Prisonist.org: Edited by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, serving the CT Criminal Justice Community & Co-Founder of Progressive Prison Ministries, the First Ministry in the U.S. Created to Support Individuals, Families & Organizations with White-Collar and Other Nonviolent Incarceration Issues.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back to the Future, By Barry S. Diamond - Reentry Survivor & Guest Blogger


Progressive Prison Project


Innocent Spouse & Children Project


Greenwich, Connecticut


Back to the Future

By Barry S. Diamond, Reentry Survivor 
& Guest Blogger

I first met Barry when he and I were members of the SouthWest Connecticut Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
Barry was a tireless worker with terrific ideas. Recently, he and Dick Sederquist (another SWCJRI member) invited me to breakfast to discuss a project they were working on - Reentry Survivors Success Stories.  At breakfast, Barry shared with us that he was a reentry survivor, having served prison time for a white-collar crime.  I invited Barry to write a guest blog for us.  - Jeff 
 


ReentrySurvivors.com: "It gives prior convicted persons the opportunity to go back into their past life and look at it to see how and what formed their new futures."



MY STORY

My name is Barry S. Diamond. One day in June, 2010, I was having lunch with mayors and state representatives and the next day lunch with murders, rapists, child molesters and bank robbers.

I was the owner of a successful 30 year old business consulting company, started the Chamber of Commerce in my town, on the board of my town Economic Development Commission, Vice-President of my town Tax Abatement Commission, President of my town Library Foundation...as well as the President-Elect of the Better Business Bureau of the State of Connecticut.

All that ended when I was convicted of a white-collar crime & was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

After two years of following repetitive, non-thinking actions with no decision-making thoughts (now that I was going to be early released in 2012), I was going to have to think about how other released offenders successfully did it.  What stumbling blocks did they have to overcome and how did they do it?

While in prison I listened and learned a lot about the hopes and dreams of other incarcerated people.  Many wanted to return to their families, find jobs and once again become members of the society they left.  They were husbands, grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles and sons.

I’ve tried to put my experience in prison to good use.

I am currently teaching a job readiness course to reentry people, helping to get jobs for Project Longevity clients in Bridgeport, an active member of the Bridgeport Reentry Roundtable, and conducting clothing drives for reentry survivors for their job interviews.  I have a loving, supportive wife, three sons who are married (all of whom own their own homes), eight grandchildren (several in college and whom are future doctors and engineers), and three great-grandchildren...all of whom are now back in my life.
 

TELL YOUR STORY !

And importantly for this blog post, together with Dick Sederquist (not a reentry survivor but a dedicated freedom fighter), we are spearheading the Reentry Survivors Success Story movement in Connecticut! 


We have recently started a website called reentrysurvivors.com, where stories appear of successful reentries by real people.  It gives prior convicted persons the opportunity to go back into their past life and look at it to see how and what formed their new futures.  We who have been incarcerated and released to reenter society now have a voice and a place where hope still lives.

The web site is reentrysurvivors.com.  Our e-mail is reentrysurvivors@gmail.com

Thank you for your kind attention and for your submissions.

Sincerely,

Barry S. Diamond, Reentry Survivor 


P.S. Most released people who are reentering our communities are only asking to be treated with respect, courtesy & honesty.  Interview them for job openings in your company.  Hire them if they are the best qualified, do not hire them if other candidates are better.  If you don’t, you may be missing the opportunity to hire a great employee, who will work hard to earn your respect. Barry

______________


Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project


at Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883

Central Ministry & Office:
Weston, Connecticut

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

jg3074@columbia.edu

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi. By Lori Dooley - Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut 

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi
By Lori Dooley - Guest Blogger


Hi Jeff and Lynn:

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Les Misérables  at a local theater in our community.  There are several plots in it, but it is a story of ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who is prisoner number 24601. Although he was not convicted of a white collar crime, he still committed a crime.  The story is about redemption and grace.   God gives us grace and the ability to redeem ourselves and in that, we should be forgiving to anyone who chooses to redeem themselves.  Through my own story, I have learned to be less judgmental of others and realize that we all are sinners and make mistakes.  God does not see sin as big or small.

As my family’s story unraveled in 2008, I felt so much shame and walked in silence.  I closed the curtains as if to forget the world existed. I cried in the darkness so no one would hear.  I kept my head down when I went outside, so hopefully no one would recognize me.

What we seem to forget is that these who are serving their time, just like Evan, for a white-collar crime, are not just a prisoner number.  The number overshadows that of a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, mentor, and so much more that their lives have been all about.  We seem to forget that because a person falls short of grace for a moment, does not mean they deserve a life sentence. Who are we to say they should not be able to redeem themselves? Should they too be able to live a life of redemption and peace when they are released; especially if they have asked for God’s forgiveness.


Also, I wanted to share a recent disturbing event that my daughter recently encountered. The friend that I went to see in the Les Misérables’ production in the local community theatre also encouraged my daughter to try out for an upcoming production.  Since she has been through so much emotion with her father going to prison, I thought this would be a great avenue to get involved in something that she could put a lot of energy into.   She is also is not afraid to get up in front of an audience, which is a quality she gets from her father.  I found out that the producer and director who is overseeing the production is from New York.  My daughter did great at auditions from what I am told.  We expected a call back for sure until today.  I am still hopeful that the right decision will be made on my daughter’s behalf and not let the unfortunate circumstances affect her for that which she has no control over.     There are still those who want to keep what happened to our family alive and our family shame was made public once again to the director and to that of the local community theater.  After hearing the news, I felt the need to reach out to the director.  In my email, I confirmed the events. I also informed the director about your ministry and forwarded the website address.  My hope was to reach out to this director so that she would know what families and children go through and share this wonderful and amazing ministry with her.  I hope that she takes the time to look at it.  I also wanted her to know that even though I knew she had to do what was best for the production, that my daughter and I would continue our journey with are heads held high.

These days, I choose to live a life without shame.  I am not going to be afraid to be who I am, and that is Lori Dooley.  There will always be those who make the journey less inviting along the way and choose to be judgmental.  There is a quote right now on the community theatre website for the show Les Misérables and it says:  “To love another person, is to see the face of God.”  I choose to see the face of God in everything I do regardless of my family’s unfortunate circumstances; even if one chooses to judge us, I choose to love!

I wanted you both to know that I am more excited now about sharing my story than ever before.  I want to help others in their journey and be an advocate for other families through the process.

​Lori Dooley



We've been speaking with Lori since November 2013  when she responded to one of our blog posts.  In her first email to us, she wrote:

 "I absolutely feel that my purpose and that of my 10 year daughter to go through this tremendous pain is for a reason, although unsure at this time how that purpose will play out, I deeply know it's God purpose for us.  I am trusting in His plan. A greater plan than I could imagine and anxious to help and guide in that next journey.  I would rather be penniless and my life worth helping others through this journey, than a life filled with money and selfishness of no empathy or understanding of what is like for others to suffer." 

We believe that Lori has indeed found her purpose. 

______________


Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project


at Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883

Central Ministry & Office:
Weston, Connecticut

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887



jgrant@prisonist.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org  

______________


Comments from other social media: 


Founder/CEO of New Leaf Alliance Foundation Inc.

This is true but only a path for someone with faith in the word of God. It's hard to be judged and still walk a straight line. I walk showing you my past openly because it's a milestone of strength for me, hence why I started my organization. How can you use your own past? 

> Way to go, Jeff, keep up the good, healing work!
kra 

> Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! - Anonymous

 

______________



Friday, July 4, 2014

Dealing with the Shame of Depression and Bipolar Ilness, By John S. Tamerin, MD - Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut




Dealing with the Shame of Depression 
and Bipolar Illness: 
The Silver Lining for Those 
Who Find the Courage to Share

By John S. Tamerin, MD - Guest Blogger

“You are only as sick as your secrets” 
 - Author Unknown

Despite considerable efforts to de-stigmatize bipolar illness and depression, many people continue to be ashamed and reluctant to acknowledge, accept, and discuss with others the reality of their symptoms or their illness. I believe this is one of a number of reasons why many people with depression avoid treatment and/or may not fully recover despite receiving excellent medical care.

Sadly many people with bipolar illness and depression continue to feel shame and often blame themselves for their condition.  They feel embarrassed to discuss their situation which leaves them feeling stigmatized and alone.  The reality is simply this:  Their illness is a fact.   It’s not their fault.  Their challenge is to accept this reality without feeling shame. For many this is very difficult. For others it seems to be almost impossible.  The pain of any illness including depression is real, but one does not have compound that pain by also feeling shame. 

Anyone with major depression or bipolar illness has to try to cope with painful and debilitating symptoms, but that does not mean that he or she should, in any way, be embarrassed to have the symptoms of the illness.  Indeed, I have observed that one of the most important psychological steps towards recovery is ownership and the ability to gradually be open about one’s condition without shame. I believe it is also important for their spouses and parents to acknowledge this reality.

Having facilitated our Greenwich DBSA support group for over a decade I have discovered that this process is best conducted in a safe setting of peers all of whom are coping with the same issues including shame and stigma. In our support group we regularly have talked in depth, with both pain and passion, about our personal struggles with shame and stigma, our fears and feelings of rejection, our fears of never recovering, and our embarrassment about sharing our experiences or diagnosis with other people. Everyone in the support group understands these emotions and has experienced them.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that as people talk about these fears in group, their shame diminishes, their burden becomes lighter and their depression decreases. As they share these vulnerable emotions members feel less isolated and less alone.

Members have been encouraged and supported by the group to gradually take the risk of talking about their condition outside of the group. This is a very complex and controversial matter given the stigma that sadly still exists. People are often terrified that they will be rejected and negatively stereotyped if they reveal they have depression or bipolar illness. Tragically, sometimes this does happen both in personal and vocational settings.

On the other hand, it has frequently been observed in our group that as some of our members have found the courage to be open about their condition, they realize that their fears of rejection were exaggerated.  In most instances they discover they then feel closer to the people with whom they have shared their “secret.” The irony of exposing this “shameful secret” is that, contrary to their fear of being rejected, our members have discovered because of their greater openness they are now making closer friends. 

As members of our group find the courage to gradually share their vulnerabilities, they feel a heavy burden has been lifted and they discover that gradually a unique human bond has often been formed. Indeed, they now feel closer than they ever had previously to those people with whom they have opened up. This newly discovered emotional intimacy derived from shared vulnerability has become the “silver lining” of their illness!

Our members have found this is a totally different type of emotional and interpersonal experience than they might have previously had in sharing achievements, accomplishments, information or work issues, recreational activities or hobbies.  This type of interpersonal sharing is sharing from the heart and from the soul.  This experience, as it is increasingly repeated, can become a source and a wellspring of love of self and of others.

This may well be the paradox of mental illness. It can be and often is a source of shame, humiliation, and isolation. On the other hand, it can open up the possibility for the deepest kind of human relationship which can ultimately result in truly accepting oneself in all aspects of one’s humanity.

Themes of  initial shame and denial followed by men and women eventually opening up and sharing the truth about their illness en route to recovery show up in virtually every issue of BP magazine.  I agree with the editors of the magazine and firmly believe that this is a crucial matter and a major step in recovery. I also believe this essential transformative process is insufficiently appreciated and/or addressed by my medical and psychiatric colleagues. If they really believed that this was a central issue in recovery they would refer many more of their patients to DBSA support groups.

I realize this may be a highly provocative proposal and that self-revelation is perhaps not for everyone and, when it is done, must be done thoughtfully, carefully and certainly not when one is in a manic state.

One final proviso, no one who reads this paper should reach the conclusion that simply “coming out” and talking about one’s depression will cure it. It won’t. Many people need to be stabilized and maintained on appropriate medication for their entire lives.

Please feel free to contact me at Jtamerin@optonline.net

Dr. John Tamerin is a friend of our ministries. This article was originally written by him for the DBSA Leadership Circle Newsletter entitled Perspectives.  Dr. Tamerin is a member of DBSA's Board of Directors and Medical Consultant to the Greenwich, Connecticut DBSA Chapter. 

Dr. Tamerin, a psychiatrist with over 40 years of clinical experience, has served for many years as Clinical Associate Professor at Weill/Cornell School of Medicine teaching residents and medical students. He has consistently been voted one of the Top Doctors in America by Castle Connelly.

Dr. Tamerin has published extensively in the areas of mood disorders and the addictions. He has served on the GAP committee on Alcoholism and the Addictions, the Committee on Human Sexuality and most recently has joined the committee on Psychiatry and the Arts. His goal in this series of articles is to further integrate medicine with the Humanities and the Arts by presenting new and provocative perspectives of direct relevance to the treatment of people suffering with mood disorders.

______________


Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project


at Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883

Central Ministry & Office:
Weston, Connecticut

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887

jgrant@prisonist.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org