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.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What, Me Worry? A Sermon About Depression & Incarceration, by Rev. Jeff Grant

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What, Me Worry?
A Sermon About Depression 
& Incarceration:
Matt. 6:25-34

By Rev. Jeff Grant  


 First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 10 am

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matt. 6:25-34


I’m going to start this sermon by putting my social location on the table.  


Most of you know that I served as Associate Minister and Director of Prison Ministries at this church until February of this year.  From this pulpit, I’ve shared with you my transformation story of how I went from addiction to prescription narcotics, to Federal prison for a white-collar crime, to earning a Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, to founding with my wife Lynn a prison ministry for people accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes and their families.

What I haven’t shared with you is that I suffer from bipolar depression, and that in 2002 I attempted to commit suicide.  It has been a long road back since then that has included a regular course of treatment for my bipolar depression – with varying results.


What I am going to try to do this morning is describe what it is like to suffer from depression when issues of incarceration are present in your life.

Let me tell you about a car accident I had on Wednesday morning.  It was a car accident that I had in my own driveway.

I got up late, at least late for me, at about 5:30 am. That’s about two hours later than my usual 3:30 in the morning wake up time.  Usually, I have enough time to brew myself a leisurely cup of coffee, or two.  Enough time to sit at the computer for a couple of hours and blog, respond to emails, write a sermon, and maybe work on my ever-unfinished book.  Use my time the in the way I need, in the pattern I need to quiet the chaos in my head and instill in myself a sense of calm.  It is a calm I’ve learned I need to start my day.

But on Wednesday morning, I was moving fast.  Way too fast as it turned out.  I had forgotten that our friend Michael was staying with us overnight and had parked his car in our driveway.  Exactly where I, in my supreme rush to get where I was going, needed to back up to get out of the driveway.  I didn’t look over my shoulder.  And the backup camera and beeping noises coming from my car were useless in my mad rush to get where I was going.  Luckily, my car only had a broken taillight.  Michael’s car had several thousand dollars of damage - damage that my insurance company and I will be paying for.

Here’s the point of my story. I immediately felt that old feeling when the floor dropped out from under me.  I didn’t know what to do and my mind started racing?  I started to blame everyone I could think of – I blamed Michael for parking his car in the driveway.  I blamed God for dealing me such a bad hand yet again.  I blamed myself.  I became despondent and overwhelmed with my depression.  I lost my bearings and my composure.  Luckily, I have a very loving wife, a wonderful support system, and tools I’ve learned in various 12-step programs and in my faith journey.  I recovered from my depressive episode in a few hours.

For those four or five hours I was in my depressed hole this week, I can tell you that I sympathized with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  And that Robin Williams’ suicide from his own battle with depression was on my mind.  And that I was concerned about the Israeli-Hamas crisis, prison overcrowding, solitary confinement, and all of the issues that, on most days, motivate me to do the things I do.  


I could tell you that, but I would be lying.

Because on Wednesday, the only thing I could do for those four or five hours was get through the day.  The only thing I could do was breathe. 

It’s been this way episodically since my legal issues began fifteen years ago.  With experience it’s gotten better – but I never seem to get used to it. 

What makes this driveway/car-crash/incarceration/depression incident really troubling is that only a few days earlier, I had already reached out for help on the topic of “Incarceration & Depression” – and in a big way!  

I had posted a blog on our ministry’s blogsite, prisonist.org, requesting contributions on this topic for use in this very sermon.   And our friends, colleagues and readers did not disappoint – we received contributions from clergy, innocent spouses of men in prison, prison reentry advocates, psychologists who help families suffering from legal issues, and even a man who is reporting to Federal prison next month to begin his two-year sentence for a white-collar crime. 

For the balance of this sermon, I am going to share with you some of these important contributions on the topic of Depression & Incarceration, and then I will conclude with the balance of my personal reflection.  
__________

The Rev. Roy Colquhoun, my friend, fellow Union Theological Seminary classmate, and Pastor in Brooklyn, New York, led us to today’s scripture passage from the Gospel According to Matthew.  

According to Rev. Roy, “we do not have to be burdened down with our loads of care. The devil is quite content for us to do just that, but he is a liar for that only leads to spiritual, emotional, mental and psychological rust.”

“The Greek word for anxiety, Merimnao, means, to be drawn in different directions. From a psychological perspective, Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and uneasiness, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.  It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, and problems in concentration.  Anxiety can be appropriate, but when it is too much and continues for too long, it can cause what is known as an anxiety disorder.  And because anxiety can have a debilitating effect on our lives,” that’s why the psalmist says: 

*Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. – Psalm 55:22

“Dump all your anxieties upon Jesus because he cares for us.  Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you. He will make your righteousness radiate like the dawn and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.”
 
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7

Carrying our worries, stresses, and daily struggles by ourselves shows that we have not trusted God fully with our lives. Sometimes we think that struggles caused by our own sin and foolishness are not God’s concern, but when we turn to God in repentance, he will bear the weight even of those struggles.

"Generally speaking, at the root of our cares are our anxieties about any number of things; our jobs, our marriage, our families, our future, the economy, to name a few. A significant amount of our time is spent thinking about our financial security, planning events that may never materialized, being restless and sleep deprived, trying to make the pieces fit. Where God seems to be silent, we feel compelled to fill in the blanks, but I want you to remember that during a test, the teacher is always silent."

That’s why the apostle Paul in his Letter to the Philippians said:
 
*Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with  thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Brother  Michael Jones (peoplexcelnlove.weebly.com), who runs a Bible study at the Merton House here in Bridgeport, shared with us his interpretation of Galatians 4( 7): As an heir we obtain an inheritance with Christ, but many have yet to believe and accept their identity  as a child of God with all the Rights, Authority, Privileges, and Power. But instead, we succumb to the ways and cares of the world, and become Depressed, Anxious, Fearful, Confused, and Deceived into believing lies.  We have a chicken coop mentality living beneath the standard of life that is promised. But the goodness and great love of the Father sent instructions in Romans 12:2, that we,

"do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." - Romans 12:2

Brian Jorgenson, during this difficult time he is having before he reports to Federal prison, shared that
1 Peter 3:15 has been his mantra.  According to Brian, “if everything is going great and I'm nailing life, then why would anyone ask what my hope is found in? They would assume that if I'm having success by worldly standards that there's no reason to even ask about my hope.

When we experience a difficult situation and are able to cope with it, others will naturally ask how we are able to respond this way. This is when we can do as commanded in 1 Peter 3:15 -- be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you for the reason of the hope that is in you. This is our opportunity to point to God and give Him glory, especially in our low points.”
 
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect... - 1 Peter 3:15

Two innocent spouses of men in prison contributed to the blog anonymously, sharing about their depression in raising families alone with limited resources.   The first, a woman at home raising two children, acknowledges that depression has been her “biggest demon throughout all this.”  The second, at home with four children who are falling apart, shared, “I haven't slept in almost 3 years and have almost doubled my weight.”

Barry S. Diamond, a white-collar criminal and administrator of reentrysurvivors.com, a web-site dedicated to publishing the success stories of released prisoners, shared with us,“a method that I used to keep mentally healthy was to ask everyone writing me to tell me about the mundane, everyday silly things they were doing.  Who got engaged, what parties they went to, who got promoted, fired, what siblings were fighting, fighting over what?” According to Barry, “the trick is to stay mentally connected.”

Dick Sederquist, a hiker, depression survivor, and volunteer secular prison minister (dicksederquist.com) shared with us his “trail wisdom,” in which he compared hiking to mental health.  As Dick put it, “the hiker becomes accustom to 'false peaks.' It's a way of life. The hiker knows that the journey is more important than instant gratification. He or she knows there will eventually be a true summit.”
 
Joel Caldwell, Psy.D. of Crisis Recovery Specialists (recoveryfromcrisis.com), wrote us to tell us that what we call "depression" might be an overall feeling of sadness, but it is not necessarily clinical depression.  Joel pointed out are two types of depression that families will likely experience:  the first type has to do with practical implications related to their situation.  This may have to do with questions regarding finances, effectively parenting the children, or hits to a reputation.  The other type of depression families are likely to experience has to do with them personally.  This involves questions related to what will happen to them and preparing for possible time away from him/her.

Raul Baez is a prison reform advocate who served time at Otisville Federal Correctional  Institution.  While incarcerated, he started a financial literacy program that he has since adapted to his nonprofit in the Bronx, W.I.C.O., Inc. (wicoinc.com).  Raul shared with us in his powerful testimony, “Bridgeport is where my youngest son lives and he is attempting to get into the prison system as we speak, literally! He is definitely fighting depression and without the proper intervention, is only a matter of time before he ends up in prison.”  Raul acknowledges in seeking help for his son, “I've done enough time to compensate all that is required for the men in my family tree.”

And we heard from Melanie G. Snyder,
Executive Director, Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO), who’s TEDx Talk, “Breaking Out of Prison Thinking,” (http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breaking-out-of-prison-thinking) is a must-see for anyone interested in this issue.  In Melanie’s contribution, “I am sending you a short excerpt from my book, Grace Goes to Prison, (Brethren Press, 2009) that you may use in your sermon or in any other way that may be useful - it shares a brief story from the experiences of a man named Jerry as he grappled with deep depression remembering his children while incarcerated. (Jerry is still in prison, and has now been incarcerated for over 28 years - my husband and I have been walking alongside him through his journey for about the past 7-8 years...).
__________

Last Wednesday, I was armed with this outpouring of generosity.  I was imbued with the collective wisdom, experience, strength, faith and hope about Incarceration and Depression by people I respect and admire, each of whom had taken the time to share with me their innermost thoughts and secrets.

I had been given all this and still, I backed up into a car and fell into a pit of depression anyway.  Because that’s what Depression is about.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s cunning and baffling.  And it’s tragic. 
__________

I feel better today.  I get to wake up this morning, pray, kiss my sweet wife good morning and start a new day.  And I get to preach at a congregation I love with all my heart.

My condolences to the families of Michael Brown, of Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner, of Staten Island, New York; and Robin Williams, of Tiburon, California.

May God Bless You and Keep You Always.

__________

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
jgrant@prisonist.org
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org 

__________

Comments from Social Media: 

Incarceration leaves a permanent scar on your soul.  It  may blend in so that it is difficult to see sometimes but I can tell you that every morning I shower, for a few moments I experience being back in jail. - Barry S. Diamond

Jeff,
I never would have guessed you were having a difficult day when we talked last Wednesday. I too had an accident in my driveway this past March. I thought my car was in park and when I got out it rolled away tossing me to the ground and running over my foot. I too was not present in the moment. Rob and I were fighting due to the stress of his case.  Today the pain in my foot is a constant reminder of that horrible night. One day I will get surgery but in the meantime it reminds me of where I never want to be ever again.  I know God made sure I never forget.

I also suffer from depression but I have always questioned weather it was a result of the many years of black clouds hanging over us. Each day is a struggle. I do have faith that there is a faint light in our distant future.
We finally had our hugs Thursday. It was wonderful the guard let all three of us go in together. Our daughter is 19 and officially an adult. Usually they make her go in alone, which I don't like. We laughed and joked. It was priceless to be all together again.  We were ribbing each other like usual.
I guess as long as I keep reminding myself that tomorrow will come and go, I need to be here to experience whatever is thrown at me good or bad. I know things could always be worse. Thank you for sharing your experience. Peace
- J (Anonymous)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Incarceration & Depression: A Group Project, By Rev. Jeff Grant

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

Incarceration & Depression:
A Group Project

By Rev. Jeff Grant

Friends,

I will be guest preaching at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport on Sun, Aug 24th, 10 am.  My intended sermon topic is: Issues of Incarceration and Depression - I invite any contributions, experience or thoughts you might have regarding this matter.  I am looking for contributions from persons who are preparing to go to prison, who have been to prison, family members, friends and loved ones, advocates, professionals and clergy, and anyone else who touched by this issue (and/or by the scripture selections: Exodus 1:8-2:10, Romans 12:1-8, & Matthew 16:13-20). Thank you.

Please send your contributions to jgrant@prisonist.org and indicate whether would you like to be quoted or quoted anonymously (
or feel free to enter your contributions as an online comment below).  I will try to use all contributions in either the sermon and/or this companion piece; they are to be published on our blogsite, prisonist.org, and may be republished elsewhere.

Thank you for your kind support and important contributions.

Blessings, Jeff

______________

Contributions to date: 

Jeff,

Depression has to be my biggest demon throughout all this. The past few weeks I have struggled to talk myself away from my darkest thoughts. Ron keeps telling me he is okay as long as the kids and I are too. I have been trying to hide how I really feel from him.  Like me. Ron has good days and bad days. When I can't hide it from him he gets emotional. He says it is killing him to be away from the kids and I. Knowing that each day he is closer helps.
We did everything together. 

Our life revolves around our kids and their sports. Ron took care of everything after my son was born 13 years ago. I herniated a disc in my back and Ron started doing everything and never stopped. Somewhere throughout all this legal mess he began sheltering me. He says protecting me from what he thought I couldn't handle. I lost my identity. Now everything now falls on me.  I struggle. He know what I am facing because he faced it everyday.  This is what makes Ron depressed most. He took care of everything and now he can't. He feels helpless. He knows I am struggling. Day by day, one thing at a time, he says. Easier said than done.

We do try to look at the good that has come out of all this. He realizes now he did me a disservice by not letting me in. I realize how much he had on his shoulders all alone. We look forward to tackling things together from now on. I learned how to forgive him. With all my anger gone I realize how much I love and want him in my life. We both realize this saved our marriage and our family & so much more. Now we just need to get through to the end....that I right now can't see.

If I can get through my darkest days we will survive this. It takes every once somedays. Peace. 
- Anonymous

Hi Jeff, I hope this will be helpful in helping others.  You may quote  me. In war time one method of breaking a prisoner was deprivation and disorientation of the senses.  They would put a person in a room with no windows so they could not tell what time it was.  They were completely alone.  No stimulation of any kind including sound was allowed.  Eventually the mind unable to combat, gives up and breaks down.  Am I describing another kind of war?.  A war on crime, where people’s everyday lives are hidden from them by isolation.  Think of being thirsty and being in a boat alone in the middle of the ocean and unable to drink the water.  Normal time is eliminated as jail routines take over your life.  You are alone, together.   Many prisoners are depressed (you should see the long lines of people getting their “ meds”).  A method that I used to keep mentally healthy was to ask everyone writing me to tell me about the mundane, everyday silly things they were doing.  Who got engaged, what parties they went to, who got promoted, fired, what siblings were fighting, fighting over what?  The trick is to stay mentally connected.  Keep your senses stimulated.  Keep busy doing things ,exercise, read, find people with common interests and never forget to help others.  I was there, I am now here and that is how you survive to come out mentally healthy. 
- Barry S. Diamond. Barry S. Diamond is the administrator of reentrysurvivors.com, a web-site dedicated to publishing the success stories of released prisoners.

Good morning Jeff,  My wife, Becky, and I visited inmates at the Federal Correctional Facility in Danbury once a month for about 10 years, as volunteers on behalf of Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS).  The inmates we visited requested PVS visits.  Most of those we visited had very little self esteem, as a result of being incarcerated.  This is surely depressing.  The only exception for me was an activist incarcerated for civil disobedience.

We each visited 4 inmates once a month, visiting each inmate for about 45 minutes. The only agenda was to be present for a lonely, mostly depressed person in whatever conversational direction she wanted to go, without judgment.  It is a ministry of PRESENCE.

Some inmates are encouraged to tell PVS what the visits meant to them.  A woman Becky visited told PVS that she came to prison feeling like a piece of crap; but the fact that this complete stranger visited her regularly every month with great wisdom brought her to realize her life is important.  She is out now and has written again about how she is confidently rebuilding her life.   One of my inmates, still incarcerated, also wrote  a testimonial letter to PVS.  The inmate does the work to rebuild self esteem, without which rebirth is extremely difficult.

Many we visited are mentally challenged.  In these cases I felt our visits were comforting companionship.

I have also been a volunteer mentor at Manson Youth Correctional Institute, on behalf of Family ReEntry.  This was better than a decade ago, in the early days of the program.  I was the first recipient of the The Elizabeth Bush Leadership Award for this work, and perhaps, unmentioned, for the care I gave my late wife who succumbed to Parkinson's Disease. Hope this helps.  See you Tuesday
- Bon Jasperson, Bon is a member of Christ Church Greenwich and its Prison Ministries.

Mr. Grant,
I think this will be a most powerful sermon, I wish you well.  I know I could speak forever and a day on what prison has done to not only my husband but our entire family.  Tom has fallen into a shadow of the man he was.  The once man of the room, now sits in a plastic chair 12 hrs a day and reads and does his coursework, wishing death to take him. 


My children all have suffered from depression from the loss of their dad, their home, their school, their friends, and their belongings.  My oldest has had to seek counseling for suicidal thoughts.  My 11 year old has wetted the bed everyday since he has left.  My 9 year old has attention and bullying issues. My 7 year old cant sleep in his bed without the light on. The baby asks every day when is dad coming home.  His parents are fighting as well. His dad has fallen into despair.  I haven't slept in almost 3 years and have almost doubled my weight.

I really think the judges of these cases need to look at the whole picture, not just the crime...but what 12 years of tearing a family apart will do...not just short term but the long term as well.  Sorry for my rambling on.  Thank you for your time.

- Anonymous

Jeff, I have insights and contributions to provide to your sermon. I'll just provide my thoughts and let you take or leave whatever you find useful. Feel free to quote me if you'd like but I'm indifferent.
As a Christian, it's okay to be sad or upset at circumstances on earth. However, our ultimate hope isn't in the things of this world or in a comfortable, easy life while here. 

1 Peter 3:15 has been my mantra during this difficult time. If everything is going great and I'm nailing life, then why would anyone ask what my hope is found in? They would assume that if I'm having success by worldly standards that there's no reason to even ask about my hope. When we experience a difficult situation and are able to cope with it, others will naturally ask how we are able to respond this way. This is when we can do as commanded in 1 Peter 3:15 -- be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you for the reason of the hope that is in you. This is our opportunity to point to God and give Him glory, especially in our low points.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 has been another verse of mine that I reflect on daily. Even if everything is going to pot, we need to rejoice in God. He deserves our glory and our joy is found in Him no matter the circumstances.
2 Corinthians 12:9 -- Jesus' power is made perfect in our weakness. We allow God to do His work in us when we are at our lows in life and we realize that we are broken and need Him. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to realize there's nowhere to look but up (to Him).
The whole book of Ecclesiastes is saying that this life on earth is vanity and chasing the wind. Even in the worst situation on earth, if we can keep an eternal mindset then we can get through the hard times. If you believe in the Lord, accept Christ as your Savior, understand that you will spend FOREVER with Him in Heaven at the end of this life, then it puts things into a perspective. It makes the hardships on earth not seem like such a big deal, because this life on earth is the period and our eternity is a line that extends forever 
2 Corinthians 4:17 - Another strong verse that if we truly believe, should provide us so much perspective of our current troubles in light of the eternal glory we will partake in.
Romans 12:1-3 -- the problem with being a living sacrifice is that you can crawl off the altar. Our submission and dedication to the Lord is a constant, daily decision. The Bible is filled with people who get into trouble (usually of their own doing) yet time and time again, God extends them love and mercy. We need to focus on this instead of dwelling on our failings. If people such as Paul, the writer of Romans, beat himself up over his past failings and wallowed in his mistakes, he would not have allowed the Lord to use him to be God's instrument, spread the Word and be one of the greatest apostles.
Matthew 16 -- I love this chapter. Jesus declares to Peter that He will build His church on him. He says this knowing full well that in the near future Peter would deny Him. If The Rock can make a HUGE mistake and sin, denying Jesus at the most crucial time and Jesus still declares that He will build His church on him, then we need to cast our shame aside for the wrong we've committed and realize that Jesus forgives if we come to Him in repentance.
I look forward to speaking with you again on Monday. 
- Brian J., Brian will report to Federal prison next month to begin his two-year sentence for a white-collar crime. 

Wherever you are in life, and what challenges you face, this is what a hiker might tell you.

TRAIL WISDOM. I have to introduce you to what is known as a "false peak". You see this outcropping up ahead of you on the trail which looks like your destination. When you get there, its not your final destination but a bump along the way, and there is more elevation to be gained. It can happen several times as you approach the true summit, each time you feel disappointment that you still have a long distance to go. The hiker becomes accustom to "false peaks". It's a way of life. The hiker knows that the journey is more important than instant gratification. He or she knows there will eventually be a true summit. Of course, the hiker knows that there will also be another mountain to climb and more "false peaks" along the way. Hikers are just gluttons for punishment. The hiker also knows that there is a time to stop and rest and recuperate, even though the goal has not yet been achieved. Keep hiking! 

- Dick Sederquist, Dick is a hiker, depression survivor, and has a volunteer secular prison ministry. Dick can be reached at dicksederquist.com

Hi Jeff.  I have attached an article I wrote which you may find helpful. 

When I think of depression as it relates to incarceration, I have often thought of the work of Martin Seligman and his Learned Helplessness experiments.  I believe that these apply not only to the helplessness that is pervasive in prison itself (prisons were designed to engender this feeling) but it is a major challenge in overcoming this feeling of helplessness upon release.  This is further compounded by collateral consequences and family reintegration difficulties.  From a spiritual perspective,  placing one's faith in Him as opposed to oneself is a clear way out of this helplessness. 

I know that it simplistic but I hope there is something here that can help you.  I'm sure your talk will be great.



It is an emotional time for any family when they learn that a loved one has been charged with a crime.  When the loved one admits to the crime or is convicted, those emotions are compounded.  The emotional stages experienced by families during this time parallel the stages of grief and loss faced when a loved one passes.  However, unlike losing a loved one, most families will experience a criminal charge only once (if at all), and there is nothing to prepare them for it.  Also, because most families they know have never gone through this experience, it is easy for families to feel alone.  Families will also face the stigma associated with a criminal charge, which can cause further feelings of isolation.



Recognizing where your client’s family is in the process of coming to terms with their legal situation is essential for making sense of the difficulties your client is facing at home.  Below are the five emotional stages experienced by most families as they suffer with a loved one going through this process.  It is important to note that not all individuals in a family will experience every stage, and that these stages can occur in any order.



1.     Denial and Isolation

This can take many forms.  For many family members, there may be a denial that a loved one has actually been charged, a denial of the implications of the charge, or a denial that the loved one was ever engaged in any criminal activity.  This is a typical initial response to any traumatic situation which helps us deal with the immediate shock.  This will be temporary for the family but will assist them in transitioning to the next phase.



2.      Anger

 As the effects of denial wane, families become more aware of their true emotions. The initial emotion for them is likely to be anger.  This anger will likely be directed toward your client, and can be displayed in a variety of ways.  Anger may come and go over time.  Family members may resent your client for having caused pain and bringing embarrassment into their lives.  Family members will also be very angry with anyone who is perceived to have contributed to the criminal activity.  This could include family of origin or business associates.  If this anger is not handled constructively, further problems can result.



3.     Bargaining

In an attempt to regain emotional control of the situation, families are likely to ask questions or make statements to themselves which imply that they could have had some control over your client’s criminal behavior.  For example, a family member may say, “If I had only watched him more closely”, “If only I had not placed so many demands on him”, or “If only I had been nicer to him”.  All of this will give the family a false sense of control.  When it comes to dealing with a trauma, a false sense of control is more comforting than no control at all.



4.     Depression

This is an overall feeling of sadness and not necessarily a clinical depression.  There are two types of depression that families will likely experience during this stage.  The first type has to do with practical implications related to their situation.  This may have to do with questions regarding finances, effectively parenting the children, or hits to a reputation.  Anything considered to be fallout of the legal process will be a primary focus during this stage. 



The other type of depression families are likely to experience has to do with your client personally.  This involves questions related to what will happen to your client and preparing for possible time away from him/her.



5.     Acceptance

During this phase, families will likely display withdrawal and feelings of calm.  If your client is anticipating an incarceration period, they may experience their family withdrawing emotionally from them as a way of preparing themselves for their absence.  Although this is not a period of happiness, it is also not marked by depression.  It is more of a quiet acceptance of what your client has done and what is to come.  It is also common during this stage that your client will experience an emotional withdrawal from their family as they ready themselves mentally for the upcoming separation period.



            Experiencing these emotional stages is a personal process which is unique to each individual.  Although most families are likely to go through each of these stages, the pace and order in which they occur will vary by person.  It is important that families do not become stuck in any particular phase- which may result in unresolved bitterness, anger, and depression.  This can have long-term consequences for relationships and ultimately on your client’s ability to successfully reintegrate with their family. 

 - Joel Caldwell, Psy.D. and Christina Caldwell, Psy.D. are the founders of Crisis Recovery Specialists.  They assist individuals and families across the country with the personal, professional, and social fallout of the legal process.  For more information: recoveryfromcrisis.com.

Greetings Jeff,
Wish I had gotten more advance notice, I would have love to be in attendance. Bridgeport is where my youngest son lives and he is attempting to get into the prison system as we speak, literally!
He is definitely fighting depression and without the proper intervention, is only a matter of time before he ends up in prison.
I've done enough time to compensate all that is required for the men in my family tree. When you have a moment, feel free to view my website, www.witoinc.org. It will convey God's incredible transformation power and redemption in my life.
He intervened and had 175 years of incarceration I was facing evaporate. I was also shot at by two NYC police officers 32 times, not one bullet hit me.
I'm still standing, Glory hallelujah to God!!!

On August 27th, I will be celebrating my 4th year home and he has blessed me abundantly. I've started 3 business including my last endeavor a non profit which has me going into the prison system to share all the gifts he has poured into my life. I share Godly principles, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to introduce the many possibilities when one is grounded in the Lord!

The non profit is the link I shared with you and tells my whole testimony. I would love to have some more conversation about Bridgeport, prison and how we can come together to eradicate the pervasive attack in our community.

God bless you my brother, may the Lord continue to use your gifts and illuminate the men about the Gospel and how it brings healing to the sick.

- Raul Baez.Baez Raul, Executive Director at WITO Inc. 

A brief comment on " Incarceration & Depression"
 
John 1( 12) To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become Sons ( Children ) of God. 13. who were born not of blood or the will of man, but of God.
Being Airs and Joint Airs with Christ, no longer a slave  but a child Galatians 4( 7)
As an heir we obtain an inheritance with Christ, but many have yet to believe and accept their identity  as a child of God  with Rights, Authority, Privileges, and Power.
But sub-coming to the ways and cares of the world, being Depressed,Anxious, Fearful, Confused, Deceived into believing lies,  having a chicken coop mentality living beneath the standard of life that is promised. But the goodness and great love of the Father sent instructions in Romans 12 ( 2 )  That we not to be conformed to " this world  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so when Jesus told us in Matthew 5 ( 48 ) To be Perfect  as your heavenly Father is perfect , starting us on a path and journey of a mind change  to have a personal relationship with the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, being Light and his glory in this world 2 Corinthians 3...   

- Bro. Michael Jones, peoplexcelnlove.weebly.com

______________

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

jgrant@prisonist.org
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Amazing Ride, by Lori Dooley - Innocent Spouse & Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project 

Innocent Spouse & Children Project 

Greenwich, Connecticut


 The Amazing Ride

By Lori Dooley - Innocent Spouse 
& Guest Blogger

This is Lori's second guest blog
for us this summer.  Her first, 
was one of our most widely-read
 postings ever. 


Good morning Jeff and Lynn:

I am always so excited to share my stories with you so I hope you don't mind.  My daughter and I went to visit Evan’s brother and sister-in-law this past week.  A much needed trip for both of us.  It has been a long time since we have been anywhere.

Saturday on our way back to where we live, we went to visit Evan at Montgomery Federal Prison Camp. It was an emotional visit and it was so good for all of us to see each other and be together for a while.

Two major things happened.  I wore capri leggings (very tasteful, I dress conservatively), and a long conservative shirt over it that went down to the middle of my thighs. I had been driving for 5 hours to get there so I didn't want to wear jeans.  We went through the ordeal, getting the bus that took forever because the prison sits way back on Maxwell Air Force Base.  I filled out the form and got to the front. The same guard who drove us there on the bus and clearly saw what I had on, turned me away.  My daughter busted out crying. 

Here is the great thing about this story. I am holding my arms around my daughter trying to console her, we walk out to the parking lot and there is this lady who is in a really nice SUV, saying “do you need a ride back to your car.”  I was in a daze a bit and didn't really quite hear her. (Normally, I don't get in a car with anyone I don't know but something said to trust her)   Again she said, “I can take you and your daughter to your car.” So I ran up to the SUV and told her what happened. She was a visiting a friend and she works at another air force base so she has access off and on the base and doesn't have to take the bus.  She drove use all the way back to our car. Since we had been out of town, I realized I had jeans in my luggage.  I got my jeans and through them over my capri leggings and she drove us all the way back to the prison camp.  She said to my daughter " you are going to see your daddy today don't you worry."   See the waiting for the bus back and forth could have easily taken another hour or so and we may have run out of time to see her daddy.


During our long ride, we talked about white collar crime (her friend is in for that as well) and I told her about your blog and where to go.  We shared the same view on it and what families are going through in the after math.  I also told her I recently wrote a piece for the blog.
I gave her an enormous hug when I got of the car. My daughter said “mommy that vehicle was not around when we got there, where did she come from”.  I said she was Angel that God placed there in that moment. I have no doubt in my mind.  She was just there in a moment.  God is good!!

Then when we finally got into see Evan, it was a great visit. I met some other inmates and families who obviously think a lot of him.  I always said he will be the most liked guy in prison. He is just that way.


During the visit, I look over and low and behold there is Walt Pavlo [the Forbes white-collar crime columnist] who wrote about Evan.  I went up to him and formally introduced myself. He was there visiting. What are the chances of these two things happening in one day?


I had to share this day with you both. For something that could have been so unpleasant turned out to be a beautiful day.  I thanked God for all my blessings and for all the beautiful people I got to meet in one day.  There are so many, and all of these families there who all shared the same experience were beautiful and so many loving moments in the room that I observed because we don't take the moments for granted any more.  In a prison camp, I felt a true sense of peace and love. We all belonged together as one family.


For the lovely lady who took time to drive a woman and her crying daughter to their car and back to the prison camp, you are an Angel and I am forever grateful for your compassion.  God bless you dear Angel and God bless all the families that are going through this same journey.

Lori Dooley


David said in Psalm 27:13 “What would’ve become 
of me had I not believed that I’d see the Lord’s goodness…” 
No matter what comes your way, you have to believe 
that you will see His goodness again. - Lori

______________


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
 

jgrant@prisonist.org
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887

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

George Bresnan, Advocate
gbresnan@prisonist.org 

______________

Comments from other social media:

Jeff, I had an unbelievable experience while I was in prison on visitors’ day.  My Rabbi was turned away because he did not register that he was coming to see me.  He identified himself as clergy but they refused to let him in because of the strict rules of registration.  As he was walking away a guard that knew me saw him & asked who he was coming to see.  He said my name & the guard said that he remembered him from another visit to me.  He called me up to the visitor’s room & allowed us to sit in a private area set aside for an attorney.  I was only allowed 15 minutes but it was one of the best 15 minutes I can remember.  We sat facing each other as  we both recited a few prayers together.  These are some of the moments that you keep in your memory so that you can survive. - Barry. Barry S. Diamond is the administrator of reentrysurvivors.com, a web-site dedicated to publishing the success stories of released prisoners.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Letter to Neil Young, by Jeff Grant

Progressive Prison Project 
Innocent Spouse & Children Project 
Greenwich, Connecticut


Letter to Neil Young

by Jeff Grant 

"it's all one song"
- Neil Young




Dear Neil Young, 

I am writing to you let you know how you've inspired my transformation story and prison ministry.  

Since I am publishing this letter on our blogsite, and I have no other way of contacting you that I can reasonably think of, I think it's fair to let our readers know that we've never met, I do not know you, and the closest I have ever been to you is the eighth row of a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in the Nassau Coliseum in 2002. 

And I have no real understanding of your life other than  articles and biographies.  I feel particularly connected to Jimmy McDonough's biography Shakey. It's release in 2003 comforted me in the early days of my recovery - just after my  bottom from prescription narcotics and just before my arrest. 

Most early mornings at about 3:30 am, I sit at my computer listening to one of your albums or another (this morning After the Gold Rush) and channel your essence & work ethic (or at least what I project it to be). I hear the song in my head - the muse - and I try to follow her where ever she leads. 

Most days, she leads to something useful or serviceable. On rare occasion, something much more.

I'd been trying to describe this song-in-my-head phenomenon for decades, when in one brief moment, you gave voice to what I was unable.  On Crazy Horse's, Year of the Horse, just before, "When You Dance I Can Really Love," someone from the audience yelled out, "they all sound the same."  And your reply was for the ages: "it's all one song!"  

It's all one song.  Of course.

That's why I know a Neil Young song when I hear it.  Because you write the songs that you hear in your head and are not afraid for them to be good songs or bad songs, famous songs or just plain old Neil Young songs. They are all part of the one big song playing in your head and that have been playing in your head for the past fifty years or so.  

That's how I feel every morning.  That there is this song in my head and it needs to be written - it needs to be sung. A song that was repressed for so many years by trauma, drugs, poor judgment, shame, guilt and remorse. A song that I now express in my writing, music, work and life.  Some days it's just a plain old song that I sing.  Some days something really special happens and reminds me how I've been blessed. 

Thank you Neil.  Long may you run. 

Blessings, 

Jeff

PS one of my favorites (among many):

"Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true."
-Old Man, Neil Young

______________


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:

Cynthia Cloney 1st
Addiction counseling
Hi Jeff we met at the Faith Behind Bars conference this past April. My name is Cynthia and I am an ex-offender who shares a similar story (your song if you will:) thanks for writing a great letter to an iconic man. He inspires me as well. Have a great day and I wish you blessings as you minister to the forsaken and forgotten.



Kym L Pasqualini 1st
Director at Missing Media Solutions
So glad you shared this! You inspire!

Matt Hodel 1st
Student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Love this, Jeff. Look forward to seeing you sometime soon!


  • Jeff Grant, JD, M DivJeff Grant, JD, M Div
    Minister/Director, Progressive Prison Project, Greenwich, CT, The First White-Collar Ministries in the US prisonist.org
    I recently received an email from Jimmy McDonough, who advised that Neil Young did not approve of his biography, Shakey. It is another miracle of my journey that, even with this book's difficulties, it was written, found me when I needed it most, and offered me inspiration in the life of Neil Young. Neil, I'm dropping my E down to D right now. Jeff