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Friday, January 31, 2014

Reflections at Sunrise of a White-Collar Felon, by Anonymous


Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut


Reflections at Sunrise
of a White-Collar Felon

By Anonymous 

Coming out of isolation and into
community is a process. We are proud 
of our friend and ministee for taking
a big step in sending us this blog entry.

I used to never remember my dreams. I knew, scientifically-speaking, that I had about 4-5 dreams per night during my REM/NREM cycles and that the dreams we remember are only the last dream before waking, but for some years I just couldn't remember a single dream.

You might say I never dreamed at all, absurd as it sounds.

Now, my dreams are vivid, especially so during that delirious somnambulant state shortly before dawn when I can't tell if I'm awake or not. I dream that I was never indicted, or that the judge sentencing me looked more closely at my case and decided to admonish the prosecutors for over-reaching. I dream I had been a stronger person, that I had not crumbled under pressure from my attorneys or from the government prosecutor. I dream I was a better man, and that I had made better decisions. I dream sometimes that I've killed myself, that the suffering is finally gone, and picture my family & friends moving on without the burden of my disgrace.

I dream.

Then I wake up.  And with a very heavy heart I lift myself out of bed.  As each foot touches the floor I imagine I weigh a thousand pounds.  It is still dark outside, especially now in the still of winter. I gaze out the window and reality dawns as the sun rises. That it all did happen. That I made poor decisions.

And when it's a good day, that burden slowly lifts with the rising sun and I hear my daughter coo and cry as she also awakens.  I come to her, and look upon her with all my love, guilt, shame, remorse... and hope.  With all my hopes that the mistakes of my past will not affect her future, that she grows up knowing how fiercely I love her.  I lift her up and embrace her.

I must go on.


Anonymous. 
__________________
Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Director
Christ Church Greenwich

254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA 06830
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@pppx.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

Affiliates:

First Baptist Church of Bridgeport

126 Washington Avenue, 1st Floor
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA 06604

Jesus Saves Ministries
784 Connecticut Avenue
Bridgeport. CT, 06607



Cathedral of Praise C.O.G.I.C. Int'l
45 Gregory Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604

progressiveprisonproject.org
innocentspousechildrenproject.org



Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Message from US Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) About Sentencing Reform and Our Criminal Justice System.

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut


A Message from United States Senator
 Chris Murphy (CT) 
About Sentencing Reform and 
Our Criminal Justice System.

We really like that Senator
    Murphy writes back to his constituents.  
His contact information is below.


Thank you for contacting me about sentencing reform and our criminal justice system. I appreciate your correspondence and hope you find this response helpful.

In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which required mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain crimes in order to address concerns over drug trafficking and drug-related violence in cities across the country. While the intent of laws such as this was to punish high-level offenders more seriously and make communities safer, the effect has been to take individual discretion away from judges, often resulting in ineffective and excessive punishments for low-level offenders. Additionally, by requiring mandatory prison sentences for low-level offenders, these laws have not made communities safer and have resulted in severe overcrowding of our nation's prisons and a large strain on federal and state budgets.

Congress has since begun to re-evaluate these broken policies, as demonstrated by the recent introduction of several bipartisan bills. The Justice Safety Valve Act would allow judges more flexibility to impose sentences tailored to the seriousness of the crime and the offender, as long as they determine that doing so would not jeopardize public safety. This measure could significantly reduce the federal prison population without reducing our safety. You may be glad to learn that I am a cosponsor of this bill. I am also a cosponsor of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize the Second Chance Act and support programs designed to improve prisoner reentry into society and reduce recidivism.

There are many other areas for potential improvement in our justice system, and I look forward to learning more about the various legislative proposals. For instance, the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act is a bill that was recently introduced that would require the Bureau of Prisons to assess the problem of recidivism and begin to offer evidence-based recidivism reduction programming for inmates.

I appreciate your insight on this issue. Our justice system was designed to provide equal justice under the law, and I will use my time in Congress to ensure that every American is afforded that right. I will keep your concerns in mind as all legislation relating to our justice system and sentencing reform moves through the Senate.

Thank you again for contacting me about this matter.  I appreciate hearing from you and assure you that I will always do my best to represent the views of my constituents in the Senate.  In the future, please do not hesitate to call me in my Connecticut office at (860) 549-8463 or my Washington office at (202) 224-4041.
 

Every Best Wish,
 

Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator

Hartford

One Constitution Plaza, 7th Fl.
Hartford, Connecticut 06103
P: (860) 549-8463
F: (860) 524-5091
Washington, DC

303 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
P: (202) 224-4041
F: (202) 224-9750
 http://www.murphy.senate.gov/contact
__________________

 Some comments from Linked In: 


  • Experienced Executive Director, Consultant/Strategist, Policy Analyst at The Center for Church and Prison, Inc.
    That was encouraging from Senator Chris Murphy… I read it. Hope more legislators could begin to look at this issue of criminal justice reform from a more holistic perspective rather than a tough on crime attitude.

  • Wow! I am amazed and very pleased with Senator Murphy's involvement. It would be wonderful if more of our Senators and Congressmen would take the same approach. 

    National Chaplain at National Incarcerated Veterans NetworkUSA
    Add a comment...We do keep our leaders in our prayers.

    President, Browns Business Enterprises
    Kudo's to Senator Murphy! This is our year...all of us who have labored for years to make change for those incarcerated, ex-offender's and underserved in this county! Our season is hear...confirmation through Senator Murphy's comments.

    Anonymous:

    Jeff, I believe this is an inappropriate use of this forum for your political purposes, even if I agree with them.

    My response:
    Thank you for your message. I sit on five nonprofit boards supporting prison related issues. I sent the Senator a letter and he replied, I thought it was great. I don't know him, I don't particularly support him or not and I don't even care what political party was a member of. He wrote a letter on point for our causes, I published it and promoted it. I hope this was helpful. 
_____________


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

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

(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@pppx.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

progressiveprisonproject.org

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Poetry from Prison, by Lee Gutierrez

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut
Poetry From Prison  
By Lee Gutierrez
Lee Gutierrez is serving eight years hard time in the NYS prison
system for a single DWI - an
accident in which someone got hurt badly.
We had one week with him before he reported to impart

some spiritual principals of survival & success in prison.



Lee's letters The Night Before Prison 
and In Prison for the Holidays are two of our most requested blog posts.

The Sky is the Limit
Lee Gutierrez
12/08/13
"This poem is for my son Hudson Lee, 
my first born. He has been on this earth 
for 4 months and has transformed me. 
He is the light at the end of my tunnel."


He is a blessing of God, 
a priceless addiction.
Our tree of life continues to grow
 with a tender branch,
fore the sky is the limit.

With our love and God's divine help 
the sky is the limit,
With a a bright guiding star
to show him the path.

We must take care to nurture, 
to provide all the love
 and spirit to build his foundation
fore the sky is the limit.

In return God will raise a strong,
just and compassionate son.
Who will continue to grow
and add new branches
to our tree,
fore the sky is the Limit. 
___________



Don't Call Me Stupid 
Lee Gutierrez
12/18/13
"This poem is an event that happened to a 
cell mate across the hall. He just got transferred
to the cell block that day and was anxious and angry...
this is what transpired."

Shuffled around again like a nomad. 
My life in 4 bags, piled in disarray. 
No time to unpack, no time to settle in the C.O. screeches
"Cell 8 get to work!"

I feel the heat, my skin is flush
"Why is this happening to me?"
I put my boots on, marching with the others.
My thoughts are reeling, resentment kicking in. 

The time passes, keeping busy, 
distracting my anger, breathing slow.
The work is over need to settle in. 
The crew is back, showers are next, 
we chat as we enter the hall. 
"Lock it up, Lights on for the count!"
Is barked by the man in blue down the hall. 
I am confused, "but we need showers!" I claim.
The man rushes to me, 
I sense my anger flaring up. I hear,
"What are you stupid? Lock in!"
I see red - ears are ringing, lost control. 
Pushing my face in his grill, growling,
"fuck you, what is your problem?"
Time stands still, a blow is struck to my neck,
a blow is struck.
He tries to take me down, 
I resist pushing back.
I feel a wave of blue rushing me, 
surrounding me like a pack.
Pain, Pain - It covers me.
Nowhere to go, No way to escape. 
I am knocked down a pounding weight, 
draining the life out of me -
crushing, bending. 
I am face down, knees on my back
pounding on my  legs.
"You're breaking my arm. Arrrrh!!"
I resist, hands on my head pushing me down, down. 
I see a leg kick my face again and again. 

I squeal "STOP, STOP, please STOP!!"
The lights fade away. 
I am floating, floating a I get dragged away.
"He didn't have to call me stupid."
_______________



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

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

(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@pppx.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

progressiveprisonproject.org


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our Body Can Be A Prison Or A Temple, By Dominic Novak, Guest Blogger


Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

 Our Body Can Be A Prison Or A Temple,
By Dominic Novak, Guest Blogger



 
 This guest blog is by our friend 
Dominic Novak, motivational speaker, 
author, lifestyle coach, 
fitness expert, spiritual leader, 
nutritional advisor, owner/CEO 
Peak Physique of Greenwich, 
50 Holly Hill Rd.. Greenwich, CT

As I write this blog I can relate to being a prisoner trapped inside my body as well as my body being the temple of God.  

187 weeks ago I had an amazing spiritual awakening.  Prior to that I had very little understanding of spirit and faith.  I lived in today's world of face paced life style and having to be successful at all costs and achieve, achieve and achieve.  I spent 90% of my day in work with very little left over for my family, my spiritual growth and my personal development.   I was a personal trainer with a very successful business.  I had to be "on" 14-15 hours per day - high energy, motivation and inspiration.  At the end of the day I was exhausted completely spent from the high emotion of the day.  I was motivational in public, but depressed and an emotional wreck in private.  I was a captive to my life style.

I was consumed with fear, worry and anxiety because success was the pinnacle of my pyramid.  I could never make enough to satisfy my yearning for more.  I was prideful, selfish and had to do things my way.  My down turn came when the market began to crumble and people were backing away from my business.  I came to the resolution that I did not want to live my life like this anymore.

  
I remember what my father had said to me growing up, "son God will always be there for you."  My father grew up in an orphanage where religion was a huge part of his life.  I just could not relate to him.  When major times of trouble hit my business I decided I had nothing to lose so I hit the floor and prayed to God to help me.  That was 187 weeks ago.

My life is completely different now.  Instead of having success as my pinnacle, I put myself into 4 quadrants during the day:  Career/community; Faith/God; Family/Friends; personal growth and development.  My life is filled with balance but the main difference is God is the pinnacle of my pyramid.  Where he leads me I follow.  My body is a temple for God's work.  Instead of being a prisoner to my life and my sin, I'm a temple for God to live in me and live through me.  The spirit is awaken within me and I live to do great things for God's glory.

This difference is startling to me.  As I lived captive of my success I was unhappy, unhealthy, fear and anxiety ridden.   Living with God as my temple I'm happy, healthy and excellence in all aspects of my life driven.  Believing in God is not a weakness; believing in God strengthens our weakness.

Dominic Novak


Dominic Novak's book
is available on Amazon.com
Dominic can be reached at:
(203) 625-9595
dn565@aol.com 
peakphysique.biz

________________________

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

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

(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@pppx3.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508


progressiveprisonproject.org

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Viktor Frankl & Me, By Jeff Grant



 
Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut


What “Man’s Search for Meaning” Was to Prison,
 “Religious Perspectives On Business Ethics”

Was to Seminary

Part One: Viktor Frankl & Me

by Jeff Grant  




These two books were pivotal 
in my survival & success in prison, 
and then for the formation of my calling as a minister to 
families of people accused or convicted of white-collar crimes.
Part One is my actual application essay for admission to 
Union Theological Seminary - it's an open account of 
my story through the lens of Viktor Frankl's themes. .
Part Two will be reflections on how the book
"Religious Perspectives on Business Ethics: An Anthology"
influenced my time at Union and 
informs our winter/spring preaching & speaking topics.
Your thoughts & comments are welcome & appreciated. Jeff 



 
Union Theological Seminary

Admission Statement



Jeffrey Grant

2009



            
A rabbi once told me that Christians pray and Jews study, and in my experience that’s essentially been true. I’m a Jew and I’ve been studying my entire life.  It is only recently that I’ve found prayer. 

            Mine is an old familiar story. A tragedy. Like Icarus’ crash to ground, on waxed wings melted for having flown too close to the sun.  College, law school, multi-million dollar law practice, I grew too big, too fast. Sixteen-hour days, a pill to wake me up, a pill to help me fall asleep, overspent, overindulged, over-enabled, overweight, deep in debt and so arrogant that I alienated my family and my friends. I had become so full, so swollen that there was no room for anything or anybody else. And yet I possessed a hero complex, and thought could and should save everyone around me. But I couldn’t save myself.  Like Icarus’ fall, mine was severe, inevitable and necessary. I thank God for it every day.
_______________________________________________

            On the first day I arrived at Allenwood LSCI, the low security prison where I’d be spending the next fourteen months, I was admonished not to provide my services to the other inmates. On this compound of 1500 men, five were stockbrokers and two were doctors. I was to be the only lawyer. I spent my first night in solitary confinement, as do all new prisoners, and was released to my barracks the next morning. What I found was a world I could have never imagined, with different rules, languages and sensibilities. These men were like archaea, in that they presented an undiscovered yet incredible world of diversity and texture, surviving in the harshest of environments.  I had much to learn.

             I read everything I could digest regarding the anatomy of a prison term including Mandela, Solzhenitsyn, Frankl and Kafka.  In Greek and Norse mythology, I identified with Prometheus’ captivity and Odin’s vigil over the caves.  Particularly inspiring were stories by inmates who had found hopefulness and spirituality in their imprisonment. It appeared that even in places of limited control over their movements, men could still do important work and improve their bodies and minds, and their spirits by helping others.  It set them free.

            With a little over a year available, I started my quest in earnest. Determined, I focused on one project each for my mind, body and spirit. I applied to work in the recreation area and was assigned trashcan duty. In my spare time I started to walk the track, recording my progress daily. I started to exercise and began the process of redefining my body. I set a goal to walk across the United States (vicariously) and recorded my 12,000th lap for 3000 miles by the end of my stay. I was completely in the moment each lap of the track, feeling totally alive, totally free. I used my time on the track to spend some real time with myself, to reflect, learn, grow and change. It was a powerful, meditative experience. It was strange and wonderfully ironic to feel so alive in a place so foreboding. 

            One of my walking partners was a former Israeli commando who reflected on the fences.  He gazed at the entire compound and told me how much it looked like the kibbutz he had lived on in Israel.   He said the major difference was that “on the kibbutz the fences keep the bad guys out; here the fences keep the bad guys in.”  It was a startling revelation. Fences, like life, were all a matter of perspective.  From that day on, instead of feeling closed in, I felt safe and protected and began to consider how I could make conditions betters for my fellows.  

            I’d played guitar when I was young but, like many things, somehow never got around to learning to play it well. Former professional musicians staffed the inmate-run music department and they proved to be enthusiastic about any student who was eager to learn. Eager I was, and I took over 200 guitar lessons while I was away. I felt privileged to have formed relationships with these serious artists, each of whom were the caliber I never would have experienced in any other setting. They introduced me to music forms I’d never before considered, and showed me how joy is intensified as their knowledge and ability increases. My heart swelled each time I walked in the doors for another lesson.  After about six months, I was transferred from trashcan detail and for the balance of my term taught beginner’s guitar to the Spanish-speaking inmates.  That I spoke no Spanish was no obstacle; we learned to use the language of music as our common bond.  Some of the richest experiences of my time away were the smiles and handshakes that I exchanged with these men all over the compound, none of us understanding one word the other could say.  I knew then that I had a calling to help others, in ways that were only beginning to be revealed to me.

            Similarly, I had arrived at prison with almost four years of sobriety and was very involved in my Alcoholics Anonymous home groups with leadership, commitments and sponsorship.  Alcoholics Anonymous had provided me comfort and support though the most difficult days of my life. Nonetheless, at first I found it hard to relate to AA prison meetings, as they seemed so unstructured.   But as I opened up to the Spanish-speaking men in the music department, I likewise opened up to my fellows in the AA meetings and found a richness I hadn’t noticed before. These men spoke about overcoming huge obstacles and suffering on a scale I’d never imagined. I felt blessed just to know them and to be privy to their lives. I knew I had to share these stories with my AA groups back in Connecticut, to enrich their lives too. I was elected as chairman of the AA prison group and served in this capacity until I left for home.  It seemed the more I became conscious of my life’s responsibilities (in and outside the prison walls), the more improved my life became. 

            Even though AA was the spiritual context of my life, my thirst for a true connection to a higher power was becoming unquenchable and I had to look further. 

            I started attending religious services with a hunger that I hadn’t felt since I was a Bar Mitzvah. Jewish services and Christian services, I was equally enthralled. On the Jewish High Holy Days, Hasidic rabbis came from Brooklyn to lead services dressed in all black.  Their hotel was six miles from the prison and in their observance of the holidays they had to walk. I wanted to know what drove these men to come all this way to minister us, walking six miles each way in the dark. They told tales and asked provocative questions. They pulled answers out of us, and beseeched us to search our souls. During the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the 15 Jews on the compound ate our meals in the sukkah, bound by the camaraderie of our faith and not our imprisonment.  As we ate, we laughed as we heard the other inmates walking by, mispronouncing the name of our temporary dining hall. My guitar instructor from the music department wrote the first Christmas play I had ever experienced.  It starred inmates in both male and female biblical roles. Seeing a 250-pound body builder dressed as Mary Magdalene is comical no matter where you are. For those moments frozen in time we thought about no other place in the world.  I took intellectual and spiritual courses, such as music theory and Buddhist psychology. I prayed every morning and evening. I felt peaceful, and connected to God.
________________________________________

            I was given a second chance in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and in prison. In them I found health. And I found prayer. Prayer did not, however, come easily to me.  It’s still the last place I turn. That feels like a startling admission to be making on a divinity school application. 

            Prayer. I get still, quiet, in a meditative state. I usually kneel and bow my head, but sometimes I sit with my face turned upwards to the ceiling or the sky as if bathed in light. Maybe a specific prayer will come to in mind, such as the St. Francis prayer, and I will recite it to cleanse my mind. Then I go to a place of no-mind, of being purely present. I think of people, places or perhaps things that no longer serve, or that may be unhealthy for me. Then I remove them to create space, a void. I become available. I have made room for the new and wonderful things that God has in store for me. I have made room for God.

            To be an emptied vessel, to have had the gift of time and to have put it to good use, has been a true gift from God.  Almost every message I have received from prayer has been about service and about helping others.  I have been presented with opportunities I wouldn’t and couldn’t have conceived of a few short years ago: taking a leadership role in my Alcoholics Anonymous home group, facilitating dual diagnosis and adolescent groups at Silver Hill Psychiatric Hospital, facilitating recovery groups at Liberation House residential drug rehab, participating in religious services at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford, New York, and Second Congregational Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, becoming active in bible study classes at the church, taking a religion & psychology course at Purchase College, completing the National Alliance for Mental Illness Family-to-Family course, becoming certified in non-violent crisis intervention and  in CPR & AED.

            As my vessel has emptied again, I’ve prayed for direction as to what to accomplish next. I’ve sought counsel from good competent advisors. My decision to apply to divinity school, and to study ethics in particular, has arisen from this prayer and counsel; I believe it is the next step in becoming the man God intends me to be.  Divinity school is a place of both study and prayer, combining the best parts of both my old and new lives, and my yearning for nourishment in God, service and intellectual fulfillment. 

            Throughout history great progress and innovation has occurred at the intersection of disciplines: law and medicine, medicine and physics, physics and religion. I can foresee a day where I can combine the disciplines of law, recovery and religion/ethics for important social change, as a lobbyist perhaps, or to advocate for important religious or social causes on behalf of non-profits or institutions.  Given my particular experiences in the past few years, I have become especially interested in prison reform and in prisoner re-assimilation programs. To this end, I am becoming intimately involved in an organization called Family Reentry, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, which lowers ex-prisoner recidivism rates by helping them with their spiritual, vocational, recovery and family growth and skills. My background and experience can be of similar service to my classmates to promote a richer experience in and out of the classroom. 

            I had two important and reasonable criteria in applying to a divinity school. (1) I was interested in a divinity school that will provide me the best broad-based theological education I can obtain, (2) in an ecumenical atmosphere where I will be welcomed as a Jew.

            My search for an ecumenical religious education began with institutions sponsored by my own faith. I looked at Jewish seminaries on-line but not one of them seemed to have a universal approach to religious education. I moved next to divinity schools of world renown and at major universities. I found that Union Theological Seminary had an ecumenical approach, and that it had a longstanding tradition of honoring and recognizing the Jewish faith in its policies, curriculum, exhibits, library and lectures. 

            As Brandeis said, “most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” Not long ago, it would have seemed impossible for me to even be applying to Union Theological Seminary. And yet, my application is submitted herewith. Having done all I can do, I turn the outcome over to God.
_____________________

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

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

(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

progressiveprisonproject.org