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.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It Takes A Town (or Two). By Jeff Grant

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

It Takes A Town 
(or tw0)
By Jeff Grant 

I admit it.  I prejudged things. 

My wife Lynn & I had a dream of building new forms of prison ministry to bring diverse and suffering communities together - and model them first in Bridgeport and Greenwich, Connecticut.  

After all, they are the most disparate socio-economic same-county communities in the country. 

In theory, it seemed simple: I was a white guy living in Greenwich, who had gone to prison for a white collar crime, who had gone on to Union Theological Seminary, who was now called to be a prison minister, in a black Baptist church in the 'hood in Bridgeport.  Simple?

Here's where I prejudged things:  I figured that the folks in Bridgeport would like the concept - but that the folks in Greenwich would never buy-in to this plan.  I was only half right.  The Bridgeport faith community did embrace this concept in new and unprecedented ways - but so did the faith community in Greenwich.  But, like all good things, it all came in God's time. 

A couple of years ago, I first met with Rev. Jim Lemler, the Rector at Christ Church Greenwich.  Despite being the largest church in Greenwich, Christ Church is also known for it's incredible hospitality - it hosts recovery meetings every day of the week, is the site of the nationally acclaimed "Courage & Faith" speaker program, and provides outreach funding and services all over the world.  

Jim was interested in our new ministry from the start, and saw that perhaps we might evolve into becoming a good fit for the church.  After a series of meetings over the next couple of years in which Jim did see our ministries grow and evolve, he assigned us to the exceptional Rev. Jenny Owen (Jenny runs the Youth Ministry at Christ Church Greenwich and does a whole lot more - a dynamo!).  Jenny worked with the church's new Outreach Commission and discussed with us how we might best be of service to congregation and community.  

A few days ago we posted a blog by my wife Lynn announcing that Christ Church Greenwich has made a second home for our new form of prison ministries (in addition to our first home at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport with our mentor Rev. Hopeton Scott).  We are deeply grateful to all!

I want to take a moment to celebrate this moment in the history of the Greenwich faith community (if it's not immediately apparent) - this is not just another case of a church in a wealthy town sponsoring an outreach program by sending money or a busload of volunteers off to some other part of the world (efforts we applaud, by the way).  This is an "in-reach" ministry!  By this act of great compassion and empathy, Christ Church Greenwich has reached out its arms and wrapped them around its own suffering neighbors and invited them into its midst.  This is an act of true humility and kindness - the sheep and the goats.  It is we who are awestruck and humbled to be a part of this God-filled moment.  On behalf of all who now will be seen in a different way, and helped with more dignity - thank you.

To this end, Christ Church Greenwich has also invited me to preach during this winter/spring and to give a"10:10" talk that morning between the services - it should be a wonderful opportunity to get to know the congregation and community better and to discuss our ministries in a comfortable setting.
  
I do want to discuss yet other blessing from Greenwich:  

Earlier in the year, our ministries came to the attention of Rev. David Miller.  David is the Director of the Princeton University Faith & Business Initiative - and is the Host of the Greenwich Leadership Forum.  GLF is a monthly meeting of businesspersons dedicated to ethical business practices. David contacted us and asked if would I would be interviewed by him at an upcoming meeting of GLF.  

GLF meeting & interview details: Dec. 13th, 7 am (6:30 am for breakfast) at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Steamboat Road (right off Exit 3), Greenwich, Connecticut.  It is hard to express our deep gratitude for this opportunity to share our experience in the company of such good, dedicated people.  Please join us and experience what this important group is doing to help model appropriate and faithful business attitude & behavior. 

Greenwich and Bridgeport are not so far away from each other.  Now, just maybe, they are one small step closer.  Please feel free to comment or drop me a line - it's among my very favorite topics. 

P.S. Walt Pavlo wrote an article this week for Forbes about our ministries:  Starting a Discussion on White Collar Crime and Recovery.  I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about Walt.  He is a reporter on the national white-collar crime scene who consistently writes evenhanded human stories about the brokenness and suffering that goes on in people's lives, and about the redemption that can happen on the other side - that is, the truth.  He never opts for the easy way out or for sensationalism.  For these reasons I suggest you closely follow Walt's columns for Forbes.

Blessings, 

Jeff
 


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA 06830

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

 

(0) +1203.769.1096

(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

progressiveprisonproject.org

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Have Dreams Too, By Lynn Springer

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

We Have Dreams Too
By Lynn Springer 

Being children of the 50's and 60's, my husband Jeff and I had many remarkable role models as we were growing up: The Freedom Fighters, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Ruby Bridges & many more.  They paved the way for us, taught us what to strive for and have given us goals. 

We have learned that suffering knows no boundaries; suffering is colorblind; suffering knocks on the doors of the rich and the poor.  It touches the babe and the elderly - no one is immune.  

Whenever incarceration is in the picture there is suffering whether you live in the back-country of Greenwich or in the neighborhoods of Bridgeport.  

This is why we are filled with extreme gratitude to announce that, with the assistance of Rev. Jim Lemler and Rev. Jenny Owen, the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project will now have a second home at Christ Church Greenwich - along with our first home at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport with our mentor Rev. Hopeton Scott. 

We are bound by our brokenness, and nothing can heal the wounds of the incarcerated and their loved ones without light, love, compassion and togetherness. We are so thankful that the light is now shining in Greenwich. 

If you would like to learn more about the light and compassion of our ministry, on Dec. 13th, at 6:30 am, David Miller, Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative and Host of the Greenwich Leadership Forum will be interviewing my husband, Rev. Jeff Grant.  Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Steamboat Road, Greenwich.  We hope you will join us. 

Blessings & peace to you all.

Respectfully,
Lynn

Lynn Springer, Advocate
Innocent Spouse & Children Project 
______________



Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA 06830

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

 


(0) +1203.769.1096

(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu
progressiveprisonproject.org

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Empathy & Compassion on the SAC Settlement Trail, By Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut


Empathy & Compassion 
on the SAC Settlement Trail

By Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div

Weds., Nov. 6, 2013

Yesterday was the first day after the news broke about the SAC Capital settlement and guilty plea - and the whopping $1.8 billion or so penalty to be paid to keep its owner out of prison.  

At my most optimistic, I wish and hope that my faith colleagues will take this singular moment in history as an opportunity to comment upon issues of privilege and poverty, and how with deep, radical compassion and empathy we can use this moment to expose truth to power, and move oppressed communities closer together.  

It's the kind of moment that Che Guevara used in his fight for justice, and Gustavo Gutierrez wrote about in inventing Liberation Theology.   

So, I sent an email to over one hundred of my colleagues and friends to see if they would "dip their feet" into the treacherous waters of the White Collar Jordan, get off the fence, take a stand.  As I said, I am an optimist and I have already started to receive a few responses. I realize that most of them are busy doing other important things. We'll see how it goes... 

But as I think about it, who in the world would choose career suicide by showing compassion and empathy towards the families of persons accused or convicted of white collar crimes - on the very day that Steve Cohen paid $1.8 billion to stay out of prison? 

Answer: people who are in prison, on their way to prison, and/or have been to prison...and their spouses, children, families and closest of friends.  That adds up to forty million of us in this country. 

In this country, we show compassion & empathy to rehabilitated murderers and give them a second chance.  We should.  But we've bought into some fantastical narrative about financial crimes, criminals and their families that they are not worthy of our compassion and empathy - and we've never even thought about it.  We don't even know why?  We just got fed this story and we never even questioned it. 

This kind of thing has been going on historically for centuries in order to isolate, marginalize and eradicate oppressed classes of people the powerful want to convince us are "scary," or "two big for their britches," or "uppity," or "pushy" - like Jews or Black Males.  I'm a Jew (born & raised, since baptized) and I spend much of my time doing prison ministry amongst Black Males in Bridgeport, CT - in my experience, Jews and Black Males are among the most compassionate and empathetic people I've ever encountered. 

In our society we don't permit this type of oppression any more - or at least we say we don't.  Instead, we say that we are about fairness, forgiveness and redemption.  This is America, we say - the land of the free.  Where everyone has a chance - and a second chance...unless, of course, you are accused or convicted of a white collar crime.  Then, for some unknown and unspecific reason, we deem them a different animal - a worser animal.  

The crazy thing is that before their fall, we are completely fascinated by the so-called "privileged" - with television series, websites, blogs and paparazzi dedicated to their every move.  Didn't we fail to see them as real people in the first place - finding false comfort in their successes, and now Schadenfreude in their failings? 

The overwhelming majority of these white collar family members did absolutely nothing wrong - nothing. Yet we shame them, shun them and riducule them.  They are left homeless and penniless. Wives and children are separated from their husbands and fathers, left to fend for themselves in shark infested waters without access to services.  They fall into pits of hopelessness and dispair.  Nobody has ever counseled the spouses that they could have and should have sought independent counsel before it was too late.  They were never reassured that they were worthy.  They have never been counseled since that they are worthy.  How Christian, Jewish, or Muslim does that sound?

How human does that sound?
 
I remain optimistic.  




Thanks to LS & LC for the big assist on this blog post. 


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA  06604
 
(0) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jeff Grant on SAC Capital & some not-so-surprising replies!



Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut
 

Rev. Jeff Grant comments 
on the NY Times Article 
About SAC Capital 
& some not-so-surprising replies!

Nov. 5, 2013


Dear New York Times, 

In Response to your recent article about SAC Capital's Settlement and Guilty Plea:
 
  
These comments and replies appeared online Nov. 4, 2013 on nytimes.com dealbook: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/11/04/sac-capital-agrees-to-plead-guilty-to-insider-trading/?comments#permid=10442199.

The Progressive Prison Project and the Innocent Spouse & Children Project based in Greenwich, Connecticut are the first ministries in the United States to support with intentionality the families of people accused or convicted of white collar and other nonviolent crimes. These families receive so little compassion and empathy - and are so easy to "other" - by a world that is all too eager to believe the next sensationalized headline and to ignore the human side of things.

It's true that the SAC Capital matter is a tragedy of epic proportions. But as I see it, the biggest tragedy of all about white-collar and nonviolent crime is not how big the matter is, or sensationalized the headlines - it is in our failure to see it as a human story, with real people, real brokenness, and real families left behind.

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director I Progressive Prison Project I Innocent Spouse & Children Project I Greenwich, CT, USA

Assoc. Minister I Director of Prison Ministries I First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT, 06604, USA
progressiveprisonproject.org

Nov. 4, 2013 at 6:50 p.m.

Some Replies:

Dear Rev. Jeff Grant,
I disagree. The failure to see humanity lies with the men (few women are allowed power on Wall Street) who cheat the system and subject their families to the fallout. In addition family members often look the other way, that makes them complicit not victims. The families of which you speak have been treated royally (e.g. the most powerful political allies, the best schools, the best clubs, the best designers, the best charity events, the best resorts, the best (multiple) homes, the best money can buy...) which keeps them "separate" from the "other" (us). They do this without question. Mafia titans (who get caught) are in jail, very few Wall Street criminals (who get caught) hang their hats there. The public shaming (I gather) you refer to is small payment for this outsized biblical greed.

.
Nov. 4, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.

Naples, FL

I think you need to read more about the have-nots, especially those who've suffered so much since the Great Crash, who live in their cars or or live in shelter, who've lost their jobs and their self esteem and taken their lives because they had to little.

I think you need perspective about the way the rest of the country has been living/surviving because of Wall St's flagrant disregard for the rest of us. Their only care has been the guy in the mirror and that guys kids--that's it.

Sorry I can't share your compassion for the 1% but I've been looking at the 99% for so long and their plight is so huge that one can never compare it.

Shame on Wall St., but b/c most of them are socio. Paths, they don feel anything but for the guy in the mirror.

Nov. 4, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.


Rev. Grant,

You are asking for cheap grace. There has been no honest admitting of wrong, and no apology from this man or his colleagues in crime. I suggest that if you are looking for "the biggest tragedy" you look for families that have lost their homes, people who have lost their jobs, and the children of those families who don't have enough to eat. I suggest you consider the plight of the truly poverty-stricken worldwide, and consider that we'd be able to reverse that problem overnight if we could claw back the billions the world's wealthiest have taken in in just the last decade. That's right. We could be living in a world in which no one died for lack of food. Instead we have tycoons with their own private Picassos.

Nov. 4, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.



More thoughts & submissions to come soon. Jeff 
__________________


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA  06604
 
(0) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu