentary films, and meaningful storytelling to audiences hungry to know what matters in our noisy and messy world. Past presenters have included Tony Blair, Steve Wozniak, Deepak Chopra, Hope Solo, Norman Lear, Christy Turlington Burns, Mellody Hobson, Neil Young, Seth Godin, Eve Ensler, Julie Taymor and Paul Giamatti. Visit https://www.nantucketproject.com/ to learn more.


More about Family ReEntry:

Family ReEntry is a 501c3 nonprofit, which was founded in 1984 as a reentry support group for men at the Isaiah House in Bridgeport. It has since grown to include policy advocacy, and intervention, prevention, in-prison, reentry, fatherhood and youth & family programs. Over the past 33 years, effective advocacy efforts and community-based programs developed by Family ReEntry have significantly reduced the likelihood that clients will re-offend, be re-arrested, or be re-incarcerated. Its programs provide a spectrum of services designed to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. Family ReEntry addresses the specific needs of each client and their families through individualized case management and support services. It works to create a positive social network for each client, helping make their transition from prison back into the community a successful, self-sufficient one, while strengthening their families and the community. Family ReEntry operates its programs in strategic locations that encompass eight municipal regions and judicial geographic areas, two parole districts and five prisons. Approximately, sixty-percent of those served by Family ReEntry are from greater Bridgeport – Connecticut’s largest city. The organization has offices in Bridgeport, Norwalk and New Haven, CT. Programs are also held in Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, New London and Norwich, CT. More information is available at www.FamilyReEntry.org and on its social media including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube 



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Prison Portal Project to be Presented at CT Governor's Reentry Conference - First Portal Installed in a U.S. Prison Scheduled to Open in CT this Fall





Prison Portal Project to be Presented at 
CT Governor's Reentry Conference 


First Portal Installed in a U.S. Prison 
Scheduled to Open in CT this Fall 



 




PRESS RELEASE: Hartford, CT - (June 14, 2017) - Family ReEntry, a nonprofit leader that assists families affected by the criminal justice system, and Shared Studios, a design technology company, will be presenting the new Prison Portal Project during the Connecticut Governor's Reimagining Justice Conference in Hartford, June 14-15. 

Amar Bakshi, Founder & Creative Director of Shared
Studios, and Jeff Grant, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, will present the new Prison Portal Project, including a video demonstration of the real-time, face-to-face interactive technology, on Wednesday, June 14th, at 11:15 a.m. as a part of the special conference held at The Hartford Marriott Downtown (200 Columbus Boulevard in Hartford). 

Created by Shared Studios, the portals and
the patented innovations in hardware, software and design, can be made for all types of remote presentation uses. Family ReEntry’s Prison Portal Project will establish Connecticut as one of the first states in the nation to adopt the use of the portals specifically for incarcerated individuals,
returning citizens, and their families and friends.



Working in partnership with the State of Connecticut Department of Corrections and the City of Bridgeport Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs, portals will be installed this Fall linking the nation's first portal to be
placed within the confines of a correctional facility and a second portal anticipated to open in downtown Bridgeport. This will allow families to directly communicate with their loved ones in prison in an immersive environment “as if they were in the same room,” saving them time off from work and school, costs in travelling to remote prison locations, etc. 

Additional portals are being considered for presentation around the state later this year and in 2018. Suggested sites for the new portals include New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Stamford and New London, among other locations. 

Grant explained, "The Governor's Conference is a perfectly
Pres. Barack Obama utilizing a Portal
timed opportunity to show the full extent of this new, immersive audiovisual technology and the way it will be used by the families and communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Not only do the portals allow accessible remote visitation between loved ones, but are means for curated 'visits’ to other portals installed around the world in locations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, etc. They can also be utilized for multiple location visits, group dynamics, counseling sessions and much more.”



The Prison Portal Project presentation is in addition to Family ReEntry's booth exhibit throughout the conference, where attendees can discover all of the programs and services that the organization provides.

Organized by the office of Governor Malloy, the Reimagining Justice Conference brings together leading criminal justice professionals from across the country for robust discussions about the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system and will aim to strengthen a growing consensus that states must reimagine justice in order to reduce crime and end the cycle of mass incarceration. The conference will include new approaches on the topics of juvenile and young adult offenders, pretrial justice, incarceration, and re-entry. Additional information about the conference is available at http://portal.ct.gov/reimaginingjustice 

More about Family ReEntry:


Family ReEntry is a 501c3 nonprofit, which was founded in 1984 as a reentry support group for men at the Isaiah House in Bridgeport. It has since grown to include policy advocacy, and intervention, prevention, in-prison, reentry, fatherhood and youth & family programs. Over the past 33 years, effective advocacy efforts and community-based programs developed by Family ReEntry have significantly reduced the likelihood that clients will re-offend, be re-arrested, or be re-incarcerated. Its programs provide a spectrum of services designed to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. Family ReEntry addresses the specific needs of each client and their families through individualized case management and support services. It works to create a positive social network for each client, helping make their transition from prison back into the community a successful, self-sufficient one, while strengthening their families and the community. Family ReEntry operates its programs in strategic locations that encompass eight municipal regions and judicial geographic areas, two parole districts and five prisons. Approximately, sixty-percent of those served by Family ReEntry are from greater Bridgeport – Connecticut’s largest city. The organization has offices in Bridgeport, Norwalk and New Haven, CT. Programs are also held in Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, New London and Norwich, CT. 

More information is available at www.FamilyReEntry.org and on its social media including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. 




Media Contact: Greg Walsh, Walsh Public Relations 305 Knowlton Street, Bridgeport, CT 06608
Tel: 203-292-6280; E-Mail: greg@walshpr.com 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Correcting Corrections in Connecticut: How Commissioner Scott Semple Is Making Juvenile Justice More Just


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Correcting Corrections in Connecticut: How Commissioner Scott Semple Is Making Juvenile Justice More Just



Reprinted from Public Safety on Medium.com, By Steve Hawkins

This is part of a series of interviews conducted by Steve Hawkins, president of the Coalition for Public Safety, featuring individuals taking the initiative to change the justice system within their sphere of influence.

How deeply should brain science inform our approach to crime? In many justice reform circles, that’s up for debate. Research showing that human brains do not fully develop until the age of 25 has led many correctional leaders to reconsider the age at which young people “age out” of the juvenile justice system. If younger minds are more amendable to treatment and rehabilitation, the logic goes, why not take the opportunity to get things right?

Enter Scott Semple, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Connecticut’s journey to justice reform has already produced a notable decrease in both the crime rate and prison population, freeing up space and resources for Semple and others to more expansively rethink how to effectively administer justice. Semple has taken that opportunity to hone in on youth incarceration and recidivism with the creation of the T.R.U.E. Unit — a program for incarcerated young adults within the Cheshire Correctional Institution, designed specifically for 18–15 year olds. Young adults incarcerated at Cheshire are taught both practical and relational skills with the goal of helping them avoid the cycle of recidivism and emerge capable, compassionate adults.

I had the opportunity to connect with Commissioner Semple about his vision for the program at length. The interview has been edited for clarity.

S.H.: What was the source of inspiration for your new second chances initiative at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, and why are you launching it now?

S.S.: In 2015, I had the pleasure of visiting prisons in Germany with Connecticut’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, and members of the Vera Institute of Justice. Among the many remarkable things I witnessed was a prison facility, which housed only young adult offenders. The operation of the facility was geared to the specific needs of that age group.

The goal was to launch a similar facility within the Connecticut Department of Correction. Initially, we had hoped to dedicate an entire facility to the needs of young adult offenders, but due to fact that this was a groundbreaking concept, coupled with a difficult fiscal climate, the decision was made to start out by opening a single unit within a facility. After much planning and hard work, the unit officially went online in March 13 of 2017.

S.H.: What is the history of Cheshire, CT, and why was this the place you launched T.R.U.E.?

S.S.: The building that comprises the original portion of the Cheshire Correctional Institution predates the inception of the Department of Correction as a state agency by more than 60 years.

Established by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1909 and opened in 1913 after three years of construction, the facility was first known as the Cheshire Reformatory. Ironically, it was designed as a reformatory for male offenders ages 16 to 24, with the intention of separating these offenders from the adult prison population. Within the context of the Department of Correction, the Cheshire Correctional Institution houses primarily long-term sentenced adult offenders.

The reason this facility was chosen as the site for the T.R.U.E. Unit is, quite simply, its staff. Warden Scott Erfe, the management, as well as the rank and file of the facility all embraced the challenge of implementing this new concept. In fact, more than 100 staff members volunteered to work in the new unit.

S.H.: This program focuses specifically on 18-to-25-year-olds. What is unique about this age group, and why is the state investing in changing their outcomes in the justice system?

S.S.: Scientific research has shown that the brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25. Neuroscience has shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into their early twenties, and that their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed.

Offenders in this age group frequently display poor decision-making ability, and are also prone to impulsive behavior. These factors, when combined, all too frequently result in disruptive behaviors which endanger not only themselves and other offenders, but staff as well. It is in everyone’s best interest to attempt to better manage this age group with the hopes of reducing the number of violent incidents within our facilities.
S.H.: The program is titled: T.R.U.E., which stands for Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding, and Elevating. What is the importance of each of the elements?

S.S.: Ironically, the actions defined in the acronym of the T.R.U.E. Unit, are actions that offenders, especially in this age group, struggle with. They struggle with being truthful, with being respectful, with understanding another person’s[perspective]. The acronym T.R.U.E. serves as a constant mental, as well as visual, reminder of what they are striving for, what they aspire to be.

S.H.: Describe how the program works.

S.S.: The program works on a therapeutic community based model that applies behavioral modification techniques in association with peer mentoring guidance from offenders who are serving life sentences. Family support is also a key component of the unit.

S.H.: How does T.R.U.E. differ from previous approaches in Connecticut, and why do you think it will work?

S.S.: We have never before targeted the specific age group of 18-to-25-year-olds. Up until now, the demarcation between an adolescent and an adult was 18. If an offender was 18 years old, they were not only considered adults, but they were also treated like adults. We now know, thanks to scientific research, that this may not be the best approach.
To be candid, because this is the first of its kind unit we are facing many unknowns. However, early anecdotal reports indicate that the changes are working. As time goes by, we will collect data on such factors as disciplinary reports in order to create tangible performance measurements for the unit.

I also firmly believe that, thanks to the high caliber of the staff members working within the unit, the T.R.U.E. Unit will be successful.

S.H.: What role does family play in the rehabilitation of people behind bars?

S.S.: Simply put, family support plays an essential role in the rehabilitation of offenders. If offenders have strong family support, their chances for successful reintegration are greatly enhanced. That is why staff at the T.R.U.E. Unit have made additional efforts to engage and connect with the family members of offenders.

They have gone out of their way to invite family members of the incarcerated to informational session at Cheshire. The staff has also taken the added measure of creating a special email address for family members of those in the unit. The email address allows for specific information related to be shared quickly and frequently, thus keeping family members and offenders invested in the success of the unit.

S.H.: The T.R.U.E. mentors are serving life sentences. How does this program challenge some of our assumptions about people sentenced to life in prison?

S.S.: It is often assumed that those serving life sentences have no incentive or motivation to act in a constructive manner. After all, no matter what a “lifer” does, he’s never getting out.

The reality is that many lifers feel the need to find some meaning or value in their lives. They often informally offer advice to younger offenders, hoping to help them avoid the mistakes they had made.

The use of lifers in the T.R.U.E. program is a win/win/win situation. The young offenders, or mentees, benefit from the wisdom of the mentors. The lifers are able to feel that they are being productive by giving something back. Even the staff wins, as the mentor/mentee relationships improves the overall climate in the unit.

S.H.: Was it counterintuitive to imagine people who have committed serious crimes helping younger men chart a new course for their lives?

S.S.: For someone not familiar with a correctional environment, the idea of a lifer helping anyone is indeed counterintuitive. But for those who work inside prisons, older offenders giving advice to younger offenders is a daily occurrence.

S.H.: It’s not always immediately intuitive to people that an investment in changing correctional practices can be an investment in public safety. How do you see this as ultimately upholding the safety of all of Connecticut’s diverse communities?

S.S.: A frequently quoted statistic is that 95 percent of all offenders will eventually return to the community. Would you rather have offenders return to their communities and just pick up where they left off with antisocial and violent behaviors? Or would you rather have them equipped with the support and knowledge necessary to enable them to return as productive, law abiding members of society?

S.H.: How have correctional officers responded to and engaged in the T.R.U.E. program?

S.S.: The officers’ reaction to working in the unit has been extremely positive. Who wouldn’t want to feel like their efforts are having a positive impact on the lives of others?

S.H.: Do you have any favorite stories from the program to date?

S.S.: The vast majority of the staff members working in the T.R.U.E. Unit are seasoned correctional veterans with many years of experience. Traditionally, these staff members have always thought of offenders as inmates — undistinguishable, interchangeable, and incorrigible. While speaking with someone working in the T.R.U.E. Unit, they referred to the offenders in the unit as mentors and mentees. Having an appreciation of correctional culture as I do, this seemingly simple change in terminology in fact represents a significant change in the way we do business.

S.H.: How do you plan to measure success of the T.R.U.E. program? Does the Connecticut DOC track recidivism rates in all of its facilities?

S.S.: We are collecting data specific to the T.R.U.E. Unit on such things as disciplinary infractions. It will take some time, but we will also compile recidivism statistics specific to the unit as well.

S.H.: Do you have plans to expand this program or bring similar versions to other Connecticut facilities?

S.S.: Plans are already in the works to open a similar unit at the department’s only female facility, the York Correctional Institution. If all goes as planned, the unit should be up and running within the next six months.

S.H.: What would you like your legacy to be when it comes to justice reform in Connecticut?

S.S.: I am no different than anyone else. Just like the staff of the T.R.U.E. Unit, I am trying to implement policies that will have a lasting positive effect on the lives of offenders.