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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Survive in Prison As a Hedge-Fund Millionaire - New York Magazine, May 23, 2013

Progressive Prison Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut

How to Survive in Prison As a Hedge-Fund Millionaire

New York Magazine 

Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of the Galleon Group, leaves United States Federal Court after being found guilty of  insider trading in New York, New York, USA, 11 May 2011. Rajaratnam was convicted of five conspiracy counts and nine securities fraud charges.  In Raj's case, make that "billionaire."

Life is tough for hedge-fund managers who go to prison for insider trading. There are no Bloomberg terminals, the food is terrible, and you have to associate with petty car thieves and drug dealers in the yard. But there are some things you can do to make your prison stay a little more pleasant.

Absolute Return has an interview with Jeff Grant, a former corporate criminal and head of the Progressive Prison Project, who now advises convicted hedge-fund managers and other white-collar criminals on how to get themselves ready for prison after a lifetime of upper-class privilege.

Lots of Grant's advice is reasonable: Arrange your finances ahead of time, maintain a "solid long-term address," instruct visitors not to wear clothing that will set off metal detectors, get on the good side of the prison gangs, things like that. But the most important piece of advice he offers is this: Ix-nay on the Amptons-hay.

Respect in prison is mostly a matter of learning what not to say ... In one case, a former hedge funder made the mistake of talking about the sale of his Hamptons property. I think you can imagine some of the difficulties.

Instead of complaining about how the Sagaponack zoning board just won't approve your Olympic-size infinity pool for whatever goddamned reason, Grant suggests talking about normal-people things: "More useful are concepts like respect, restraint, care, self-care, compassion, community, transformation, and spirituality." Hedge-funders who want to combine precepts of spirituality with their entrepreneurial zeal while in prison also presumably have options.

This article originally appeared in New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer 5/23/13 online at:

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jack's Pardons Story, By Jeff Grant: Why a Pardon Is Something All Ex-Offenders ShouldAspire To

Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project

at The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport

126 Washington Avenue

Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

The first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office

to cover all of Fairfield County, Connecticut  

Jack's Pardons Story:

Why a Pardon Is Something All Ex-Offenders 
Should Aspire To

Many of our friends and colleagues in the Connecticut reentry, recovery and faith communities know that we at The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport are in the process of opening the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project – which is the first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office to cover all of Fairfield County, Connecticut.  This is the story of how this important project came about.


I have a friend for over a decade now named Jack[1], who just might be the most inspiring person I have ever met.  It’s not because Jack has moved mountains or shouted from so many rooftops – it’s because Jack taught me about living in gratitude, suiting up and showing up, and remembering my beginnings so I can be of service to others.  It’s a good list to remember every morning.

Unlike so many other kids from the poor side of the tracks in Connecticut urban public high schools, Jack had a warm, loving childhood.  There was no way he could have known that giving up an education for the streets was a one way ticket to poverty and jail.  But that’s what happened.  No matter how hard Jack tried, he just kept drinking and getting arrested.  

Nonetheless, Jack was determined to get sober and make a life for himself.  He got some technical training, got a job as an auto mechanic and swore to get sober.  He went into recovery, and got some clean time and fought his way to better jobs with more responsibility – things were going great.  But by age thirty-four, Jack was living in a box under a railroad bridge in Stamford.  Living hand to mouth - trying to survive - Jack picked up six felonies in under four years.  He was now marked in a way that would affect his life, his career and his relationships forever.

A couple of years ago, Jack asked me to come see him in his office – despite his felonies he had done incredible things with his life.  He was by that point over ten years clean and sober; had married a kind, beautiful, sober woman and was the father of five children – in fact, he had adopted his wife’s two disabled children; he had risen to become the general manager of one of the most respected car dealerships in Fairfield County; and was devoting the rest of his time helping young men straighten themselves out.  This was an incredible turnaround story!  

But Jack had a problem he needed to talk to me about – the factory told him that unless he got his felony removed that he would lose his job.  Jack told me that he had twice submitted his papers to the State of Connecticut Board Pardons Board - and neither time had the Pardons Board accepted his papers for hearing.  Jack was feeling dejected and desperate – and needed help badly.   

I asked Jack if I could see his file and maybe write a letter on his behalf?  I really had no idea what I was talking about.  But I did have some experience by that point as a Director at Family Reentry and Fresh Start Enterprises in Bridgeport working with ex-offenders, so I figured I could look up the rules on the Internet and be helpful.  As it turned out, what Jack really needed was someone to shepherd him through the process.  He had done most of the work already – he’s the one who had turned his life around – he just needed a little help in telling his story correctly.   

Four months later, Jack received his full pardon and kept his job.  Jack now appears with me at outreach and other groups, raising awareness and funding for the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project. 


The Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project is a very big deal for us - and for the Fairfield County, reentry and recovery communities - because it marks real on-the-ground change borrowed from enlightened criminal justice theory first discussed at the Department of Corrections under the leadership of then Commissioner of Corrections Theresa Lantz, and by Erika Tindill, who currently serves our state as Chair of the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.  

Why not give each and every ex-offender and his/her family something to aspire to?   Why not create a culture of public service, volunteerism, goodness, dedication, forgiveness, grace, discipline, faith, and family – the kind of things an ex-offender needs to obtain a Pardon?  Why not instill in each and every family the hope and belief that there might be a day that their nightmare will end – that it will end through their own hope and works, and the enlightenment of the good people of this state? 

After all, in a hospital doesn’t a “discharge plan” start on the first day a patient is admitted?

Of course, not every ex-offender and family that applies for a Pardon will be granted one.  But great things can and will happen for all who start the process.  So why not start as soon as possible? 

The point is that more ex-offenders who are granted pardons, the more life will change for the better for all ex-offenders and their families.  Now that’s something to aspire to.

Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project.  We are in the process of opening the first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office to cover all of Fairfield County (  All volunteers and staff are trained at the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons & Paroles, and have experience in pardons assistance. Our goal is to work with all local pardons assistance initiatives throughout the state and country to create better results for all.   

For Information Please Contact: Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Assoc. Minister/Director of Prison Ministries, 126 Washington Ave, Bridgeport, CT, 06830,

[1] Name has been changed to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Helping hedge funders cope with prison: A Q&A with the Director of Greenwich-based Progressive Prison Project

Progressive Prison Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut
Helping Hedge Funders Cope With Prison
May 20, 2013, by Lawrence Delevingne

A Q&A with the director of Greenwich-based 
Progressive Prison Project

 This Article first appeared on 
HedgeFund, May 22, 2013

On May 13, Level Global Investors co-founder Anthony Chiasson was sentenced to more than six years in prison. 

He'll be joining a small but growing number of incarcerated hedge fund professionals thanks to the government's aggressive prosecution of insider trading cases. Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam is serving an 11 year prison sentence. FrontPoint Partners portfolio manager Chip Skowron is in for five years. SAC Capital Advisors PM Donald Longueuil is nearing the end of a 30-month term. 

They and others from the industry had elite legal help, but were they ready for life inside the big house? What type of personal transformation is possible once behind the razor wire? And is there anyone to help this relatively fortunate group? 

That's where Jeff Grant comes in. As founder and
director of the Progressive Prison Project in Greenwich, Conn. and head of prison ministries of the First Baptist Church in nearby Bridgeport, Grant has devoted his life to helping prisoners. While he has focused on poor communities, Grant has increasingly worked with people accused of white collar crimes, including hedge fund managers, in learning to cope with life in prison. 

Grant's advice comes from personal experience. In 2006, he was sent to a low security federal prison for 14 months after pleading guilty to federal criminal fraud charges. A corporate lawyer, Grant operated an office in Mamaroneck, New York. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, he fraudulently claimed to have a Wall Street office that was hurt by a decline in business following the terrorist attacks in order to obtain a low-interest $247,000 loan under the U.S. Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (he

repaid the government $365,000 as part of his civil settlement, including penalties).
Grant is writing a book entitled “The Art of Surviving Prison" due out this fall. Absolute Return asked him about his work and how it relates to the hedge fund community. 

Absolute Return: How did you become involved in helping prisoners? 

Grant: The most obvious answer is that I served time in Federal prison for a white-collar crime, and I had to work my way through my own feelings of shame and remorse. This put me in touch with others' feelings about these issues, too. Prison served as a time of transformation that influenced me to attend Union Theological Seminary and then to my calling in prison ministries. 

There are a few lessons about prison that I think might be helpful to hedge funders. It might be comforting to know that I never really felt threatened, but there was a big difference between not feeling threatened and the realization that prison could be a very dangerous place. I realized that I had a few things going for me in order to survive. First, I was old. At 48, I was older than most of the other inmates and was outside of my fellow inmates’ need for bragging rights. Second, I had a skill. Once word got out that I had been a lawyer, this was a highly sought after commodity, although I never accepted any money or favors. Third, I learned, albeit the hard way, that the best way to earn respect on the compound was to simply pay respect to everybody. Respect was the absolute most important thing in prison. It came in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and was expected in all kinds of ways in return. It was a wolf pack and I was the omega. 

I walked 3,500 miles around the exercise track in one year there. Whoever wanted to walk and talk with me could. It was a rich beautiful experience in a very stark and barren place. 

How did you begin working with hedge fund guys? 

It happened quite unexpectedly. I live in Greenwich, where there are many hedge funds, and word got around about my personal experience and my work in inner city prison ministry. I had been moonlighting in helping white-collar types on an ad hoc basis for years. Then one afternoon last year I received a call from the friend of a hedge fund manager who had less than five weeks before he was to report to Federal prison. Nobody had ever discussed with him and his family anything that they would need to survive the ordeal ahead. The three of us met together in a diner and it was eye opening because I realized a trend--there were a lot of white-collar families with little or no places to turn for experienced and compassionate support. 

I founded the Progressive Prison Project in Greenwich as a direct outgrowth of my inner city prison work at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, and as Vice Chairman of Family Reentry, a nonprofit serving the ex-offender community of Fairfield County – the disparity between how they the legal system treats the rich and the poor is a well documented issue. But I was also hearing these other stories about the isolation felt by people accused of white collar crimes, and the issues of their families who had done nothing wrong but were suffering scorn and ridicule in their communities. I felt that if I could bring people and stories of all communities closer together, everyone could benefit. 

I understand you can't use names, but can you characterize those from the industry you've worked with and what their situations were? 

I am meeting with an ex-employee of a large Stamford-based hedge fund that's been in the news a lot. He's been notified as the target of an investigation, so it's likely he'll go to prison. Earlier preparedness is always a good thing. For him it was first things first: he needed assistance in finding substance abuse counseling for alcohol and drugs and a rehab program. There are marital concerns: whether his marriage will survive. That's always the case, by the way. There are also some broader psychiatric issues. And last on the list is vocation. How is he going to make a living? How is he going to support his family? What are they going to do during the imprisonment? 

Another hedge funder, the guy I met with in the diner, told me that he had what he called an army of professionals and had everything covered. As the conversation unfolded it became clear that although the lawyering and many of the other professional pieces had been handled well, nobody had ever discussed with him, or his wife, how to survive the prison experience and then put their lives back together on the other side. 

I asked him, for example, if he understood that once he surrendered he would be a prisoner of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and that it was possible that he would be placed into the solitary unit for days or weeks before he was put on the main compound. Did his wife know how to track his movements if he was transferred to another prison? Did anybody prepare his wife for her first visit to the prison visiting room, so that she wasn’t sent home due to wearing the wrong clothing? Or because of incidental drug residue on her clothes or money she might bring in to buy him food in the vending machines? He looked dumbfounded. I suggested that he start taking notes. We called the waiter over and asked for a stack of place mats and a pen. We talked for the next four hours. 

What do you usually help them with? 

Mostly, I help with the isolation they experience from being cut off from their community, and from their inability to find any prison-related or other services to give them good, dependable information and support. It's not their fault. There are actually many more criminal justice and prison ministry-type services available in communities like Bridgeport than there are in places like Greenwich. 

My basic advice is to mind your Ps and Qs. Be very respectful and manage your day pretty closely. There was one very well known hedge fund guy in particular who had a very gregarious personality. He decided he would be authentic to himself. It worked out great for him. In being authentic he was able to be friendly and engaging in a non-threatening and very real way. The things that made him successful in the hedge fund world actually made him so in prison. I wouldn't say that would work for everybody, but his particular manner was not very threatening to begin with. It was very engaging. He was able to befriend everybody. He didn't use wealth or power as his calling cards. He used humor and vulnerability. He was clearly in the midst of some sort of spiritual transformation that made him more vulnerable in a positive way. 

So being vulnerable can be an asset? 

It's counterintuitive. In a minimum security prison, there's a lower ratio of guards to prisoners. You actually have to be more aware of your surroundings. Everything is dramatized on TV. What happens in prison most of the time is very boring. You get to read a lot. But once in a while something happens that is outside of the ordinary where you have to pay a lot of attention to it. For those things you have to be prepared. And unfortunately in prison those things are way outside the ordinary.

What are some of those dangers? 

In a minimum security prison there are gangs. They are not allowed to rove or collect, yet they are there. It's mostly for mutual protection. There's generally no pressure to align with a gang when you show up. Outliers in terms of age or socioeconomic background are pretty much left alone. 

You can still do something wrong. It's unfortunately easy to maintain an attitude of entitlement that wouldn’t be looked upon favorably. Bumped up against people of lesser economic circumstances could lead to an issue. It could be on the chow line. It can be getting a haircut. It can be at the infirmary. Anywhere people have to wait their turn and where they're not doing that, for example. 

Once you draw attention to yourself, then you can get hurt. I've seen people get beat up. I've seen people get killed. I never saw a hedge funder or doctor or lawyer or stock broker get killed, but I did see gang members get killed in prison. And I was in a minimum security prison. It was the first time I had ever seen someone get killed in my life. So I help people understand that something like that can happen in a moment with no notice whatsoever. It's terrifying. 

When people go to prison there's kind of an egalitarianism that takes over and a relearning state where the things we were supposed to learn in kindergarten get relearned. Please and thank you. 

Respect in prison is mostly a matter of learning what not to say. It can be an incredibly counterintuitive assignment for the types of people who become Wall Street executives. It is a real comeuppance when they learn that nobody cares about what they have to say about anything, or that if they do it can be for the wrong reasons. In one case, a former hedge funder made the mistake of talking about the sale of his Hamptons property. I think you can imagine some of the difficulties. 

Can they use their money to buy protection? 

Not that I know of. 

These guys must lose a ton of weight and get into shape, right? 

That's generally true. I lost 60 pounds in prison. That was from my walking and a very specific daily regimen that I embraced. I did pushups and got to the point where I could do 75 in a row. I can only do 35 to 40 now. I've put back on a little of the weight [laughs]. 

How do Wall Street skills usually translate in prison? 

I assume by Wall Street skills you mean intellect, ambition, independence, wit, ability to form quick connections. These skills are not only in large degree useless, they are probably counterproductive. More useful are concepts like respect, restraint, care, self-care, compassion, community, transformation, and spirituality. If I had to choose one to remember in prison as I mentioned above, it would begin and end with respect. Of course, respect in prison means something quite different than in a world where people got mostly everything they wanted. 

Here’s my story about how I learned respect in prison: One night, when I was only there about three weeks or so, I was lying on my bunk with a pillow on my face just trying to get some sleep. Or some quiet. Three Latinos were holding a conference of some sort right outside the entrance of our cube. It sounded like they were screaming and yelling at one another. I couldn’t take it so I sat up in bed and screamed for them to “shut the f--k up.” Of course they ignored me. I was lucky that was the end of it. My cellie was sitting on his bunk and stared me down before he asked me if I was trying to get myself killed. I just stared back at him. I told him I couldn’t take the screaming anymore. He looked at me and calmly explained to me that those Latinos were
people. Instead of screaming, he suggested that if I simply peaked my head into the hall and asked them politely to keep it down, or move their meeting to another location, they probably would have obliged. 
Are there parallels between your work with those from poorer communities in Connecticut, like Bridgeport, and wealthier ones, like Greenwich? 

The difference is in the communities, not in the people. Places like Bridgeport have an embodied experience of crime, criminal justice and prison. People there live with it in their midst and understand its intricacies. For some, there is no shame in being arrested or going to jail; it's just part of the deal. In Greenwich, however, prison is so far from the daily life and experience. It's like a deer getting caught in the headlights. I have found that the only way to minister to those suffering in Greenwich is to bring the two communities closer together so that the experiences and lessons learned by one can be of service to the other. That’s what makes the concept of The Progressive Prison Project so powerful. 

Here’s a piece of useful information that I picked up in Bridgeport that can make a huge quality of life difference immediately. When a hedge funder first gets to prison, his senses are likely to fail him to the point where he is likely forget his own address and phone numbers, and his family’s and friends’, too. Yet, in order to fill out phone call and visitor request forms, he will need all this information. What to do? A couple of days before he reports to prison, he can mail himself the names, addresses and phone numbers. Prison may be a difficult place, but they have to deliver the mail. Brilliant. 

Any other tips? 

Maintenance of a solid long term address and home is important. When it's time to be released from prison, you have to get released to a home. The problem is that life goes by for the family on the outside. Typically the hedge fund guy in prison isn't in control of what happens on the outside: the family moves, children get married. If there's an ability to control one stable piece for as long as that person is in prison, say an apartment--something--then he's likely to have stable place to come home to which will ease the way for him to be released early and be able to come home early. If a hedge fund guy lives in Connecticut, goes to prison in Pennsylvania, and his wife moves to California, it's very difficult to get early supervised release because he doesn't have a place to come home to in his home state. These are issues that can be considered in advance. 

They need advice on getting family in to see you without getting turned away from the visiting room line. It's not an easy thing to know before you go through it. For example, if females are wearing undergarments with wire bras, they will be thrown off the visiting line and sent away. The metal detector will detect it. It could be perceived as a dangerous object and they won't check what it actually is. There's also the drug scanner, which can be used randomly and detects micro amounts of various forms of drugs. You need new or recently washed clothing. Washing up. Not touching money. Not eating breakfast. Not anything where you might come into contact with something that has trace residues of drugs. Money contains huge amounts of trace residues of drugs. Literally when people come to visit they sleep overnight, they get washed up and go right to the line without touching anything and try and get through without these scanners picking up something that might incidentally be on their clothing. 

What do you hope for those from the hedge fund industry during their time in prison? 

Great leaders who have spent time in prison have written about two things they have been able to control: their bodies and attitudes, and their ability to help others. This has been absolutely true in my experience. It is my hope that anybody who is, or might be, heading to prison, uses their time wisely, as a time of great personal transformation in devoting part of each day to mind, body and spirit; and in commitment to helping others. 

What books do you recommend to these guys? 

The seminal book for me was "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. I also recommend "Letters and Papers from Prison" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If people can get through it, "The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Nelson Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom." The hedge funds guys like all of them. I would rather they identify with the concept of captivity than the concept of being criminals. There's a transformation within the captivity that they can embrace and learn and grow from if they choose to. Other people have. They don't have to view themselves from the negative. 

Have you watched any significant transformations? 

I was called a few weeks ago by a former hedge funder I hadn’t met with in a couple of years. He looked like the weight of the world was off his shoulders, had lost thirty pounds, and had a smile ear to ear. He looked nothing like the guy I remembered. He told me that he had been to prison and wanted my help in finding a new career. Without the monkey on his back of his old life and former problems, he felt free. Now, he's in school to become a drug counselor. 

That's a noble goal for a lot of ex hedge funders, and it's one of the professions that are open to them. I also know a hedge funder who has become a social worker. There are a lot of transformation stories. 

Maybe it’s a case of viewing the glass as half full, but almost all I see are great transformations. Stock brokers who are now drug counselors, atheists who have found God, absentee fathers who have renewed relationships with their children. Why not? Most white-collar criminals can't go back to their old live and careers, so what choice do they really have? Why not embrace a completely new life, with new options and new opportunities? The most fortunate are those who figure out that their attempts to solve problems in isolation did not work, and that they no longer have to go it alone. They figure out that some of us have been there before them and are willing to help. I feel blessed to have these families in my life.

This interview was condensed and edited. 

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-12

 Progressive Prison Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut 

Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-12

I thought this was an important report to share with you (link below).  I am asked questions about this kind of material all of the time.  



Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-12
Allen Beck, Ph.D., BJS Statistician, Marcus Berzofsky, Dr.P.H., Rachel Caspar, Christopher Krebs, Ph.D., RTI International

May 16, 2013    NCJ 241399

Presents data from the National Inmate Survey (NIS), 2011-12, conducted in 233 state and federal prisons, 358 local jails, and 15 special correctional facilities (operated by U.S. Armed Forces, Indian tribes, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)) between February 2011 and May 2012, with a sample of 92,449 inmates age 18 or older and 1,738 inmates ages 16 to 17. The report ranks facilities according to the prevalence of sexual victimization, as required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-79). The prevalence of victimization, as reported by inmates during a personal interview, is based on sexual activity in the 12 months prior to the interview or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. This report includes estimates of nonconsensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contacts, inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate victimization, and level of coercion. It provides the first-ever national-level estimates of sexual victimization of juvenile inmates ages 16 to 17 held in adult facilities. The report also presents findings on reported sexual victimization by selected demographic and other inmate characteristics, including measures of serious mental illness for the first time.


In 2011-12, an estimated 4.0% of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.

Patterns of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12 were consistent with patterns in past surveys. 

Rates reported by prison and jail inmates were higher among females than males, higher among whites than blacks, and higher among inmates with a college degree than those who had not completed high school.

Eleven male prisons, 1 female prison, and 9 jails were identified as high-rate facilities based on the prevalence of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12. 

Eight male prisons, 4 female prisons, and 12 jails were identified as high rate based on the prevalence of staff sexual misconduct. 

Each of these facilities had a lower bound of the 95%-confidence interval that was at least 55% higher than the average rate among comparable facilities.

An estimated 1.8% of juveniles ages 16 to 17 held in prisons and jails reported being victimized by another inmate, compared to 2.0% of adults in prisons and 1.6% of adults in jails.

Among state and federal prison inmates, an estimated 6.3% of those identified with serious psychological distress reported that they were sexually victimized by another inmate. 

In comparison, among prisoners with no indication of mental illness, 0.7% reported being victimized by another inmate.


Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Conversation About My Recent Eugene Jarecki Blog.

Progressive Prison Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut

A Conversation About My Recent 
Eugene Jarecki Blog. 

On May 12, 2013, at 4:11 PM, XXX wrote:

Jeff, here is the message I sent you 2 days ago:

Jeff,   I am probably in the minority but I am not crazy about stories that talk about being close to rich, famous, big-housed people, especially ones that use lawyers to fight with each other over property and privilege.  Maybe others feel differently. 

Jareckis (plural of Jurecki) has no apostrophe.  Here is a wiki definition of hoi polloi:

Hoi polloi (Ancient Greek: οἱ πολλοί, hoi polloi, “the many”), a Greek expression meaning "the many" or, in the strictest sense, "the majority", is used in English to refer to the working class, commoners, the masses or common people in a derogatory sense. Synonyms for hoi polloi which also express the same or similar contempt for such people include "the great unwashed", "the plebeians" or "plebs", "the rabble", "riff-raff", "the herd", "the proles" and "peons".[1]

On May 12, 2013, at 4:19 PM, Jeff Grant wrote:

>It had the most hits of any post I ever had. I don't know what that says about anything. It had money, drugs, prison, murder, you name it. People like to slow down at car accidents - what can I say?

>Thanks for your input - always appreciated.

On Sun, May 12, 2013 at 5:38 PM, Jeff Grant wrote:

>XXX, I just went for a walk and I've been thinking more about your comments and my response.  There's more here and it could make for a very rich conversation.

>I have a story to tell - it's basically a recovery memoir wrapped around a prison story.  There's a before, during & after.  The before is all about white male privilege, but even the during & after have embodied white male privilege too - I am who I am.  I hope that my transformation speaks for itself, and that the similarities of most of my experiences are greater than the differences from those in similar & other social locations such that I am useful to them.  To accomplish this usefulness, my primary objective in writing is to be revealing and authentic.  Or, as Ernest Hemingway so aptly put it - to write one true sentence, and then go from there. 

>I think that the Jarecki piece was revealing and authentic - it told the story of how I teetered at the top of my game, and then fell despite offers of assistance.  Without revealing the story before my fall, I wouldn't have much of a story would I?

>Sometimes I think we are so uncomfortable with our privilege that we defend against it, deny it and make excuses for it - instead of putting it on the table and owning it.  I don't think anyone on the margins - or anywhere - really wants us to be anybody than exactly who we are.  In fact, they need us to be who we are if we are to bring about the change we say we are championing.  Sometimes that means working through the discomfort in silence, and sometimes by looking around and seeing what needs to be done.

>This time around, I'm trying to use everything I've got to help others - including telling my story.  I have to feel secure enough to put my past and present privilege on the table.  My insecurity about it - and my neglect and abuse of it - is what brought me down.

>Thank you for being such a good friend.  Jeff

On Sun, May 12, 2013 at 9:31 PM, XXX wrote:  

Jeff,  thank you for these thoughts.  They are splendid.  I like them very much.  

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 3:56 AM, Jeff Grant wrote:

>I'd love to post this email chain - it can be anonymous if you prefer. Let me know. I think it can help people. 

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 8:51 AM, XXX wrote:

Anonymous is fine. 
Jeff Grant’s book, The Art of Surviving Prison, is awaiting publication. 
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div                                                                                   
Director, Progressive Prison Project                                                           

Associate Minister/Director of Prison Ministries                                               

First Baptist Church of Bridgeport Connecticut       
(203) 339-5887

Friday, May 10, 2013

My First Encounter With Eugene Jarecki, Director of "The House I Live In."

Progressive Prison Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut

My First Encounter With Eugene Jarecki, Director of The House I Live In.

I recently watched a screening of the movie, The House I Live In, the important Drug War/ Prison Reform documentary directed by the director Eugene Jarecki.  I probably don't have to tell many of you about the rich body of work produced by Jarecki - it's impressive.  But in this case, he has moved beyond story teller to becoming an assertive social justice missionary whose post-documentary work in the field makes me proud and awestruck.  

This blog, however, is about my first encounter a little over a decade ago.

In my previous life as a real estate attorney in Westchester (mostly in Westchester), I was the lawyer representing a neighborhood group against the size & scope of the Mormon Temple proposed for a site at the intersection of the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Cross Westchester Parkway.  It was a very big deal and put my law firm on the map. 

I was referred to a couple who lived next door to the then-being-built Golf Club at Purchase.  They had a big problem as the massive clubhouse was proposed to be relocated to loom over their home.  I went to see them at their home and first thing upon meeting them, they announced that I was entering the "Herman Tarnower House" - the very house where Jean Harris had shot and killed Dr. Tarnower.  They grabbed me by the arm and showed me the bullet holes in the walls.  It was the start of a fascinating and wonderful friendship - the Missus herself was the United States National Canasta Champion, with loads of interesting stories to tell.

They sold the Tarnower house and moved to an even larger home in Harrison, next door to the Jarecki's.  Of course, as wealthy Jews who knew every other wealthy Jews' business in the neighborhood (I'm Jewish, I can say these things), they knew all about the Jarecki's Moviefone deal, and every last detail of Jarecki family business - or so they thought.  They took me under their wing and practically took me door-to-door introducing me to all the Harrison hoi polloi - including the Jarecki's.  I guess they thought the Jarecki's were just the kind of family I should be representing - after all, I was General Counsel to a bunch of other wealthy Westchester families & their businesses.   

And they gave me sage advice along the way - such as, the most important thing in life was to just keep showing up.  They assured me that if I could do that, nothing could stand in my way.  I think they were very intuitive - the way great card players must be - because I was already heading for my bottom.  They must have known it and were desperately trying to save me from myself.  

But it was too late - the deed was done.   It wasn't too long after that that I resigned my law license, went to rehab, got arrested and went to prison.  

Of course, there's a redemption story too - but that's the stuff of another blog.

Jeff Grant’s book, The Art of Surviving Prison, is awaiting publication. 
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div                                                                                   
Director, Progressive Prison Project                                                           
Associate Minister/Director of Prison Ministries                                               

First Baptist Church of Bridgeport Connecticut     
(203) 339-5887