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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dedication, by Jeff Grant: An Excerpt From Last Stop Babylon



Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut



"Dedication," An Excerpt From
Last Stop Babylon: 
The Art of Surviving Priso

By Jeff Grant 

This is an excerpt from my book, 
"Last Stop Babylon: 
The Art of Surviving Prison."
Your thoughts & comments 
are appreciated.  - Jeff




Gary U.S. Bonds had been a big deal in the early sixties.  Thanks to a new tour
produced by Bruce Springsteen and a hit called Dedication, he was enjoying a major comeback when I saw his name up on the marquee of The Paradise. Some friends and I had just finished a basketball game on the Mount. As usual, I’d played center like an animal, high on an assortment of pills I’d found in the glove compartment of Jeffri Schwartz’s 1969 Ford Mustang that we’d driven up to Boston to celebrate Richie Gold’s birthday.  It had been a rough, physical game and my face and sweatshirt were a holy mess of dirt and bloodstains. I felt like a million bucks. A kind of raw, visceral power coursed through my veins as the Mustang coasted down the hill towards Commonwealth Avenue. We had just turned the corner when I spotted the marquee.



I was a big Springsteen fan. Big. I’d seen him play when he wasn’t so well known. Helene Pratt, a girl I’d met at college orientation, had dated Bruce’s first drummer, Vinny “Mad Dog” Lopez.  Or maybe a friend of hers had dated him; it’s hard to remember it all now. She told us all about Springsteen and his band when I met her up at Brockport those first few days of orientation. During the summer of ’74, when Bruce’s second album came out, The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, I picked Helene up from her folks’ apartment in Brooklyn and a bunch of us went down to Red Bank, New Jersey to see Bruce and the band play. Thirty minutes into the three-hour show, we were all hooked. Red Bank was Springsteen country; he and the band were all from the Asbury Park area, just a few miles up and down the Garden State Turnpike. So Bruce knew a lot of people in the audience.  He called out to them from the stage and they called out back to him. It was like a revival meeting, or maybe an all-night fraternity kegger. Bruce and the band played so long that at one point he walked up the aisle of the auditorium, opened the back door out to the sidewalk and personally assured the people waiting for the second show that he’d give them a full set too. I heard that the second show lasted until after 3 a.m. that night. But there are so many stories now about Bruce that they have become legend. I knew that Bruce was behind Gary U.S. Bond’s comeback. And on this particular afternoon, I was just high, or stupid, enough to decide that we had to add Gary’s show to our collection of Springsteen stories.



We pulled the car over and piled out looking pretty ragged and smelling awfully rancid. Looking just perfect for a sketch. I went up to the ticket window and introduced myself as Freddy Bastiglione, the son of Phil Bastiglione, owner of Concerts West in New York City. Now I am not, nor have I ever been, Freddy Bastiglione. But Freddy did go to my high school.  And his family did live in Merrick, the Long Island neighborhood in which I was raised.  So I did know at least that Freddy’s dad owned one of the largest, if not the largest, concert promotion companies in New York. I knew that my grungy get-up was more than perfect to help me pass off as Freddy Bastiglione. Who else but the son of a huge rock promoter would show up at a rock concert venue in sweaty gym clothes? Demanding, no less, tickets to that night’s Gary U.S. Bonds show?  It seemed insane, and perfect. With my stock brand of over-in-bred Long Island charisma (one part overly gregarious and one part dismissively arrogant) I told the ticket clerk that there should be four complimentary passes waiting for me.  Long Islanders are not short on balls.


“I’m on the EMI/Thorn list,” I stated.

Direct.  To the point. I was a Springsteen fan; I knew his label. The ticket clerk looked the guest list over.  He turned back to me and apologized. I wasn’t on the list. I steeled myself and asked him if he knew who my father was.

“I’m meeting important industry people tonight,” I insisted.

“If I’m embarrassed, Gary U.S. Bonds will never play New York again.”

The clerk gave me the look. I didn’t blink. He ran to get Gary’s road manager.



About five minutes later, the front door of the Paradise opened.  Gary’s road manager Anne greeted us with a smile and a handshake. There was no turning back then. I explained how my friends, my basketball and I were standing there without our tickets for that night’s show.  And how very disappointed I was. And how when I was disappointed, I explained, my father, Phil Bastiglione, was disappointed too. Anne apologized and put us down for a table up front.

“Why don’t you came back an hour before the show,” she offered, “and you can have dinner with the band?”



Wow. We climbed back into the Mustang and headed over to Richie’s apartment on Beacon Street to shower, change, and get started. We weren’t sure if we were in for the night of our lives or if we were going to end up in jail. Or both.



We arrived at the Paradise at about seven, ready to party. I knocked on the front door and Anne led us immediately to a room in the back. There was a huge spread of food, liquor and beer. On the far side of the room Gary and the band were snorting lines of coke off a glass cocktail table. He motioned us over, shook our hands, and offered us some. We spent the next hour talking, laughing, and partying with the band.  At about five minutes to eight, Anne came out and showed us to our table. We were seated right in front, maybe five feet from the stage. As Gary and the band played their set, a spray of Gary’s sweat flew into our faces. We were so high we could barely make out the words. Somehow I got inspired and scrawled a note on a piece of paper.  In between songs, I stood up and handed it up to Gary up on stage. He looked kind of startled as if that sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen.  As he read the note he laughed and then announced to the crowd that it had been twenty years, or more, since he had taken any dedications during a show.  But, on this special night, in honor of his good friend Richie Gold, the band was going to sing Happy Birthday. And then they did. Gary U.S. Bonds and his band sang Happy Birthday to my friend, Richie Gold.  And then they went into their Number One Hit, Dedication
 __________

Excerpts from "Last Stop Babylon"

 posted on prisonist.org:

February 18, 2015 - "Suburbia

March 10, 2014- "Momento"

April 17, 2014 - "Respect" 

May 1, 2014 - "Fog Day"

 __________

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
jgrant@prisonist.org
jg3074@columbia.edu
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887

Lynn Springer, Advocate, Innocent Spouses & Children
lspringer@prisonist.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

George Bresnan, Advocate, Ex-Pats
gbresnan@prisonist.org

Michael Karaffa, Advocate, Disabilities
mkaraffa@prisonist.org


___________
Comments from Social Media:

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street On Christmas Day: The Wolf, Sheep & Goats: Matt 25:31-46

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut


The Wolf of Wall Street On Christmas Day:
The Wolf, Sheep & Goats: Matt 25:31-46

These actual comments and replies from
 Forbes concern Mark Hughes' review of
"The Wolf of Wall Street"
and its opening on Christmas Day. 
Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments 
to this conversation either below 
or online at Forbes.  
__________________________





Sunday, December 22, 2013

Presenting at Wheaton College, CMCA Summit, May 2014!

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

We are honored to have accepted an
Invitation to Present at IMPACT 2014
The Correctional Ministry Summit
Wheaton College, Illinois
May 29th - 31st, 2014
Please join us.

Wishing a healthy, happy & blessed holiday season
to all of our dear friends & family.
 









2014 Workshops

We want to thank these outstanding servant leaders for their willingness to  share their skills and expertise with us.  Our workshop presenters are hands-on practitioners who understand the challenges and blessings of serving those impacted by incarceration.
TRACK TITLE PRESENTER
Chaplains Effective Mentoring to the Incarcerated: Changing the Lives of Returning Citizens and Impacting the Institution’s Culture Lettie Car, Maryland Correctional Institution for Women
Chaplains The Genesis Project – Lifer’s Reentry Program Ron Evans, Jackson Correctional Institution
Chaplains The Three Faces of Prison Chaplaincy Jeff Hinshaw, Jay Vincent, Kathy Williams, New Castle Correctional Facility
Chaplains Building a Foundation for Faith-Based Volunteer Engagement Tammy Holland, Texas Juvenile Justice Department
Chaplains Evaluating Correctional Chaplaincies and Correctional Chaplains Dale Pace, Christian Jail Ministry, Inc.
Chaplains S.P.I.R.I.T: A Program for the Transformation of Self-Concept in the Incarcerated Henry Tysor, HT Ministries
Chaplains The Impact of Religious Programming on Sex Offenders Kathy Williams, New Castle Correctional Facility
Church Leaders Prison Reform: How to Get Your Voice Heard Craig DeRoche, Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship
Church Leaders Ministering to Transform White Collar Criminals and Families through Christ Jeff Grant, Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Church Leaders Getting to the Root of the Work Problem LaToya King, Jobs for Life
Church Leaders Empowering Churches for Correctional Ministry Harold Dean Trulear, Healing Communities USA
Church Leaders Sex Offenders in our Churches Bob VanDomelen, Broken Yoke Ministries
Church Leaders How to Assimilate Recovering People into the Church Mark VanderMeer, New Community Church
Correctional Administrator Integrating State DOC and Community Based Case Management Systems for Effective Reentry Allan Barsema, MPOWER
Correctional Administrator The View from the Warden’s Office Jack Cowley, Alpha USA Prison & Reentry Ministry
Correctional Administrator Cultural Bias in the Treatment Industry – Diversion to Treatment Gina Evans, MN Adult and Teen Challenge
Correctional Administrator Creating Impactful Faith-Based Programming Karen Swanson, Institute for Prison Ministries
Jail/Prison Ministry Non-Religious Education In Prison as Christian Ministry Will Andrews, doctoral student, Chicago Theological Seminary
Jail/Prison Ministry Achieving Your Growth Goals through CMCA Richard Barnhart, CMCA
Jail/Prison Ministry Loving Inmates to D.E.A.T.H (Dignity, Eternal Security, Absolute Truth, Teaching, Heaven) Pamela Bolding, Neighborhood Christian Center
Jail/Prison Ministry Using Dialogue for Discipleship Craig Curtis, E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility
Jail/Prison Ministry It Takes Money! Dan Hanneken, In2Action
Jail/Prison Ministry International Leadership Angel Hernandez, Grace Covenant International
Jail/Prison Ministry Encountering Religious Pluralism in Correctional Ministry Michael R. Smith, Sr., Federal Bureau of Prisons
Jail/Prison Ministry Strategic and Operational Ministry Expansion and Funding Using Social Impact Bonds Alphonso Spence, Making a Difference International
Jail/Prison Ministry Programming for Justice Involved Women: Gender-Specific and Faith-Based Karen Swanson, Institute for Prison Ministries
Jail/Prison Ministry A Biblical Cognitive Approach to Understanding & Addressing Addiction & Relapse Prevention Robert Vann, A Strictly Biblical Perspective
Jail/Prison Ministry Faith and Character Based Programming: Creative Concepts for 21st Century Prison Ministry Michael Vosbrink, Florida Department of Corrections
Jail/Prison Ministry Criminal Justice Trends: An Overview of State Criminal Justice Reforms and How to get Your State on the List Jesse Wiese, Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship
Juvenile Don’t Forget Incarcerated Youth Steve Lowe, Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries
Juvenile Changing the Youth of Today for Tomorrow Victor Marx, All Things Possible Ministries
Juvenile Hot Topics in Juvenile Justice Advocacy Heather Rice-Minus, Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship
Juvenile Strategies for Working with High Risk Youth Gareth Unruh, Youth for Christ Juvenile Justice Ministries
Juvenile How to Start an Effective Juvenile Detention Center Ministry Gareth Unruh, Youth for Christ Juvenile Justice Ministries
Reentry Specialists Welcome Mentor Female Inmates Annie Goebel, Daughters of Destiny
Reentry Specialists Purposeful Neighboring: Creating Reentry-Ready Communities Steve Gordon, Strategic Reentry Group
Reentry Specialists Engaging Resistant Clients: Interaction Skills Dan Hanneken, In2Action
Reentry Specialists Different Insights on Prison Ministry Rev. Joyce Pugh, Reid Temple AME Church
Reentry Specialists The Biblical Blueprint for Re-Entry Michael Swiger, True Freedom Ministries
Reentry Specialists Building a Legacy of Strong Families Catherine Tijerina, The Ridge Project
Reentry Specialists Community Recovery Mark VanderMeer, New Community Church
Reentry Specialists Build Better Boards Debbie Walsh, Child Evangelism Fellowship
Reentry Specialists Keeping it Legal in 2014 Dennis Walsh, The Micah Project
Reentry Specialists Collateral Consequences: The Social and Moral Costs of Perpetual Criminal Punishment Jesse Wiese, Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On That Day, a sermon by Hopeton Scott, Senior Reverend of the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport CT

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project 

Greenwich, Connecticut

"On That Day"

A sermon by
Pastor Hopeton Scott

 Pastor Scott is the Senior Reverend
of The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604.
It is a home church of our Prison Ministries.

                                                                                                                                                                 

December 8, 2013


“On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.” Isaiah 11:10.



In our bulletin there are two images. 
 

We have had them appearing in the bulletins for several weeks now. They are images that are also in the each set of stained glass windows in our Sanctuary. They are the Greek letters - Alpha and omega, the first and the last letters in the Greek alphabet. And they have come to symbolize for us the first and the last, the beginning and the end.



As we came to the end of the Christian year last month and now launch into the new Christian calendar, we are reminded that God is at the beginning and at the end of all things. Jesus is indeed referred to as the “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” in the Book of Revelation. (Revelation 1:10)  We are reminded that God is beyond time and seasons and space but that God has chosen to be active in the arena of human history.


Advent is a time to remember that we are living in the last days. We are in the ‘in between times’, the time after the first Advent and before the final Advent, when God’s work will find its culmination, its glorious conclusion.   So in Advent we say: “Jesus has come, Jesus is coming, and Jesus will come again!”

This is a time of waiting, of expectancy, a time of preparation. This is a period of hope, of looking for the fulfillment of God's promise of salvation, of the restoration God’s creation.

The Bible, both Hebrew and Christian scriptures, is filled with diverse and wonderful images of the end, of the culmination of God's purpose. Some of the most vivid pictures are in the Book of Revelation, but at the start and at the end of the Christian calendar, we are presented with that richness of Biblical images as we rehearse the pageantry of the salvation history.

Our Scripture reading today from Isaiah is one such passage. Isaiah paints a picture of the end, of the end times. There is indeed an image of judgment, of the defeat of evil but the dominant theme is of reconciliation and peace and wholeness....”The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them.”  Isaiah 11: 6

Most Wednesdays, Minister Jeff Grant and I meet for conversation to catch up on the ministry and projects in which he is engaged. We review our work and often talk shop and share theological reflections. In our conversation this past week, we talked about wholeness. Jeff asked me whether wholeness was a goal for individuals or for the community as a whole. My response was that God’s goal is wholeness for both the individual and for the entire world. The goal is wholeness, a translation of the Hebrew word, ‘Shalom’. It means: integration, well- being, alignment, harmony, fulfillment, completeness.


At personal level, there is a need for the body and the spirit to be in harmony; we need to be at peace with ourselves; we need to experience the absence of inner turmoil, a lack of anxiety, no restlessness and no dis-ease.


In the New Testament Story of Legion, we find the story and the healing of a person who was fractured, who was ‘many’. We want to dismiss him as a mad man, a crazy person, a paranoid schizophrenic. But we are all like Legion. He is a symbol of humanity.  We are fractured; we are multiple personalities; we are disjointed,  out of alignment. When Legion encounters Jesus, the miracle that Jesus performs leaves him 'clothed and in right mind'; he is now ‘dressed up in Jesus Christ’ and integrated - at peace, with a proper alignment of body and spirit. Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39




This is what God intends for you, for all of us –“to be clothed and in our right minds”. Our spirit and your mind need to be in harmony. We need to experience “shalom”, peace, completeness, wholeness.


Minister Jeff and I also spoke as well of wholeness in community. Image of integration in the created order is embedded in the pictures of Biblical wholeness, of the end time.

Peace is not merely the absence of violence and fear, but the sense of oneness. God’s goal is an inclusive community where none is excluded, where everyone is valued. God’s Shalom envisions a time when all persons regardless of gender, race, nationality, wealth or poverty, disability or ability or other classifications are treated equally and are embraced in the community.


You see, conflicts arise because we are focused on securing our own rights instead of seeking the common good. In our disjointed state we want to be in control and we want preferential treatment for ourselves and for our kind. We wish to inflate our position at the expense of others.

The evils of apartheid and Jim Crow, racism and bullying have their roots in the desire of individuals wanting to suppress others. Our insecurities lead us to engage on behaviors that deny others their humanity and lead us to use violence to get our own way. We cannot see the divine in others and so we deny them and ourselves the wholeness God grants to all. We forget that all of us are made in the image of God and we refuse to see the face of God in each other. The inclusive community however has the ingredients of mutual respect and empathy. It is built on love and patience and tolerance.

“On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.”  They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of God as the water covers the sea.” Isaiah 11:10, 9.


I also had a very stimulating conversation with the visitor we had in church last week. She had the perennial question that most of us have: “Why do I suffer when others lead successful lives, others who are less religious?”  It is the question that generations of believers have struggled with. It is the question that the Book of Job tries to answer.



My answer to our guest was that we are out of alignment. Sadly our focus, even in the church, has been on the material rather than the spiritual. We have forgotten that we are both spirit and material and our primary concerns have been about the transient and temporary things of our existence.

So we are concerned about how much money we have. Whether we have the latest gadgets or wear the trendiest fashions or meet the prevailing ideas about image and appearance. We have forgotten that the material things are only for a time; they fade, they wither; they lose their luster their cache; they grow old


I might wait outside an Apple store for the latest smart phone, but in a couple of years, that phone will be passé and I will need to upgrade again! The temporary and the ephemeral things of this year cannot satisfy our hunger for meaning and wholeness. We build our lives on the sand when our emphasis is on the material.


No matter how much we accumulate in this world, we will have to leave it behind when the spirit leaves the body. Our focus then should be on the eternal, on the spiritual because that continues even after our physical passing, after we turn to dust. Will my spirit be deformed, be diminished, be small after the material is no more? Will I have spiritual poverty and lack completeness?

This is not to say that our suffering, our pain, our heartaches, our lack of resources are not important. The miracles Jesus did and continues to do in the church demonstrate that our quality of living in of concern to the creator God. Jesus healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He relieved anxious minds. He helped those in emotional distress.

But he says to all: "Seek first the kingdom of God and it's righteousness and all these things will be added to you." Our primary desire should be spiritual. When we are in that place where we are at one with God and with ourselves, clothed and in our right minds, we are in a position to address our material needs. We will find that it is not the end of the world if we do not have the latest gadgets and wear the trendiest fashions. We will find that there are resources to help us meet our basic needs of food and shelter. We will find that that there are persons who love us just as we are. We will find that there are shoulders that we can cry on. We will find that we can find comfort from others around us. We will find that we are not alone in our pain and in our grief!

When our focus is on the spiritual, on the eternal, we can understand Paul saying that the kingdom of God is more than meat and drink, it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

All week I have been haunted by a song by Michael Jackson. 
                   Don’t know how it fits into this sermon, but here it goes:                 

 "Man In The Mirror"


I'm Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good, Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My Favorite Winter Coat

This Wind Is Blowin' My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street, With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See Their Needs
A Summer's Disregard, A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man's Soul
They Follow Each Other On The Wind Ya' Know
'Cause They Got Nowhere To Go
That's Why I Want You To Know
I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change



Change can come to us. Transformation can be ours if we re-order our priorities. Shalom is our destiny. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!” On that day it won't be my possessions but the vitality of my spirit. How integrated will I be? How at peace will I be with God and with myself? How at one will I be with the created order? How I unencumbered will I be from self-centeredness, from hate, from prejudice, from greed, from the material things of life? Will I be clothed and in my right mind?

Nelson Mandela is a wonderful example of the triumph of the spirit over the material. Imprisoned for almost thirty years he never gave up hope. He longed to see a day when oppression would cease in South Africa. He suffered all kinds of indignities but yet he grew to love those who oppressed him. He forgave his enemies. He forsook revenge and chose the path of reconciliation. Today he is being remembered as a giant, as one who changed the course of human history.

What of us? Where is your focus? What is most important to you? In this season of waiting of expectation, how will that day find you?

God is working His purpose out
As year succeeds to year;
God is working his purpose out,
And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work God’s work,
To prosper and increase
The brotherhood of all mankind,
The reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.
 
 Amen.
_________________
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