Edited by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, serving the CT Criminal Justice Community & Co-Founder of Progressive Prison Ministries, the First Ministry in the U.S. Created to Support Individuals, Families & Organizations with White-Collar and Other Nonviolent Incarceration Issues.

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Haven Independent: German Inspired Reform Calms Prison. CT Commissioner Scott Semple Appears on Criminal Justice Insider with Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant

Yale La

German-Inspired Reform Calms Prison

Young inmates are getting direction — not just detention — in one corner of Connecticut’s prison system, and they’re straightening out as a result.

State Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple created the experiment called the TRUE program (which stands for Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding and Elevating) — to help 18-to-25-year-old inmates mature into responsible adults behind bars, and prepare for successful and productive lives after they have been released from prison.

The program, inspired by a fact-finding visit Semple took to Germany with the governor in June 2015, is currently in place in one 70-bed unit at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Because of its early success, Semple is looking to expand it to other units at Cheshire, as well as to the York Correctional Institution for Women.

Through the TRUE program, the young inmates are paired up with mentors who are older, fellow inmates serving life sentences for crimes that they committed while they were young.

Social workers from the Vera Institute of Criminal Justice lead roundtable conversations with the young inmates that encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, what they are hoping to accomplish through the program, and what their goals are for after they are released. The program applies “restorative” justice techniques that bring people who have been harmed and people causing harm together to resolve their conflict via face-to-face conversation as opposed to through further outbursts of violence.

Semple said that the program also rests upon active involvement of family members of the incarcerated, as well as open lines of communication and respect between the prison staff and the inmates.

Several months in, the program has been a success, Semple said on the latest episode of WNHH-FMs “Community Justice Insider with Babz Rawls-Ivy & Jeff Grant” program. “We’ve had little to no incidents in that unit [at the Cheshire Correctional Institution]. In essence, [this program has] created less trauma exposure and improved the health and wellness of the staff and the population.”
Semple noted that correctional officers often get a bad rap, and rarely get as many accolades as police officers, judges, or probation officers. Their work, especially in the context of the TRUE program, is critical for the successful rehabilitation of these young inmates, he said.

“Their job is extremely, extremely important in terms of the mission of improving public safety,” he said. “Because if they fail, the likelihood of failure from a public safety perspective is much more prominent.”

Nearly three years into his tenure as commissioner, Connecticut’s prison population is dropping precipitously, from a high of nearly 20,000 in 2008 to around 14,000 today. Two prisons have closed or contracted in this year alone, including Enfield’s medium security prison earlier this month.

And, with initiatives like the TRUE program at Cheshire set to expand, Semple said, he feels confident that the department he oversees is getting closer by the day to its mission of correction, not incapacitation.

“We are the model in the United States right now,” Semple said about Connecticut’s DOC. “We’re one of the few states in the country that has lowered its incarceration rate and its crime rate, and we’re beginning to see a reduction in recidivism.”

“It’s important that, whoever’s the next governor,” he continued, “they need to take a look at some of the practices that have been in place. And to realize the benefit in improving folks’ overall wellness.”
German Inspiration

Semple at WNHH FM with co-hosts Rawls-Ivy and Grant.
Invited by the Vera Institute of Criminal Justice in June 2015 to observe how other countries’ prison systems prepare inmates for re-entry into society, Department of Correction (DOC) chief Semple and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy found in Mecklenburg, Germany’s Neustrelitz Prison a facility that was specifically designed to meet the emotional and developmental needs of its 18 to 25-year-old incarcerated population.

Instead of throwing young people into lockdown or solitary confinement when they acted out, the German prison had programs that encouraged self-expression, communication between fellow inmates and staff, minimum-wage employment, and a certain degree of autonomy that tried to mimic what life was like outside of prison bars.

A self-proclaimed data-driven, incentive-based commissioner who is willing to experiment with different ways to reduce recidivism, Semple was deeply inspired by the respect, encouragement and sensitivity with which the German prison system treats its young inmates, he said.
“We’re not the department of incapacitation,” Semple said. “We’re the department of correction. And our job is to help correct people. We’re very good at dealing with problematic issues. Our facilities are clean and, for the most part, quiet. But how do we move beyond clean and quiet? It’s as simple as being responsive to people who want to be accountable to themselves.”

After returning from Germany, Semple crunched the numbers on his own prison system. He found that 3,000 people, or roughly 20 percent of the state’s incarcerated population, fell between the ages of 18 and 25. Those younger inmates accounted for roughly 25 percent of all disciplinary incidents within the state’s prison system.

“We do know that this is a very impulsive age,” Semple said. He admitted that, when he was a teenager growing up in Waterbury in the 1970s, he was involved in activity that very well might have gotten him arrested if he were in high school today.

He talked to the governor, reached out to the Vera Institute, and decided to bring a little bit of the German incarceral approach to the Nutmeg State.
Inspired By Personal Tragedy
Semple started out as a correctional officer at the Cheshire Correctional Institution back in 1988. Over the years he has served as legislative liaison for the DOC, warden for the Garner Correctional Institution, deputy commissioner of operations for the DOC, and, as of 2015, DOC commissioner.
Shortly after Semple became deputy commissioner, his son Matthew was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Soon after he became commissioner, his son passed away.

Semple spoke about how he and his wife struggled to decide whether or not he should accept Gov. Malloy’s offer to serve as commissioner when going through such a difficult time in their lives. Ultimately, he decided to do it, heeding his late son’s strong encouragement to take the position.

“The things you traditionally get worked up about did not seem to bother me as much because quite frankly the worst thing in my life has already happened,” Semple said about how his son’s life and premature death have inspired his passion and willingness to experiment as the head of the DOC. “So why not be bold? It really led and energized the direction that I felt compelled to take this department to.”

“Criminal Justice Insider” airs every first and third Friday of the month on WNHH FM at 10 a.m. Listen to the full interview with Scott Semple here or Facebook Live video here.

“Criminal Justice Insider” is sponsored by Family ReEntry and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Family ReEntry is in the Times Square Portal, Weds., Nov. 15th at 10 am. Join in on Facebook Live!

Life Beyond Bars. Live from the 
Times Square Portal in NYC! 

Join us on Weds. Nov. 15th at 10 am live on Shared Studio’s Facebook page as Fred Hodges and Daee McKnight from Family ReEntry, Inc. and participants from the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative share their personal experiences and professional perspectives on resuming or recreating life after prison. Moderator Jeff Grant, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, will engage panelists on the challenges and joys of reentering society. Post your questions for panelists to answer live from Portals in Times Square, New York City and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 


Thank you for your support!  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thank You for Your Generous Donations to Family ReEntry's Year-End Appeal

Your generous donations to Family ReEntry’s 
Year-End Appeal help us to better serve 
families affected by the criminal justice system

Thank you for your support!

Family ReEntry to Honor Philip C. Potter in Greenwich This Thursday, Nov. 9!

Family ReEntry to Honor 

Philip C. Potter in Greenwich

This Thursday, Nov. 9! Family ReEntry Invites You 
to a Reception at Christ Church Greenwich 
to Honor Our Former Board Chair 
Philip Potter as He Receives 
the Elizabeth Bush Award

Reprinted from Greenwich Sentinel, Nov. 6, 2017, By Richard Kaufman, Sentinel Reporter

On Thursday, Nov. 9, at Christ Church’s Tomes-Higgins House, the board of directors of Family ReEntry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting individuals and families impacted by the criminal justice system, will honor Philip C. Potter with the Elizabeth Bush Volunteerism Award.

The award is given to someone who has gone above and beyond a volunteer role to make life altering positive changes for individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system.

The late Elizabeth Bush, a longtime Greenwich resident, was one of the original volunteers of Family ReEntry, and helped make it the entity it is today.

Potter, 92, also a longtime Greenwich resident, is a former
Philip Potter will be Honored
chairman of Family ReEntry’s board of directors.

Potter was also a litigation partner with the Davis Polk & Wardwell firm in New York City and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was also named All American Honorable Mention and All-New England for soccer. Potter is also a World War II veteran serving in The American Field Service under the British Army as an ambulance driver.

Over his time with the Family ReEntry, Potter focused primarily on youth and children’s programs to help disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration.

According to a press release from Family ReEntry, Potter’s work has been instrumental in that approximately 65 percent of youths matched with mentors avoided or engaged in a reduced amount of risk-taking behaviors.

For Family ReEntry’s Executive Director, Jeff Grant, Potter is a very deserving recipient of the award and was an invaluable member of the organization, which began in 1984.

“[Philip] gave up his time, [he provided] leadership, he donated money,” Grant said. “Philip was a wonderful ambassador for Family ReEntry and a person with a huge heart. He gave up himself thanklessly.”

Grant became executive director last October after serving eight years on the board of directors.

However, many years prior, Grant’s life was falling apart.
After years of prescription drug abuse, and after operating a law firm that had started to fail, Grant attempted to take his own life in the summer of 2001.

Months later, after becoming sober, a warrant was issued
Jeff Grant Speaking at The Nantucket Project
for his arrest. Grant had applied for a loan using false paperwork, and had also co-mingled client funds at his law firm in Westchester County.

In 2006 Grant went to federal prison for a little over a year and rehabilitated himself. He walked nearly 3,500 miles on the track during his time behind bars, and talked with other prisoners convicted of white-collar crimes about what they worried about most as they prepared to go back to their normal lives.

Upon his release, Grant was volunteering for many local service groups and found Family ReEntry.

“I was interested in Family ReEntry and it was a perfect match for my mission and my skill set,” Grant said. “I wanted to give back to the community, I wanted to give back to the criminal justice community and Family ReEntry is the perfect place to do that.”

Over the years, Family ReEntry has grown, and although they primarily serve Bridgeport, there are offices in Norwalk and New Haven. Programs are located in Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, New London and Norwich.

Grant believes organizations like Family ReEntry are critical, especially in the present economic times.

“We live in a state right now where there are thousands of people being released from prison every year. Because of the state budget crisis, there are fewer and fewer programs to support them and to ensure that they’re successful outside of prison so that they don’t return to the type of criminal behavior that got them into trouble in the first place,” Grant said.

“So organizations like Family ReEntry not only provide them essential services, but they disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration to prevent it from happening in a family over and over again.”

Friends of Potter and Family ReEntry are invited to attend the event on Nov. 9, which goes from 5 to 7 p.m. Advance RSVP is required, and can be made to

In recognition of Potter’s incredible contribution to the community, donations can be made in his name to the youth and children’s programs of Family ReEntry by logging onto

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Greenwich Sentinel: Family ReEntry to Honor Former Board Chair Philip Potter at Christ Church Greenwich

Greenwich Sentinel:
Family ReEntry to Honor 
Former Board Chair Philip Potter 
at Christ Church Greenwich

Reprinted from Greenwich Sentinel, Nov. 2, 2017


The Board of Directors of Family ReEntry, a nonprofit organization supporting individuals and families impacted by the criminal justice system, announced a special reception to honor Philip C. Potter, 92, as he is presented with the Elizabeth Bush Volunteerism Award.

Held on Thursday, Nov. 9 from 5 to 7 p.m., at Christ Church Greenwich’s Tomes Higgins House, 216 E. Putnam Ave., Family ReEntry celebrates the tremendous efforts of Potter’s work, including the extraordinary leadership, personal involvement and financial support that he arranged and contributed to Family ReEntry’s programs.

The Elizabeth Bush Volunteerism Award recognizes a person who has gone above and beyond a volunteer role to making life altering positive changes for individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system. The late Beth Bush was a longtime Greenwich resident who was instrumental in the growth of Family ReEntry.

Family ReEntry Board Member and Greenwich resident Susan Ness explained, “I can’t think of anyone more deserving to receive the Elizabeth Bush Award than Philip Potter. Philip has personally changed for the better our entire Connecticut criminal justice community, and especially the lives of many children with a parent in prison.”

Potter is the former Chairman of Family ReEntry’s Board of Directors and has donated countless hours and financial resources to the Family ReEntry mission to help individuals, families and entire communities. A major focus for him has been Family ReEntry’s youth and children’s programs, which he considered an important place to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. Evidence of his work is seen in Family ReEntry’s latest impact statistics that show that approximately 65% of youths matched with mentors avoided or engaged in a reduced amount of risk-taking behaviors.  According to Tina Banas, Family ReEntry’s Clinical Director and Director of Youth & Family Services, “Philip’s leadership and contribution to the lives of children of incarceration has been immeasurable. We can’t thank him enough for all he has done for this community.”

A longtime Greenwich resident, Potter was a litigation partner with the Davis Polk & Wardwell firm in New York City and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He completed his education at Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was also named All American Honorable Mention and All-New England for soccer. He is also a World War II veteran serving in The American Field Service under the British Army as an ambulance driver. He is a past National Chairman of the Harvard Law School Fund and a past President of the Harvard Law School Association of New York City. He was active in committee work at the Association of the Bar of New York City and is a past Vice President of the Association.

To attend the event, RSVP to In recognition of Potter’s contribution to the community, donations can be made in his name to the youth and children’s programs of Family Reentry by logging onto

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Press Release: New Radio Show Explores Criminal Justice from the Inside — and Out: Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant Launch "Criminal Justice Insider"on WNHH New Haven

Press Release: New Radio Show Explores Criminal Justice from the Inside — and Out 

 Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant Launch "Criminal Justice Insider"on WNHH New Haven

New Radio Show: Criminal Justice Insider 

Bridgeport, Connecticut   October 19, 2017   Business News
(PRLEAP.COM) The airwaves are open to discuss Criminal Justice - from the Inside. A new show, Criminal Justice Insider, co-hosted by WNHH-FM's Babz Rawls-Ivy and Family ReEntry's Executive Director, Jeff Grant, takes a unique perspective on all issues of the justice system, including the effects of incarceration and the challenges faced by ex-offenders.

A major intrigue of the program can be found in the

personal background stories of the show's co-hosts. Rawls-Ivy and Grant have both served prison sentences. As ex-offenders, they are well aware of the challenges, inside and outside, of the legal system and the prison system. They are also both examples of success and hope for others.

The show, which debuted last Friday, welcomed a much larger than expected audience, and WNHH immediately doubled its originally scheduled programming. Criminal Justice Insider is now slated for a full hour at 9:00AM on the first and third Fridays of each month.

Rawls-Ivy, who is also the host of WNHH's daily "LoveBabz LoveTalk," and editor of the Inner City News, proclaimed, "Jeff and I have talked about doing something like this for a while. When we pitched the topic to the station, we presented so many aspects that affect so many people, not just in Connecticut but all over the country, the content designed itself."

As the executive director of Family ReEntry, a social service organization in Bridgeport that works with individuals and their families who have been directly impacted by incarceration, Grant is a perfect complement to the show. "This show is important because we go deep into the personal challenges and successes that individuals, families and whole communities experience. There are not many places that welcome and encourage the authentic, vulnerable side of the criminal justice experience."

The next broadcast of Criminal Justice Insider will be on Friday, November 3rd with special guest, Connecticut State Representative from New Haven, Robyn Porter. Upcoming live shows will feature lively discussions from a series of different guests, such as Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple, Katal Center Co-Executive Director Lorenzo Jones, Carlah Esdaile-Bragg of Cornell Hill Scott Health and Marcus Bullock of Flikshop, along with many others.

Working in affiliation with local news source, The New Haven Independent, a recap of each Criminal Justice Insider show and a preview of upcoming shows will be published. For anyone who hasn't already heard the program, the debut broadcast is now available in its entirety on SoundCloud and to keep up with the topics of discussion, a Facebook page has also been set up at Criminal Justice Insider.

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 and on its social media including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.

Contact Information
Greg Walsh
Family ReEntry
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