Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.: the first ministry in the United States created to provide confidential support and counseling to individuals, families and organizations with white-collar and other nonviolent incarceration issues. Greenwich CT & Nationwide.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Family ReEntry's Testimony on Criminal Justice Before the Connecticut State Legislature Appropriations Committee


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Family ReEntry's Testimony on 
Criminal Justice Before the 
Connecticut State Legislature 
Appropriations Committee 
 


Public Hearing:
Weds., Feb. 22, 2017, 6:30 pm
_____________




H.B. No. 7027 AN ACT CONCERNING THE STATE BUDGET FOR THE BIENNIUM ENDING JUNE THIRTIETH 2019, AND MAKING APPROPRIATIONS THEREFOR.



Good afternoon, Senator Formica, Senator Osten, Representative Walker, and members of the Appropriations Committee.   

My name is Jeff Grant and I am Executive Director of Family ReEntry.  Founded in 1984 in Bridgeport, Family ReEntry’s mission is to develop, implement, and share innovative and cost-effective solutions to the unprecedented numbers of people involved in the criminal justice system.  We contract with the Connecticut Department of Correction and the Court Support Services Division, as well as other state agencies, to provide services inside and outside of prison, in support of DOC’s mission to “protect the public” and “provide offenders with opportunities for successful community reintegration.”  

Our high-impact services for youth and families tackle the root causes of violent crime through evidence-based social, cognitive and behavioral interventions that restore healthy family functioning and assist returning citizens in becoming positive contributing members of society. For example, participants in our court-referred domestic/family violence programs (n=1539) for 2014-2015 had a re-arrest rate of 8%, which is 60% lower than the program benchmark for re-arrest rates set by the state (20%). 


I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the bold steps that this administration has taken to reduce the numbers of people in prison through criminal justice reform and Second Chance Society legislation. Having served thirteen and a half months in a federal prison myself for a white-collar crime I committed in 2001, I can personally attest to the humanitarian value of second chances. Without the support from my wife, the faith community and opportunities to volunteer with Family ReEntry when I came out of prison, it is unlikely that I would be standing before you today as a tax-paying citizen, non-profit leader and advocate for returning citizens.  


All taxpayers in our state will benefit if Connecticut’s prison population levels can be sustained or further decreased, so long as public safety is not jeopardized.  With these goals in mind, Family ReEntry opposes the proposed one-million dollar cut to DOC’s community support services, and requests that the amount remain at the same level as last year ($34,803,726). 


While we understand the pressing need for a balanced state budget, we believe that cuts to community-based services are not in the best interest of public safety or the longer-term fiscal health of our state.  



With more individuals returning from prison and jail to our communities, it is all the more urgent that we maintain our investment in community services to ensure that recidivism rates do not increase.  Research shows that when individuals returning from prison do not have the social supports and resources they need to rebuild their lives, they are much more likely to commit another crime and return to prison within one to three years of release.[i] The first six months in reentry are a critical time for intervention and for linking individuals without the necessary supports to much needed behavioral health, housing, legal aid and other rehabilitative services.[ii]  Reentry service providers are on the front-lines in preventing other critical problems our state faces as well, including overdose deaths[iii] and children from witnessing domestic violence.

Evidence-based community programs yield significant returns on investment by reducing recidivism.  As stated in a PEW Center on the States report[iv]


Policy makers must confront the reality that, for the foreseeable future, roughly seven out of every ten offenders will continue to serve all or part of their sentences in the community. Ensuring public safety and balancing a budget, then, require states to strengthen badly neglected community corrections systems, so they can become credible options for more of the lowest risk offenders who otherwise would be in prison. 


The non-partisan Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21rst Century (CT21) report[v] concerning the fiscal future of our state---recommends that, “The current Department of Correction reentry programs both internal and community based need to be funded and sustained” and they also warn that “Connecticut must resist temptation to reduce funding for these programs.”  A 2006 national opinion survey likewise indicates that the general public also favors rehabilitative services for offenders, as opposed to a punishment-only approach by an almost 8 to 1 margin[vi].


As the state continues to garner cost savings from criminal justice reform measures, it would behoove the state legislature to maintain the state’s investment in reentry services as part of justice reinvestment. Everyone will be the beneficiary from front-line investments that will help restore healthy families, increase public safety, rebuild our communities and continue to reduce our prison population. 



Thank you for your attention to this important issue.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.



Respectfully submitted,



Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director

Family ReEntry, Inc.

75 Washington Avenue

Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

FamilyReEntry.org

(o) 203-290-0855

(c) 203-957-0162

jeffgrant@familyreentry.org


[i] Kempker, G., Gibel, S., Giguere, R. A (2010) Framework for Offender Reentry. Silver Spring, Maryland. Center for Effective Public Policy.

[ii] Source: Draine, J., & Herman, D. B. (2007). Critical time intervention for reentry from prison for persons with mental illness. Psychiatric Services58(12), 1577-1581.

[iii] Yale’s 2016 plan for Connecticut Opioid Response (CORE) states that 44 percent of fatal overdoses in Connecticut occurred among individuals who had a history of having been detained by the DOC.  For individuals with an opioid disorder released from DOC, 60% of overdose deaths occurred within six months of their release. Retrieved from
http://www.plan4children.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/COREInitiativeForPublicComment.pdf

[iv] Source: One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections; PEW Center on the States; March 2009; page 22

[v] Source: BlumShapiro (2010). Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century: Assessment of Connecticut’s Correction, Pardon and Parole (Report No. 2). Retrieved from http://www.ct21.org/attachments/article/116/prisonreportppt.pdf: page 37 [emphasis added].


[vi] Krisberg, B. & Marchionna, S. (2006). Attitudes of U.S. Voters Toward Prisoner Rehabilitation and Reentry Policies. Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Inside the Heart of a White-Collar Criminal, by Will U. Lystn - Guest Blogger


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for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News



Inside the Heart of a 
White-Collar Criminal

by, Will U. Lystn - Guest Blogger





The author writes about the gratitude 
he feels on his third anniversary 
home from prison. 
He is a member of our 
confidential online Tuesday evening 
White-Collar/Nonviolent Support Group
_____________

Today is an anniversary of sorts: it is 3 years ago to about this very moment when I began the process of exiting that awful and woeful place. Three years ago, right @ this very moment, I found myself:

·         Saying goodbyes to the kind men that were to soon be left behind
·         Giving away the last of my personal items to those in deepest of need
·         Hugging and sharing both this moment of celebration for me and condolences for those not yet ready to gain access to the freedom tarmac
·         Walking up that paved incline happily for the final time and this time, turning and heading towards the outside of the orientation and processing center
·         Sitting patiently and waiting for the prison official to give me the time of day
·         Exchanging my clothes and getting my own clothes back---and then putting them on
·         Waiting for my get-away vehicle
·         Climbing into that cold van and making small talk with the inmate driver
·         Winding down that serpentine road and heading to the exit
·         Waiting patiently for the cab to arrive that would whisk me away to freedom
·         Getting into that cab and nearly breaking in two
·         Closing my eyes and asking the cabbie to speed away @ light-speed
·         Asking him to not judge me, closing my eyes and asking him to let me know when the misery was no longer visible in his rearview mirror (he told me that others asked the same thing many times over)
·         Opening my eyes and seeing the brightness of the morning sun and the fresh vistas of mountains that rose like earthen diamonds on the horizon. Earthen diamonds that represented scalable freedoms yet to be discovered and conquered
·         Drop off at the airport and clinging to my little ditty-bag and wondering if I looked suspicious
·         Purchasing with my prison-issued debit card my first tastes of freedom-laced foods
·         Boarding the plane and heading to my home…wondering what this might look like and if it would welcome or repel me
·         Taking off and vowing never—ever to head that way again
·         Landing @ LAX and watching in wonder as the people milled about in such ease and with such unfiltered awareness of their luck and fortune to be so free
·         Boarding the small commuter plane that would take me back to my home
·         Watching out the window as we passed by Anytown, USA and seeing where my house sat and marveling that once again I was ‘home’
·         Greeting my wife and realizing this was going to take a while to heal the wound that I created
·         The Drop Off @ The Half-Way House: that was tough and the 30 + days there were not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination
·         Coming Home: that day I exited incarceration and found my way back to my house
·         Chico and My Homecoming: opening the door and there to greet me: Chico!
·         In the Middle of The Floor: there I sat, in the middle of the floor sobbing and hugging Chico

More…so much more. But that is pretty darned close. Wow! Three full turns of the calendar and I am still nowhere near to that province I thought would easily reappear: ‘recovered’. I mean nowhere near.

Struggles and Challenges Abound:
The struggles and challenges abound. There are plenty of days when I feel overwhelmed and ostracized. But I would NEVER, as in EVER want to head back to that literal bondage.

The smell, taste and deep-pleasures of freedom way supersede and repress the powers of that awful and woeful place.

Freedom = home + courage + capabilities to try again + tiny victories + 10-S! + Family and time with my wife and kids and grandson + friendships rekindled + opportunities to speak and teach and write and broadcast + leadership leanings + this general sense of well-being.

I am home. I never take this lightly. I never approach this, or my relationships, or my sobriety or my intellect with a casual callousness. I am Uber aware that life can snatch these bounties and blessings and special moments from us, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’.

Like the speed of flight from which a bat exits the deep chasms of hell, life can turn on you. And the fact that I get a 2nd and 3rd and 4th chance = pure and lasting amazing grace.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The PTSD I Couldn’t See, By Amy Oestreicher - Guest Blogger



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for the Days Ahead
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The PTSD I Couldn’t See

By Amy Oestreicher
 Guest Blogger
We met Amy online and were inspired by her story of 
courage and resilience. I think our community 
can learn a lot from her about overcoming 
huge obstacles in life.
____________________ 

I grew up thinking an “illness” was either a fever or croup. Illness was a stuffy nose – a sick-day, an excuse to miss a day of school. At 18 years old, “illness” took on an entirely different meaning. Illness meant waking up from a coma, learning that my stomach exploded, I had no digestive system, and I was to be stabilized with IV nutrition until surgeons could figure out how to put me back together again. Illness meant a life forever out of my control and a body I didn’t recognize.

What happened to me physically had no formal diagnosis. I had ostomy bags and gastrointestinal issues, but I didn’t have Crohn’s disease. Doctors were fighting to keep me alive, but I had no terminal illness. There was so much damage done to my esophagus that it had to be surgically diverted, but I was never bulimic. I didn’t fit into any category. Suddenly, I was just “ill”.

I became a surgical guinea pig, subject to medical procedures, tests and interventions, as devoted medical staff put hours into reconstructing and re-reconstructing me, determined to give me a digestive system and a functional life.

I eagerly awaited the day I’d be functional once again – the day I was finally “fixed” and back to normal. Once I was all physically put together, I’d be eating, drinking, walking, and feeling just like myself again.

Right?

Not completely.

I desperately dreamed about the day I’d be discharged from the hospital. I’d be happy, healthy and would finally know who I was again. I’d feel real. I’d feel human. From there, I could do anything.

Reality Sets In



However, after 27 surgeries and six years unable to eat or drink, I learned that the body doesn’t heal overnight. You don’t wake up in the recovery room to a “normal” life.  Stitches had to heal one by one. Neuropathic nerves grew back one millimeter a month. Learning to talk again took weeks. Learning to walk again took months. My skin’s yellowish glare from the IV nutrition I was sustained on took years to fade. Not only was there no “quick fix” to healing, there was no “permanent fix” either. Wounds reopened and I became accustomed to new “openings” in my body leaking at any given moment. I learned that the body is delicate, precious, but incredibly strong.

My body never went back to normal. With no other alternative, I learned how to accommodate and embrace it for its extraordinary resilience.

I was shocked and saddened that I could never get my old, unwounded body back. But what really startled me was realizing what had happened to my mind.

PTSD. I had never heard those letters put together before. I knew what “trauma” was, but I didn’t know it could cause so much internal dis-ease and dis-order – illness that I couldn’t see.

But that was the biggest shock to me – waking up in a new body and a new mind, troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Waking up to Dis-Order

Not only had I woken up in a new body, but I also now had a mind troubled with anxious thoughts, associations and memories. Overwhelmed with confusion, I used the best resource I could think of – a search engine. I didn’t realize I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder until the internet defined it for me. NAMI – the National Alliance for Mental Illness – is an amazing resource with local chapters across the country. Reading about the symptoms of PTSD, I was able to realize that I wasn’t crazy. There were reasons why I was experiencing so many strange sensations – sensations that made me feel alienated from the rest of the world.

Identifying Symptoms


According to NAMI, these are common symptoms that PTSD survivors experienced:

Intrusive Memories


Gaining back my physical health, I was unprepared for flashbacks, images and memories that I thought I had repressed. People always ask me what the very first food I tried was after the doctors gave me the go-ahead to start eating.  After a few months of baby food, I was eager to dig right into my childhood favorites - like fries.  I’ll never forget the first time I had a French fry once I was hooked up anatomically to eat again. I had been unable to eat or drink for years, and now that I was surgically reconstructed, the world was my endless buffet. I expected relief, fullness and normalcy. Instead, I was jolted back to life with every emotion that I had not wanted to feel for all of these years. I learned that the French fry was my “trigger”. Putting food back into my body made me feel. Now that I could “feel”, I was feeling everything – including the pain I had tried to swallow for years of medical uncertainty, surgical interventions, and countless disappointments.

Soon, intrusive memories were unavoidable. I would be sitting in a car, buckled into a seatbelt and all of a sudden I would start to panic. I felt locked in, restricted, confined and unsafe. Suddenly, I was remembering what it felt like to be chained to IV poles, unable to move and constricted to a tiny space. My heart started beating rapidly and I started to panic as my memories intruded on what appeared to be a perfectly calm moment. It wasn’t as if I was recalling a painful time. It was as though the doctors were right there with me, peering over my open wound, dictating my uncertain future, and confining me to a world of medical isolation.

Avoidance

Whenever I started to feel these scary memories at any given time, I felt like I had to avoid any stimulant that might make me feel anything at all. Nothing felt “safe.” I lived my life like I was constantly running or fleeing. I spent years locked in my room, journaling for hours with my blinds shut, careful to shut out any outside stimulation that might make me feel. When I was unable to eat, this was a survival mechanism – if I felt, I might actually feel the deadliest sensation of all – hunger. When I was finally reconstructed, I was so used to avoiding my emotions, that constantly feeling was a tremendous struggle for me.  I had grown accustomed to staying numb.  It was too painful to remember every setback and struggle, too overwhelming to recall everything I had lost with every surgery – my innocence, my old body, my sense of self…

Dissociation

Once I started avoiding my intrusive memories, I got used to the feeling of numbness – so much that I became dissociated. When trauma left me emotionally and physically wounded, I froze to protect myself... I went numb so I didn’t have to feel pain. I went numb so I didn’t have to re-experience what had happened to me and mourn my losses. Becoming numb made my world a blurry haze. The world didn’t feel real anymore as I learned to stay “out of my body.” I would walk around almost like a zombie, compulsively pacing hallways and walking in circles – anything to keep my feet moving rather than my thoughts. Through dissociating, I could avoid really feeling what I need to feel – grief.

Hypervigilance

Staying out of my body and dissociating was how I coped with anxiety. Feeling tormented by my memories, which felt like they were not memories at all, but real and present dangers. I was extremely anxious and irritable. If I couldn’t constantly fidget or find another way to “numb out” I would start to panic, and would be overwhelmed with even more intrusive memories and raw, forgotten emotions. My anger would end up being misdirected at others, when really, I just wanted to shout at my circumstances. My anxiety manifested in all the wrong places – I couldn’t sit still in classes and couldn’t function as a calm, responsible adult.

Soon, these symptoms were controlling my life.

This was a list of instilled, irrational beliefs I created for myself that helped me stay “numb”:

- If I don’t keep moving, I will feel awful emotions.

- I cannot pause to look at anything. If I do, I’ll remember awful things.

- I must keep doing, and I must always know what I am doing.

- I get a nervous feeling inside if I am in a small space.

- When my body feels pain I am in surgery.

- I cannot stop moving. If I do, I drown.

- If I go outside I will feel too much and it will hurt.

Owning My Trauma

My life changed when my stomach exploded, ten full years ago. PTSD is something I still struggle with because my traumas happened to me, have affected me, and will always be a part of me.

But, I’ve learned how to thrive in spite of what has happened to me, and for the first time, my life feels bigger than my past. I’ve found healthier ways to deal with memories, flashbacks and emotions.

Learning to Cope

The PTSD term for finding healthy coping skills is “self-soothing.” To live a healthy thriving life, I’ve had to befriend my past, embrace my experience, and express what had happened to me. I needed to tell my story in order to heal. But first, I had to hear my story for myself, rather than avoid it. Once I learned how to hear my own heart-shattering story, and feel the pain, the frustration, the anger, and ultimately, the gratitude, I was able to speak to it. I was able to gently teach myself how to live in the present moment rather than in the world of the trauma.

Healing didn’t come all at once. Every day I tried to face a memory a bit more. I called it “dipping my toes” in my trauma. Finally, I could put words to my grief. I was able to write, “I am hurting.”

Befriending My Past

As soon as I was able to write words like “sadness” and “pain”, I allowed myself to explore them. Soon, I couldn't stop the words that flowed out of me. My memories started to empower me, and I wrote with feverish purpose.

I started to journal compulsively for hours as every memory appeared in my mind. Soon, the words couldn’t do justice to my traumatic experience – I needed a bigger container. I turned to art, drawing, scribbling. I filled pages with teardrops, lightning bolts and broken hearts. For me, creativity became a lifeline – a release. It was a way to express things that were too overwhelming for words. Expression was my way of self-soothing.

Once expression helped me face my own story, I was able to share it. And the day I first shared my story with someone else, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were others who had been through trauma and other life-shattering events. And there were also people who had been through the twists and turns of everyday life. Being able to share my story emboldened me with a newfound strength and the knowledge that terrible things happen, and if other people can bounce back, then so can I.

Reaching Out

I found wonderful resources. The National Alliance of Mental Illness started as a “small group of families”, and has blossomed into a supportive, educational organization. Active Minds educates and empowers college students through nation-wide chapters, spreading awareness and lending support. The Jed Foundation offers more coping strategies for college students through mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs.



PTSD: The Mosaic I See


My perspective on illness has changed since I was a child, and it’s also changed since my last surgical intervention. I’ve learned that illness isn’t always in the physical scars. I’ve learned that some wounds aren’t visible, and some wounds even we don't know we have, until we choose to take care of them. But I’ve also learned that I’m resilient, strong, broken and put together again, differently, yet even more beautiful than before – like a mosaic.

PTSD has not broken me. It’s taken me apart, and I’m reassembling myself day by day. In the meantime, I’m learning to love what I can build.


Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.  As the creator of  "Gutless & Grateful," her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she's toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences.  She has studied as a playwright and performance artist in the National Musical Theatre Institute at the world-renowned Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.  Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer's Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual.  To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events.  "Detourism" is also the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.  As Eastern Regional Recipient of Convatec’s Great Comebacks Award, she's spoken to hundreds of healthcare professionals at national WOCN conferences, and her presentations on diversity, leadership and trauma have been featured at National Mental Health America Conference, New England Educational Opportunity Association's 40 Anniversary Conference, and have been keynotes at the Pacific Rim Conference of Diversity and Disability in Hawaii, the Eating Recovery Foundation First Annual Benefit in Colorado.  She's contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC's TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others.    Learn more: amyoes.com




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Reflection on Our State of Criminal Justice on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director, Family ReEntry


Prisonist.org: Faith & Dignity 
for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News

A Reflection on Our State of Criminal Justice
on Martin Luther King Jr. Day


By Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Executive Director
Family ReEntry
Bridgeport, Connecticut


Reprinted from Inner City News,
Page 21
New Haven, Connecticut
Jan. 11, 2017

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
_____________

What should I do, as a white man, prison minister who was incarcerated for a white-collar crime, and as Executive Director of a Connecticut criminal justice nonprofit, to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr.? How do I apply his words, that are so easy to read but so difficult to put into action? How do I honor his memory in these most challenging and controversial of times?

The moment of our comfort and convenience is certainly over. This is true on the national level where we have new, untested leadership. And this is also true here in Connecticut, where the budget crisis has made the state unable to do what is just, and fair, and safe.

Our state government has closed prisons and reduced the prison population to the lowest level since the 1970’s. This is a good thing. 


However, we are in a paradigm shift of epic proportions in which there is no public money to fund solutions to our current problems - and no adequate explanation as to how we got into this situation.  And yet, we keep going back to the state looking for handouts - for funding the way it has always been. And we are surprised and hurt when the answer is no. 

I urge everyone, and especially my fellow criminal justice colleagues, to wake up.

The fiscal crisis has caused the state to terminate the funding for - and close down - our community-based prisoner reentry behavioral health programs. This means thousands of people, many or most of them people of color, will be released from jails and prisons this year without access to therapy, life skills training, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, housing opportunities, education, or even minimum wage jobs. I propose that without this critical support, most are going to recidivate and will go back to prison in record numbers. But not before they return to the very behavior for which they were incarcerated in the first place. This is a very bad thing – for everyone.

How big is this problem? Michelle Alexander, in discussing her seminal book “The New Jim Crow” cites that there are more African American men in prison and jail, or on probation and parole, than were slaves before the start of the Civil War.

The theologian Audre Lorde observed that, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” If this is so, we need to find new tools. We need to stop groveling. With fewer government dollars to support our missions, we can get creative. We can seek out and find solutions even if the state has limited ability help us. We can envision a real private/public partnership, with compassionate foundations and other institutional sources willing to fund our justice reform efforts.  These funding sources will provide support for our advocacy in promoting change and will reward our evidence-based impact in reducing recidivism - and hold our feet to the fire if we do less.


So, where do I stand at this moment of challenge and controversy? I will do as Dr. King did - do my best. Do anything and everything it takes. And like Dr. King, take comfort in knowing that - if we really work together for it - we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.



Family ReEntry, Inc.
Bridgeport, New Haven
Norwalk, Connecticut
familyreentry.org


Conmments from Social Media:

Robert Bridges Jeff Grant, JD, M Div In your latest offering you note that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” If this is so, we need to find new tools. We need to stop groveling. With fewer government dollars to support our missions, we can get creative.<<" I agree 100% We get creative and we speak out from our hearts and we stay flexible and innovative and focused just as you are with your work reforming the criminal justice systems.  

RONALD R. KARNS III I'm curious if Dr. King would want us to walk in his footsteps? I think he would want us to blaze our own trail of social justice. 

Connie Shelley When I first met VIncent Harding (a co-conspirator and good friend and jail mate of Dr. King) in 1964 he told me that MLK knew he would die, he just didn't know where or when. Since that time I have often asked myself how far I'm willing to go for the sake of Justice. I work in a prison, but I don't live there; I speak with those who have no homes, but I don't live there, either; I drive through the places where the most minorities live in Denver, but I drive back to my house. In other words, I can always leave and go home where I'm comfortable and feel safe. That's one thing that Dr. King didn't always do...so perhaps there is an invitation for me in that in some way.

Jacques Johan Swanepoel Sorry but I rather walk in the footsteps of Christ rather than any men or woman on this earth.

Bob Russel (CIPA 08) Hi There; In my personal opinion by doing personal posting like this will certainly honour the life of MLK. Thank you.

    Robert Bridges. Yes, perhaps the invitation is to explore the places inside where you feel uncomfortable ..... and maybe too those places inside where you feel secure and comfy and to push against that? 

    Connie Shelley Robert, I have just started reading, "The New Jim Crow" and I am already confronted with my own crap. The book is required reading for a Learning Tour that I'm doing in March. We will be going to New Orleans and visiting people, jails and Angola prison. One thing I learned in the book is that the "war on drugs" was started by Reagan before there was a drug problem and, in fact, drug use was on the decline.. The CIA was involved in propping up the guerrillas in Nicaragua and the guerrillas were bringing drugs into this country and law enforcement was told to let it flow into the poor neighborhoods of color. We went from 350,000 incarcerated people in the early 1970's to over 2 million today. If you haven't seen the movie, "13th", I would recommend it. Racism is alive and well but it has been recast to look like something different.   

    Connie Shelley And, since the incarceration rate for people of color is much higher than for a nice white middle class males a whole population is kept from voting, housing, jobs and any kind of social benefits. As R. Rohr points out, everything is connected in the Great Chain of Being and if I fail to see the Imago Dei in anything, I have broken the chain. It is the denial of our connectedness that allows us to feel and act superior and allows the private prisons to be a burgeoning industry in our country. Hmmm.....looking for Imago Dei in our new White House and cabinet...don't wanna break the chain.

    Robert Bridges Yes, I've been reading the same book. Its very disturbing and to me one of the most disturbing aspects is that our almost exclusively white male supreme court's have gone out of their way to make justice for a black man an oxymoron.
    •  
    • Connie Shelley Robert Bridges have you read, "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson? His work is amazing.

    • Robert Bridges nope. Perhaps I will give it a look see - thanks Connie

    • Darrell Allen I have experienced seasons of homelessness along with seasons of jail time. In fact, on July 16, 2004 I was supposed to have received 25 years without no chance of parole; but God's unconditional love, grace, and mercy showed up in the power of the Holy Spirit and I only ended up doing 6 months. I think the real question should be: "What Should We Do to Walk like or imitate Jesus?" I say this because Martin Luther King Jr showed us the unconditional love, grace, and mercy of Jesus in his every day walk of life. He was even willing to die for his belief in doing God's perfect will and becoming a ultimate sacrifice for Jesus' ministry of love for one another (John 13:3-35; 15:13).

 

 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Family ReEntry Spring Benefit Concert starring the rock band BLUE COUPE featuring members of BLUE OYSTER CULT the ALICE COOPER BAND


School's Out for the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  
concert event of the millennium!
Family ReEntry's Spring Benefit Concert 

Family ReEntry 
 proudly presents a Benefit Concert

starring the rock band
BLUE COUPE
featuring members of
BLUE OYSTER CULT
the ALICE COOPER BAND   

 
and Special Guests!

 

Opening band will be the School of Rock, Fairfield


April 13, 2017 - Doors open at 6:30 pm.
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theater Company
70 Sanford St, Fairfield
Fairfield CT

Don't Fear the Reaper and click here for information
and to purchase tickets.


Net proceeds go towards Family ReEntry's mission
to restore dignity and renew families 
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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Challenge to Harvard Business School Professor Eugene Soltes to Debate his Book: "Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White Collar Criminal," by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div


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Challenge to 
Harvard Business School Professor 
Eugene Soltes to Debate his Book: 
"Why They Do It: Inside the Mind 
of the White Collar Criminal"

by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div




Challenge to Harvard Business School Professor Eugene Soltes to Come to Greenwich CT to Debate his Book, "Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal."


I have issued a challenge to Harvard Business School Professor Eugene Soltes. I will meet him in Cambridge (or anywhere) to debate his book: "Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal." He can question me about my white-collar crime and ministry, and I can question him about his ethics in researching and writing his book. I hope you will attend if he accepts? This is a rallying cry against shame, stigma, and sensationalism and for criminal justice reform, compassion, empathy - and journalistic integrity.

Please join me in this challenge in your comments to this blog post or by email.
________________



 
As the Director of the first ministry in the U.S. created to support individuals and families with white-collar and nonviolent incarceration issues, and as someone who served time in a Federal prison for a white-collar crime I committed when I was a lawyer, I can state unequivocally that Professor Soltes's methodology and his conclusions are "pure rubbish." Why They Do It, and the press releases and media attention surrounding it, are shamelessly exploitive and are designed solely to sell books; they inflame bigotry and hatred and paint people with a broad brush designed to promote stigma, shunning and Schadenfreude (unfortunately, themes for our time it seems).

I am sure if we re-interviewed his subjects, most or all would say they had been duped into letting down their guards in sharing intensely personal details of their lives and feelings on the promise and belief that Soltes's book would be fair and balanced. If indeed he disclosed to them that he was writing a book at all?

We have worked with hundreds of men, women and families involved in and suffering from these matters, and most are not the subjects of the sensationalized headlines that Soltes claims to have interviewed. In fact, the overwhelming majority are ordinary people, professionals who live down the street, whose children play with yours, who simply got in over their heads due to desperation, addiction, compulsion or mental illness. Most didn't have the ego strength to simply talk to their spouses and admit that life was not going the way they had hoped and dreamed, until they had stepped over the line and it was too late.

Contrary to Soltes's core thesis statement, most have been mired in shame, guilt and remorse even before they were caught. It is terrifying and exhausting to spend their lives looking over their shoulders knowing that they've done something that far wrong. Whether they aware of it or not, almost all go through some kind of transformation from a material life to a more spiritual one. What other choice do they (we) have?

Although I probably have "interviewed" 4 or 5 times as many people accused or convicted of white-collar crimes and their families, I'm not arrogant enough to assert that I understand "why" anyone did or does anything. But then again, I didn't write a book claiming I do. Note the clever, and frightening, [person change in] the title of the Professor's book: why THEY do it: inside the mind of THE white-collar criminal! Aren't we a society that has fought against, and protected people from, this sort of propaganda that aggregates and assigns characteristics to an entire class of people in order to marginalize them and promote fear of them?

Our society has evolved enough that mass incarceration and related topics are now dinner-table conversation; they are finally part of the national debate. I am glad that we give many violent criminals a second chance, and indeed all of God's children deserves our empathy, compassion and kindness. But white-collar criminals have little such chance, largely because of the kind of book written by Professor Soltes. 

We can do better.


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Founder/Director, Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc., Greenwich CT & Nationwide, prisonist.org


Comments from Social Media (more comments below):

Bob Russel (CIPA 08) Hi There; In both my personal & professional opinion it appears to be two completely different points of view on this matter. I am both a Christian and member of the Church Council on Justice & Corrections. Secondly, I have training & experience in corrections, policing, Crime Stoppers mental health assessments & addictions. Therefore I can see both sides on this matter. Appears this topic needs to be resolved in both a frank, open & honest debate between these two people here. There are always two sides to a story and this matter needs to be decided in an open forum and allow people to make up their own minds on this very topic here!!!! Thank you very much.

 

Tom Walker Well, I, for one, am working hard to get more white collar criminals into jail so they can find the spiritual help they need.

 

Kevin Lewis, CFE This critique does not debunk Soltes'findings about why white collar criminals commit fraud. The only critique I saw was that they believed the wrongdoers were remorseful and went through a transformation while incarcerated. I hope this is true as it would mean that the penal system works. The information Soltes found as to why people commit fraud is consistent with the earlier work of Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey so it should not be discarded. 

 

Kathy Morse Shame, an overwhelming sense of guilt almost to the point of drowning in it, being paralyzed by it.... yet we somehow manage to take that life altering experience and make it our life's mission to fight for reform, for a right and just criminal justice system, if there is such a thing. To advocate for those we left behind because for someone who has experienced it, those voices, those images, those events are forever seared in our brain, memories that we cannot rid ourselves of. It's taking a negative, painful part of life and making it into the most positive learning experience in life.



Layne Pavey I think this issue should be researched more. I can certainly consider myself a perpetrator of this kind of crime, for which I served a federal sentence, but I'm not sure I put myself in this stigmatized category of "greedy, white banker." The population representing money crimes should be qualitatively studied, but only to find solutions and interventions. Not to exploit the desperation of those who were in tough places and had to make tough choices. Especially when people do admit they were bad choices and learn from their mistakes.


Barry V. Voss
Jeff: Like you, I'm a disbarred attorney who lost everything. Unlike you, I grew up in a St. Paul housing project and spent my formative years in and out of juvenile and adult corrections institutions while developing a prodigious drug habit. At 19 I went to prison for burglary, but finally decided to change my life's trajectory. I quit drugs, enrolled in group therapy and college-level courses in prison. Once out of prison, I attended the University of Minnesota, graduated with a B.A. in political science, went to Mitchell Hamline Law School and obtained a pardon. Upon admission, I established my own firm-concentrating on criminal defense-and practiced for 35 years during which I was repeatedly recognized as a Super Lawyer, One of the Top 40 Criminal Defense Lawyers and One of the Top 50 Appellate Lawyers in Minnesota Minnesota could never see past my criminal background as it tried on five occasions to take my license. Eventualy I lost my license in 2013 and was prosecuted in federal court for tax evasion.Since then I've tried to find work with little success; all doors seemed to close on me. However, while practicing I met people in the entertainment industry and penned a semi-autobiogrphical story-A Taste of Cold Steel-which I have now developed into a screenplay. I may be embarking on a new career as I have also outlined 4 more screenplays, and I'm completing my autobiography. From my perspective, organizations embrace people with inspiring stories to tell, but not those who lifted themselves up from the streets, succeeded in transforming their lives, lost it all and had to start all over again the second time. To me, these people are highly motivated and relate very compelling stories as they share-in real time-the apparent insurmountable obstacles while attempting to reestablish their rightful place in society. Congratulations to you. Barry V. Voss

Lisa Mayes Lawler Jeff I respect and appreciate your apology to Prof. Soltes. IMO social media has made reacting without digesting and reflecting all too easy. When we have a strong reaction to something there is a reason, or many reasons, and we must examine all sides of what caused that reaction and why. I would openly support both sides of the debate to see if some common ground might be shared.


Beth Corso I also would like to speak with Professor Soltes as in a pre-release interview, he was asked if the white collar criminals felt any remorse for his "victims". Professor Soltes responded that there was little remorse felt as the criminals felt so far removed from their victims. My strong response to Professor Soltes and any white collar criminal - THE VERY FIRST VICTIM IN YOUR CRIME IS YOUR FAMILY.

Dan Varley Great to see the principles of revovery in action!