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Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Long Way Home By Genaro Hathaway - White-Collar Felon & Guest Blogger


Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

The Long Way Home

By Genaro Hathaway - White-Collar Felon
& Guest Blogger


Our mission includes creating & advancing authentic ministry to reflect the real needs of our local communities, such that no person or family ever need suffer in silence.  To this end, I have accepted an invitation to guest preach at the wonderful Norfield Congregational Church, Weston, CT on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday (Jan. 18, 2015), a church dedicated to faith-filled social justice. 

Our blog post earlier this week, Angels Without A Face: A Christmas Blog, was from one of our ministees in Mississippi - with two+ years of dedication and faithful service, this innocent spouse and her daughter are now doing well . Our year-end blog below is no less inspired by the Christmas spirit - it is from a member of our local community who is a newly released white-collar felon and is suffering.  Matt. 25:31-46. - Jeff 


__________

I recently attended the Weston High School Company’s performance of  “The Laramie Project” and was moved by its relevance to me. The play is the story of homophobic violence stemming from the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. Matthew, a University of Wyoming student, was brutally beaten and left to die based solely on his homosexuality. The play dramatically relates the results of hundreds of interviews conducted by the Tectonic Theater Project and is a portrayal of the interviews from the perspectives of the theater group and the residents of Laramie. As a gay man, I found the play riveting and the subject matter disheartening.

Recently released from a federal inmate program into the rural community of Weston, Connecticut, I found the event, my first public outing since my release, a horrible reality of what it is to be different in a community of White Male Privilege. This was the beginning of a second coming out process – one of a returning member of a small bedroom New England community.

I plead guilty in 2012 to three counts in a federal indictment. Simply put, my crime was that I executed closing documents that were based on falsified documents that had been presented in the application process by my life partner of nearly 20 years. By blindly signing the closing documents I affirmed all of the falsified documents he presented and was therefore as guilty as he was in committing the fraud. I took responsibility for my actions and wanted to move on with my life.

The news of this incident spread through the small hamlet of Weston like wildfire. I quickly came to realize who my true friends were and who the folks were that were only around to “see what they could get.” and to enjoy the rewards of my wealth and status within the communities in which I lived.  Immediately after pleading guilty and being sentenced to 33 months in a Federal Prison Camp (FPC), I began the actions of rebuilding and healing. I began planning for my time away and, due to the acts of a sympathetic judge who realized I was the single adoptive parent of my 13-year-old son, I had nearly 4 months to prepare. I tried to put my life in order and made the conscious decision that this was not going to define me.

Below is an excerpt from the letter I sent to my friends prior to my self-surrender date of April 20, 2012:

I have truly learned many things from this experience and grown tremendously - many have said, "you are like a different person." I have taken control of my life and am a better father, son, brother, partner and friend. My plan is to continue my path of awakening while I am away, learn what I can from the past, start to build a future and take advantage as this opportunity to "restart" my life and my next chapter. The universe has taken care of me in the last two years and Christopher (aka Stepford) came into my life at a time I never expected anyone. He stuck by my side, knowing exactly what was going on and said, "I want a future with the person I met, not his past."

As you know, I have a strong belief in family, both the one you are born into and the one you choose throughout your life. This experience has helped me to define my "family" and I will forever be indebted to those who have been there for me and at the same time hold no ill will towards those who have not.

I appreciate all of the kindness and support that I have received. I know that this portion of my journey has made me healthier emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually and you each have had a hand in that. I will be a stronger person and a better father because of this. Through all adversity you must grow and not dwell on negativity.


 
The portion of my sentence at FPC Devens was nothing compared to the continued sentence I live as I try to rebuild my life in Weston, Connecticut. I am labeled with the scarlet “F” on my forehead for FELON. At the play that evening, I walked into the theater knowing that heads would turn and whispers would begin. Many people did approach and say hello and wish me well, but most lowered their heads and looked the other way. I walked with my head held high and my partner by my side, but on the inside, I felt that same uneasiness in my stomach that I did so many years ago, knowing that I was gay but still afraid to admit it to the world.

I continue the struggle of living in Weston and rebuilding my life. The only thing that keeps me in Weston is that my son is in high school in the Weston Public School district, and with everything that he has gone through the past few years, I can not take him out of the only school he has known since kindergarten. I continue to experience people turning their heads or looking down when they see me in Peter’s Market, Weston Post Office, Lang’s Pharmacy or the Weston Hardware Store. If I am strong enough, I catch their eye and joyfully greet them and ask about their life and family. That always catches them off-guard and diffuses the situation, but I realize that I am being no better than they are by purposefully making them uncomfortable.

I have had many horrible experiences and disappointments as I try to reconnect with my family. I am turned down for employment and, because of my past, was recently denied the opportunity to take the Connecticut Real Estate exam that I had studied for. Membership in a local Organization was reviewed with more scrutiny because of my past, which has given me pause as to whether or not I truly want to be a part of that organization.  My guilty plea and sentencing were supposed to be the punishment for the crimes I plead guilty to, but many people and organizations feel the need to continue to inflict punishment based on their judgment of my actions.

As I said in my letter prior to my self-surrender, “Through all adversity you must grow and not dwell on negativity” and I will not allow others to define me. I will not let these things stop me from moving forward and growing as a person. And because of that defining moment in Laramie when Matthew Shepard was killed and became the legacy of strength and courage, I have the strength to survive.



Genaro Hathaway is a Business Consultant living in Weston, CT with his partner of 4 years and his 16-year-old son. He continues to volunteer in the LGBT Community, at his Church and various other philanthropic organizations. He is committed to help others who are faced with the challenges of reentry in the community after a prison sentence. 
_________________



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


_____


__________

Donations

We are grateful for donations from individuals, religious groups, charities, foundations and the like. Donations can be made by credit card/PayPal or by sending your check payable to: “Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.” P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883. Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project are missions of Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc. We are a CT Religious Corp. with 501c3 status - all donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Thank you for your support and generosity.


If transformation and redemption matter to you, a friend or a family member with a white-collar or nonviolent incarceration issue, please contact us and we will promptly send you an information package by mail, email or via Dropbox. The darkest days of a person's life can be a time of renewal and hope.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Angels Without A Face: A Christmas Blog, By Lori Dooley - Innocent Spouse & Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Angels Without A Face:
A Christmas Blog

By Lori Dooley, Innocent Spouse 
& Guest Blogger



It's been over two years since Lori Dooley 
first responded to one of our blog posts.  
In that time, we've seen her grow in incredible ways. 
Below is Lori's third guest blog

for prisonist.org.  Her posts,  

& The Amazing Ride, are two of the most
 beloved blogs we've ever posted. - Jeff


_________

As I walked into church this Christmas season, there hung the tree of Christmas Angels to help those families in need. I would normally just grab an Angel in hopes to bring some joy to a boy or girl. I have always enjoyed being part of this gift giving, but did I really reflect on what it truly meant. These pieces of paper are not merely pieces of paper on a Christmas Tree; they are families who need us. This time, the Angel had a reflection and the reflection was my family.  For the first time, my Angel had a face.

No present can ever take the place of my daughter having her father home for Christmas or change what has happened, but what I am starting to see a little at a time is that there are many who want to help and put their judgments aside to bring some joy and peace to those that find themselves without it.  Not one person who picks up their Angel from the tree ever judges that boy and girl for what is going on in their life. They pick a family out of unconditional love. During this Christmas and holiday season, it is a beautiful time to reflect on what it is all about.  A precious child was born unto all of us, even those in prison, to be the Savior for all mankind.  He was born unto sinners. He was born unto those who need his grace and forgiveness. No one is ever truly worthy of such honor by a Savior, but that is what makes it so wonderful. He loves each and every one of us; every failure, every sacrifice, every bright light that shines within Him. He is Goodness and Glory. His is Merciful. I ask that each and every person that looks at this blog ask yourself what is the true meaning of Christmas and this holiday season.  Can you forgive? Can you lend a hand to a family less fortunate who has a parent incarcerated? Can you believe that people are forgiven because Jesus Christ was born for all of us?  What a wonderful time to reflect and realize what matters to us all in this world. We are all connected in some way.

As every day passes, one step at a time, I find myself able to come out of this shadow I have been hiding behind. As hard as this journey is and continues to be, I will keep on my journey with one of hope just as the Wisemen did on their journey following the Star of Bethlehem. Please consider those innocent spouses and children who are without this holiday season because of an incarceration and what we can do together to help, and to stop over incarceration so that children can have their father’s home for Christmas.

God Bless you this holiday season and let us all be thankful for the true meaning of Christmas.

Lori Dooley 


_________________

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: 
 All I want for Christmas/Chanukah
By Reentry Survivor Barry S. Diamond, Founder of reentrysurvivors.com

All I want is:
To be accepted for my good deeds not my past actions
To laugh with friends at the silly things in life
To worship with my fellow human beings
To enjoy my children & their families & wish them all the best
Sounds pretty normal doesn't it?
Well that’s what all of us released from incarceration want, to be normal again
Those of you who have helped us, thank you
Those of you who haven’t, please remember G’d forgives
So why can’t you?




__________

Donations

We are grateful for donations from individuals, religious groups, charities, foundations and the like. Donations can be made by credit card/PayPal or by sending your check payable to: “Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.” P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883. Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project are missions of Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc. We are a CT Religious Corp. with 501c3 status - all donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Thank you for your support and generosity.


If transformation and redemption matter to you, a friend or a family member with a white-collar or nonviolent incarceration issue, please contact us and we will promptly send you an information package by mail, email or via Dropbox. The darkest days of a person's life can be a time of renewal and hope.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Ten Best Black Books of 2014, by Kam Williams: The Justice Imperative Makes Honorable Mention.


Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut


The Ten Best Black Books of 2014, by Kam Williams: The Justice Imperative Makes “Honorable Mention.”


COVER2 We are pleased to announce that The Justice Imperative has received an Honorable Mention on Kam Williams’ Top Ten Black Books of 2014 List. Kam’s column is syndicated to over 100 newspapers & blogs around the country. Thank you Kam & Thank you Babz! Babz Rawls Ivy & I serve as Online Editors (blog & social media) for this important new book, The Justice Imperative. Click image above for link to: thejusticeinitiative.org/blogs and to amazon.com to purchase your copy. – Jeff

1. Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate
and Survive the Criminal Justice System
by Robbin Shipp, Esq. and Nick Chiles

2. An Obama’s Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery across Three Cultures
by Mark Obama Ndesandjo

3. Who We Be: The Colorization of America
by Jeff Chang

4. Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black
by Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC)
Foreword by Alfre Woodard

5. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
by Misty Copeland

6. One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future
by Dr. Ben Carson and Candy Carson

7. Finding Your Roots
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

8. What the Word Be: Why Black English Is the King’s (James) English
by Diane Proctor Reeder

9. Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year
by Tavis Smiley
with David Ritz

10. Culture Worrier: Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change
by Clarence Page

Honorable Mention
The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream by Brian E. Moran, Esq.
Why Vegan is the New Black
by Deborrah Cooper

The Lawyer as Leader: How to Plant People and Grow Justice
by Dr. Artika R. Tyner

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson

Stokely: A Life
by Peniel E. Joseph

Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson

The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader
by Ida B. Wells
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Mia Bay
General Editor: Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Rise
Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
by Sarah Lewis

Success through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple
by Russell Simmons

The Imperfect Marriage
Help for Those Who Think It’s Over
by Darryl and Tracy Strawberry

Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story… and Why It Matters Today
by Edouard Kayihura and Kerry Zukus

Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy
Mother, and Still Came out Smiling (with Great Hair)
by Rosie Perez

The Global Obama: Crossroads of Leadership in the 21st Century
Edited by Dinesh Sharma and Uwe P. Gielen

Black and White: The Way I See It
by Richard Williams

Transforming Pain to Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential
by Daniel Beaty

Story/Time: The Life of an Idea
by Bill T. Jones

Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America
by Sheryll Cashin

Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

The Man from Essence
by Edward Lewis with Audrey Edwards
Foreword by Camille O. Cosby

Nine Lives of a Black Panther: A Story of Survival
by Wayne Pharr

Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou

Cosby: His Life and Times
by Mark Whitaker

A Black Gambler’s World of Liquor, Vice and Presidential Politics: William
Thomas Scott of Illinois, 1839-1917
by Bruce L. Mouser
Foreword by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Myth of Race, The Reality of Racism
by Mahmoud El-Kati

Our Ancestors, Our Stories
by Harris Bailey, Jr., Bernice Alexander Bennett, Ellen LeVonne Butler, Ethel Dailey, Vincent Sheppard and Dr. Orville Vernon Burton

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons and Love Affairs
by Pearl Cleage

Yoga, Meditation and Spiritual Growth for the African-American Community
by Daya Devi-Doolin

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class
by John Hope Bryant
Foreword by Ambassador Andrew Young

Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir
by Elizabeth Nunez

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible
by Charles E. Cobb, Jr.

America’s Music: Jazz in Newark
by Barbara Kukla

240 Ways to Close the Achievement Gap: Teachers Only Workbook (Vol. 2)
by M. Donnell Tenner, Joy Gay and Dr. Marti Dryk

Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House
by Nika C. Beamon

Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights
by Robin Bernstein

Guiou: The Other Blacks – The Afro-Jamaican Presence in Guatemala
by Gloria J. Arnold

Dollar Democracy: With Liberty and Justice for Some
by Peter Mathews

Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the 20th Century South
by Blain Roberts

Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir
by Toni Braxton

Thirty-Three Days of Praise: Seeing the Good in Cancer
by Karrie Marchbanks

 ________
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:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Overturning of Insider Trading Convictions, By Brian Jorgenson - Guest Blogger, From Prison

Progressive Prison Project 
Innocent Spouse & Children Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut

The Overturning of Insider Trading Convictions

By Brian Jorgenson - Guest Blogger, From Prison



Upon our learning of the successful appeal overturning the insider trading convictions of  Todd Newman & Anthony Chiasson, we reached out to some members of our community most affected by the decision.  We published the first last week: Who Watches The Watchmen, by Anonymous - A White-Collar Felon.   We invite you to submit your thoughts & feelings on the subject.  

Our ministee Brian Jorgenson reported in September
 to the FCI Herlong Camp in California to serve
 a two-year sentence for a insider trading. Brian's two prior submissions to prisonist.org, Last Blog Before Prison 
and A Commentary on Psalm 85.2, were among our most well-read and well received posts ever.   Here are his thoughts from prison. - Jeff

_________________

Several days ago, two prominent convictions for insider trading (Chiasson and Newman) were overturned by the appellate court. While I don't have access to all of the intricacies of the case, my understanding is that the convictions were overturned based on where Chiasson and Newman were in the insider trading information chain. The court found that the onus was not on them to know that the information they were trading on had been illegally disseminated. Said another way, the two portfolio managers assumed they were merely trading on stock tips, not private, material, inside information. Whether they "really" knew or not, we'll likely never know but the burden of proof should be on the government so I applaud the convictions being overturned.

Here I sit in prison for one count of insider trading (securities fraud). Does this appeal have any impact whatsoever on my current situation? Unfortunately, no. And that's because in my case, the chain had only two links in it - the tipper and the tippee. I was the tipper meaning that I provided the information to someone else to profit, so these convictions being overturned will not affect my case in the slightest. It was my personal responsibility to not provide the information, just like it was the personal responsibility of my co-defendant to not trade on the information. Both of us were in the wrong and as a result, both of us are currently incarcerated.

I want to reflect on how my incarceration has been. Today marks exactly three months (~15 to go). Through it, I've met so many guys who have taken wrong turns in life. They (and I include myself in this group) tried to take shortcuts in order to get more money, power or control in their lives. Some are remorseful and ready to move on. Others continually beat themselves up over their past mistakes. Others remain indignant and counting the days until they can resume their illegal activities. Yet, they are currently all prisoners, alongside me. And all too aware of the uphill battles they face upon re-entering society: 
-Trying to figure out how to stay clear of the people and situations that got them incarcerated
-Attempting to get a job from an employer that hires felons
-Mending the broken and violated relationships that their incarceration has caused 
-Dealing with society and the lifelong stigma of being an ex-convict
-Ultimately, trying not to be part of the sad recidivism statisic: over 60% of inmates, re-offend and end back in prison

Before coming to prison, I will admit that I wasn't filled with empathy. But that has changed after being in here. The recidivism rate is daunting for so many of these guys. And it seems so overwhelming to try to get back on track. The government doesn't do much to help felons' re-entry efforts as members of society. The stigma is very real and so many doors will be closed for us for the rest of our lives due simply to checking a box on a form labeling us as felons. While I acknowledge that I will face my fair share of obstacles, I'm not overly concerned or anxious about it. I know that God has a plan for me. I know that my relationship with my wife and kids is on firm ground. I know that I have other family, friends, business associates, and a church family that loves me and supports me. I consider myself very fortunate and know that I won't be part of the recidivism statistic.

But I'm still angry.

This anger doesn't deal with me. It deals with the guys in here and the countless others who don't have the things that I've been blessed with. They will leave prison without a game plan and society has already branded them (us) as bad apples. I find this incredibly judgmental and hypocritical. I read an article in The Week earlier today where legal experts cited that "more than 70% of Americans have committed a felony that would carry a prison term if they were caught." Maybe it was mishandling a gun, maybe it was driving while being "buzzed", maybe it was gambling online, or maybe it was cheating on your taxes.

Nevertheless, the experts posit that more than 7 out of 10 people could have been imprisoned and labeled a felon IF they would have been caught and prosecuted. So here's the hypocrisy: those 70%+ know that they've done something that could've landed them in prison. The only thing separating them between the felons/ex-convicts that they are so quick to villify is pure luck. They weren't caught but the felons were. Yet, society turns its collective nose up and brands felons for life as being untrustworthy and not deserving of a 2nd chance.

It shouldn't be this way. Now, I'm not condoning any illegal activity but when you have a felon who is trying to turn his life around and he's unable to get loans to start a business or unable to get hired anywhere or not allowed to travel outside of the state to visit his family, then the system is stacked against him. This is partly why we have such a high recidivism rate. Even the "reformed" felons can't become good standing members in society because society doesn't ALLOW them to. They keep them at arm's length, at a safe distance away. In turn, the felons resort back to the only life they knew -- a life of crime which lands them in prison.

This is not a coherent post. I'm going off on a tangent here from where I started but it's where my stream of conscious thoughts have led me so I'll end on that note. 


You can read more blogs from Brian Jorgenson
 on his website, 

Mail for Brian can be sent to:


Brian Jorgenson, 44044-086
FCI Herlong – Satellite Camp
PO Box 800
Herlong, CA 96113 

____________

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 8, 2014

Who Watches the Watchmen? By Anonymous, A White-Collar Felon

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut



 Who Watches the Watchmen?

By Anonymous, Guest Blogger 
& A White-Collar Felon


Editor's note: we had no idea how timely this blog would be when we posted in on Mon., Dec. 8, 2014.  Two days later (Dec. 10) a three judge panel overturned the insider trading convictions of Todd Newman & Anthony Chiasson, redefining the rules for prosecution of traders in "remote tippee" cases.  See Walt Pavlo's article on Forbes.com and Patricia Hurtado's article on Bloomberg.com. We'll are hopeful that this decision will add some sobriety to future of SEC prosecutions.  We'd like to think that God (along with great lawyers) played a large part in this groundbreaking decision. - Jeff
 
 ________

We encourage our ministees to "develop a voice" on their road to health, redemption and a new life. They often start small, by anonymously publishing comments to other people's blog posts.  We are proud that this ministee finally felt compelled to speak out and honored that he trusted us enough to do so on prisonist.org. - Jeff

__________

In the wake of the grand jury failure to indict for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, we are called to consider the highly questionable relationship between prosecutors and the police.  But the oft-repeated, "a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich," mantra exists for a reason - that a prosecutor, should it be his or her sincere objective, can convince a grand jury to indict anyone or anything.  Even a ham sandwich.

Perhaps the grand juries did not indict the police officers in both cases not because of the evidence or lack thereof, but because the prosecutor manipulated the grand jury to not indict.  Given the generally codependent relationship between prosecutors and police, should the larger question and debate not be just over police violence, but prosecutorial misconduct?  Willful manipulation and negligence by prosecutors?

I am a felon.  Never had a single word carried so much meaning for me - the judgment of others, the passive presumption of a fair and objective justice system, guilt, shame, remorse, anger, and perhaps most importantly, release. The hope that I can fully unshackle myself from the notions that civil society would have me hobble in self-pity, encumbered by a scarlet 'F' for the rest of my life.

When the FBI first came knocking on my door, I picked the defense attorneys that most belittled my damaged ego and psyche.  Perhaps I felt secure in their arrogance.  I was scared.  I didn't think I was guilty of what I was being accused of, but I also feared a trial.  Society does not look kindly upon white collar criminals, and I had seen a few cases where I felt guilty convictions had been won on a surge of populist anger towards Wall Street vs. the facts.  I feared prison.

Little did I understand my lawyers had already made the decision for me.  I was to plead guilty with the implicit promise that I would never see the inside of a prison.  I protested, argued that I had lacked sufficient criminal intent to have known I was committing a white collar felony.  But my protests were met with resolute conviction from my lawyers that my case would be a surefire loser at trial, and that I would undoubtedly, unquestionably face up to 15 years' incarceration.  They had already made the choice for me by presenting outlandish scenarios appealing to my worst fears.

And so my life irrevocably transformed overnight.  The prosecutor was impressively clever, she had run circles around my counsel outthinking them at each step of the process.  At distinct moments through my proffer sessions, I noticed smirks of self-satisfaction from her - the kind one feels when they've bluffed their way to a win in poker.

In the later years of my business career, I had become callous and negligent in my job - a reflection of my own growing cynicism in Wall Street and dissatisfaction with myself.  Yet I somehow had faith that the 'Justice System' would be a different realm, one of fairness and truth, where prosecutors huddled in teams to debate the facts of potential prosecution giving in all cases, the benefit of the doubt.  After all, prosecutors are being dealt the hefty responsibility of playing God with others' lives.

I concluded this process allocuting a plea to a Federal Judge, professing guilt in cases where I knew I was innocent.  I remain stupefied at how I arrived there.  I equate it to slowly boiling a frog - that a frog would immediately jump out of boiling water but if the heat is increased ever so gradually the frog willfully neglects his own safety to his own demise.

I refuse to be bitter.  And ironically, I am remorseful and I do accept responsibility.  Not for the false pleas, but for my failed judgments leading up to and through the criminal justice process.  I chose, of course, to always interpret right and wrong as close to the line as possible.  To interpret right and wrong in the way that best suited my interests.  In some cases, I know that I crossed the line.  I chose to continue in an industry filled with narcissistic, quasi-psychopathic individuals, each year loathing myself a little more.  And I chose to pick defense counsel that appealed to my most ignoble insecurities and instincts for self-preservation.

The isolation in the aftermath of a criminal conviction is indescribable.  It's unclear who amongst family and friends knows, and it is hard to know how to behave - withdrawn and remorseful, or to put on airs of normalcy.  So many doors close - of course, the word 'felony' encompasses a wide range of delits - from stock option backdating & market manipulation on one end, to violent rape & pre-meditated murder on the other.  For an educated person, the closed doors of employment & any career requiring a professional license, including driving a taxi, is a crushing implosion of conventional hope.  I often went to bed praying for mercy from God that I would not awake the next day.  The sun arose, it seemed, to mock me, to provide hopes and opportunities only to snatch it away.  I prayed to melt away into the ether.  Frankly, sometimes I still do.

We have focused much on the remorse, acceptance of responsibility and re-entry of felons into society.  Let's not forget the sins of the prosecutors.  It is far more common that people are incarcerated for crimes they may have not actually committed as a result of plea bargaining because the unchecked power of the prosecutor allows no other option for the average individual.  So often it is the ordinary career ambitions of an underpaid prosecutor that compels him to focus solely on the notches on his belt, to apply the same relative morality against the individuals he prosecutes.  


It is an abuse of power.  The prosecutors are the watchmen in our society, but there is no agency watching over them.  So whether it is the willful intent of a prosecutor to manipulate a 'fail to indict' in Ferguson or a prosecutor willfully holding exculpatory evidence from a defendant - let us question our blind faith in the integrity of prosecutors.  

Because if we don't watch the watchmen, no one else will. 

- Anonymous, A White-Collar Felon
____________

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: 

Hi Jeff
Too often we forget that some people are actually only guilty of really poor judgment rather than guilty of “evil actions”.  How many people in all walks of life have just pushed the envelope a little too far?  While incarcerated I heard many stories from other inmates about their own lawyer recommending a plea bargaining.  Also, too often the prosecutor wants a win for a notch on his belt and a winning score, while the person’s life (and his family’s) is being decided.  Play it safe and get out in a few years, rather than spend a decade or more in prison.  The fear of very long sentences behind bars being tossed around is enough to make a person (guilty or not so guilty) bend to the will of the court system.  This is not a question of innocence or guilt but rather a question of fairness in a system that seems to have lost it’s fairness.  Once someone said to me that because of incarceration that the rest of his life no longer has any smooth corners just sharp edges.  This is a sad comment on the current thinking of our society. - 

Barry S. Diamond, Reentrysurvivors.com 

Friday, December 5, 2014

How To Overcome A Dept. of Justice Press Release: A Video By Justin Paperny - Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project 

Innocent Spouse & Children Project 

Greenwich, Connecticut 
How To Overcome 
A Dept. of Justice 
Press Release: A Video
 
 By Justin Paperny - Guest Blogger  

We were introduced to our guest blogger, prison
 consultant Justin Paperny, by our friend Walt Pavlo,
 the Forbes white-collar correspondent, and by Brian Jorgenson, our ministee who is currently serving
 a two-year sentence for a white-collar crime at
 FCI Herlong in California.  I've spent some time
 talking with Justin and have found him to be
 insightful and dedicated to helping our community.
 We do not have experience in referring ministees
 to Justin and thus cannot yet endorse him or his consultancy. The video he has submitted offers 
important information to our readers. 
Thank you, Justin. - Jeff



Video: How To Overcome a Department of Justice Press Release   
_________________

I'd like to thank Jeff Grant for this opportunity to introduce myself to the readers of prisonist.org.



Quickly, for some background, my name is Justin Paperny. I am a graduate of the University of Southern California and a former stockbroker who built my career at Bear Stearns, and  then at UBS.



I am also a convicted felon.  Several years into my career, I began making bad decisions on behalf of a hedge fund client who was a running a Ponzi Scheme.  I surrendered to prison in 2008, and was released to three years of supervised release in 2009.



As a result of my shortsightedness and poor judgment, I created victims, embarrassed my family, ruined my career, endured the indignities of prison, and like many of the white-collar offenders I coach, was forced to endure the reality of having the government plaster my misdeeds all over the Internet for my friends and family to read.



To my last point, and for purposes of this guest blog, I wanted to share a video I made addressing the realities of having the Government issue that dreaded press release. Perhaps readers of prisonist.org will find value in the strategies I offer to deal with the government’s narrative of events.



While the initial reaction might be to want to run and hide from our conviction or press release, experience convinces me that embracing the reality of the situation and owning it are two essential steps to overcoming the obstacles any offender faces. And contrary to what others might tell you (including many of the prisoners with whom I served time), speaking openly about our culpability, along with the steps we are taking to make amends, can go along way towards restoring our name and growing our network.



Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this forum. I hope you find value in this video I title: How To Overcome A Department Of Justice Press Release



Respectfully,

Justin Paperny

Justin Paperny can be reached at:
818-424-2220

___________
 
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


___________

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Voices From Within: Voices From Sing Sing

Progressive Prison Project 
Innocent Spouse & Children Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut



Voices From Within:
Voices From Sing Sing 


Among the incredible things that we saw at TEDx SingSing 
on Weds., Dec. 3, 2014 was the world premiere 
of this amazing video responding to gun violence head on.  Produced by Dan Slepian of Dateline NBC, 
it stars the inmates of the 
Sing Sing Prison Voices From Within Project.
It took our breath away. - Jeff





Voices From Within
Confronting Gun Violence Head On 
www.voicesfromwithin.org

___________
 
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
___________