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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The National Hire Ex-Felons Campaign

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich l Weston l Bridgeport
Connecticut

The National Hire Ex-Felons Campaign

By Bob Pelshaw - Guest Blogger 


_______________


The Relationship Between Felons – Jobs – 
Employers - Crime

As an employer I never thought about this issue until becoming a convicted felon myself. I served ten months at Leavenworth Federal Prison Camp for a mistake nearly all businessmen have done: I “robbed Peter to pay Paul” in the height of the Great Recession. I’m not justifying it, and I didn’t intend to commit a crime. Don’t worry, I didn’t rob anyone, there was no theft, Ponzi scheme, conspiracy, fraud, or anything as exotic as that. I was convicted of making a false statement by temporarily, and stupidly, misusing SBA loan funds. The project opened and all the loan funds got to the venture, but it regrettably failed and I defaulted on the loan. Before sentencing I was often told that if I could pay the debt the charges would go away. My lack of money created the situation that got me labeled as a convicted felon.

While at Leavenworth I was surprised to learn how many men committed crime for economic reasons like basic survival, family support, or the lucrative earnings. “Common sense” tells us many ex-felons return to crime to support themselves when they can’t find a job with a livable wage.

Could employers not hiring felons be contributing to higher crime and recidivism rates?

Many people could leave crime forever if employers would consider hiring ex-felons. For those ex-offenders and persons at risk to offend that can’t find a job,  I point them to my book “Illegal To Legal: Business Success For (Ex) Criminals” which shows how to use life skills to start a business and become an employer hiring ex-felons.

The National Campaign To Hire Ex-Felons will launch this Spring. It seeks to educate employers and hiring managers on the free Protections, Resources, and Substantial Bottom-Line Benefits that are available when they hire ex-felons. The brochure “The Ten Bottom-Line Benefits To Hire Ex-Felons” is the bedrock of this Campaign, and is included below. Its also a free download, or brochure purchase, at www.illegaltolegal.org on the Job Resources page. Please share this information, and look for the launch of the Campaign!



Ten Bottom-Line Benefits To Hire Ex-Felons

We don’t want to appeal to your humanitarian side and play the “everyone deserves a second chance” card. Instead, here are ten fact-based bottom-line benefits of hiring felons.


1. Show me the money! Substantial tax credits are available for hiring felons, and the programs are very easy to use without a lot of red tape. Check this site for the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit www.doleta.gov/wotc. Some states even provide partial wage reimbursement, additional tax credits, and other training funds for employers that hire felons. Check your local state’s Department of Revenue and Workforce Development Office for programs where you live.

2. I need some assurances. How about some free insurance for you? Employers that hire felons can be eligible to obtain a free fidelity bond funded by the Federal Government to protect you against employee dishonesty or theft. Look for the contact in your state at www.bonds4jobs.com. More importantly, credible studies clearly indicate that ex-felons out of prison seven years or more have no higher rate of committing a crime than non-felons.

3. Does that come with a guarantee? Yep – especially if someone is on probation. Ex-offenders on probation often have to keep a job and perform well at work as a condition of their release from prison. Most parolees are drug-tested by their probation officer or halfway house regularly at no expense to you. Most parole officers and halfway houses welcome contact with employers of supervised felons, and they will even refer you more workers if you let them know the type of person you want to hire. A parole officer supervising a felon you employ = added value at no cost to you!

4. What’s the turnover rate? Due to the scarcity of employers that hire felons, many employers that hire felons have surprisingly lower turnover than with conventional hires. As mentioned, parole officers and halfway houses can be a great source of new workers – without the expense and trouble of placing an ad or paying a staffing agency.

5. When’s the last time you felt appreciated? It’s not just rescued dogs from the animal shelter that show loyalty and appreciation: so do most felons you hire. Isn’t a human better than a dog?

6. I can’t seem to find good help. That’s because you haven’t tried hiring felons. Considering them will enlarge the labor pool you can draw from.

7. Don’t contribute to higher crime & recidivism rates. Many ex-offenders return to crime (& jail) because they can’t find a job to support themselves or their families. Please consider that employers that refuse to hire felons may actually be contributing to higher crime and recidivism.

8. Good workers are in short supply and recidivism costs everyone. You have a unique opportunity to be on the solution end of this persistent and expensive cycle.

9. Everybody DOES NOT deserve a second chance – but some do.   Those who deserve a second chance are the ones that will demonstrate, not just with words but with their actions that they are sorry for their past mistakes and can prove that their past is in the past. Who wouldn’t want to help that person?

10. What difference can I make? More than you think. Look at the costs of housing one inmate per year, compared to the economic impact of having one more productive tax-paying citizen spending money in our economy (instead of draining costs from it), and you can see hiring ex-offenders makes a HUGE difference. You can help strengthen our economy and impact crime and recidivism by hiring a felon.

Here’s how to help improve Crime, Recidivism, the Costs of Incarceration, and a Lack of Good Workers. Be part of the solution and HIRE A FELON !

Bob Pelshaw can be reached at Pelshaw Group, PO Box 460671 Papillion, NE 68046, (o) 402-932-7777
(m) 402-401-9523, info@illegaltolegal.org,
Facebook, www.facebook.com/illegaltolegal, Twitter: @Illegaltolegal. Link to order Bob's book, Illegal to Legal: Business Success For (ex) Criminals."

___________



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

Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278

 




__________

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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Churches & Prison Ministry: There's nobody like that in my church! By Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear - Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich I Weston I Bridgeport

Connecticut 

Churches & Prison Ministry: 
There's nobody like that in my church!

By Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear 
- Guest Blogger 



Harold Dean Trulear and the Healing Communities team will be holding a workshop on March 28th, 9 am - 3 pm at the Holiday Inn, Bridgeport, CT. For info & tickets, contact: Rev. Aaron Best (203) 870-5914.  - Jeff
___________ 

"So far, so good..."

The sentiment echoed in the back of my mind constantly, as I surveyed the faces of others on my cell block. I felt enough shame for being a Christian in the jail. The fact that I had once pastored one of the largest churches in the county compounded the shame, and drove me to a suspicion of every other inmate as I tried to avoid an embarrassing encounter with someone who knew me.

It came crashing to a halt with one word. "Pastor."

I told the inquiring young man I did not know what he meant. The inquisition, however, had just begun.

"I used to play drums for your choir." I did not recognize him until he told me his mother's name. She had been on my staff.

"I am so glad you're here!" That made one of us.

"I told God that I wanted this experience to be a changing point in my life...and if that was to happen, he needed to send someone to guide me. Now here you are!"

I do not for a second believe God sent me to jail for any reason other than to save my life. But the young man's sentiment reflected two realities: first, that there are inmates who want to and will change if they have relationships with someone who believes in them and second, that there are a number of incarcerated people who are already connected to houses of worship.

"There's nobody like that in my church!" So respond more than a few Christians and church leaders when I explain to them that our ministry, Healing Communities, helps congregations minister to their own members affected by incarceration.

"We already have a prison ministry!" I often receive that response when I talk about how we need to connect our congregations with the prison populations.

Both responses reflect flawed thinking.

In the first case, it is virtually mathematically impossible for a congregation to be completely disconnected from the system of jails and prisons in our country. With over a million and a half men and women in state and federal prison, and another seven million churning through county jails annually, the odds are infinitesimal that a congregation does not have a family with an incarcerated son, daughter, grandchild or parent behind bars. While in the county jail, I met seven young men with connections to my former church. Had they been in the hospital, they would have received attention from the church as a whole. As prisoners, their religious support came from a handful of volunteers from another congregation.

This leads to the second flaw: if Matthew 25 lists both prisoners and sick people why does one group get pastoral and community support, while the other is only a matter of specialized outreach? Indeed, not only do we have men, women and teens with church connections already on the system, but their family members come to church Sabbath after Sabbath suffering with the shame and stigma of the secret: "my son/daughter/grandchild/etc. is locked up."

Healing Communities USA seeks to equip congregations to engage the prison population by beginning with the families in the church directly impacted by incarceration. We believe that the stigma and shame associated with prison and jail deter families from seeking the support they need in dealing with the pain of separation, sense of loss and/or betrayal, and changes to family dynamics caused by incarceration. By helping congregations create a culture of forgiveness, restoration and redemption, we can support people like the young man I encountered in my county jail, and support his family through the process of his and their ordeal. By engaging the real life experiences of inmates and their families, mass incarceration changes from a public issue "out there" to an amalgam of personal trials "in here." When we recognize that this reality is before us, we enhance our capacity to become advocates for system and policy change.

When preaching, I often do altar calls for families of the incarcerated. Many pastors show surprise at the numbers who come forward. Many members exhibit a new found empathy toward persons they know, but "did not know that" about them. "Never again," declared one pastor from his vaunted pulpit, "will a mother from this church have to endure the pain of her son's incarceration by herself." And as they walk with her, her son, and others in the congregation, their ministry of advocacy concerning mass incarceration grows, because now, it is personal.

Harold Dean Trulear serves as Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Howard University School of Divinity. He is also National Director of the Healing Communities USA Prison and Prisoner Reentry Ministry. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College, he completed his Ph.D. Degree with distinction at Drew University. He also serves as a Fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington DC, and is a member of the Executive Session on Community Corrections at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dr. Trulear serves on the pastoral staff of Praise and Glory Tabernacle in Southwest Philadelphia, and has served in pastoral and youth ministries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for close to forty years. His columns and features on religion and criminal justice have appeared in The Crime Report of John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Prism Magazine, The Living Pulpit and The Capital Commentary, and he has written over one hundred scholarly articles, book chapters, field reports and book reviews. He is a contributing editor to: Ministry with Prisoners and Families: The Way Forward (Judson Press, 2011), George Kelsey: Unsung Hero (Andover Newton Theological School, 1996).

Named by the Center for American Progress as one of fourteen Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014, Dr. Trulear has helped to organize chapters of Healing Communities USA in over thirty cities across the country, and in partnership with several denominations.
He can be reached at hdtrulear@msn.com, (202) 806-0640

___________


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
jgrant@prisonist.org
(o) 203-769-1096
(m) 203-339-5887



Lynn Springer, Founding Advocate, Innocent Spouse & Children Project
lspringer@prisonist.org 
(203) 536-5508


George Bresnan, Advocate, Ex-Pats
gbresnan@prisonist.org
(203) 609-5088

Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278   





__________

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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Danny Glover, actor and social activist, Presented by Family ReEntry in Bridgeport, Weds., May 6, 2015, 7 pm




Danny Glover, actor and social activist, 
Presented by Family ReEntry in Bridgeport, 
Weds., May 6, 2015, 7 pm

Danny Glover

Family ReEntry invites the public to an evening with the acclaimed actor and leading social activist, Danny Glover Wednesday, May 6, at 7 p.m., at The Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport.
Danny Glover
Glover has gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts with a particular emphasis on Mass Incarceration and the Racial Disparity in America’s prison system.

Family ReEntry’s mission is to develop, implement, and share innovative, sustainable, cost-effective solutions to the unprecedented numbers of people involved in the criminal justice system.” Since 1984, Family ReEntry’s effective community-based programs have significantly reduced the likelihood that a client will re-offend, be re-arrested, or be re-incarcerated. Reductions in recidivism resulting from Family ReEntry’s cost-effective programs increase public safety, improve quality of life, and reduce the financial burden on taxpayers.

In recent years, Family ReEntry has increased its impact by developing model programs, engaging in comprehensive research, and advocating for effective policy and practice in criminal justice. Our programs comprise three integrated sectors: 1) Early Prevention — Youth Programs 2) Intervention – Domestic Violence 3) Reentry. These programs provide a spectrum of services designed to help break the cycle of incarceration. Our goal is to help clients and their families make important behavior changes and access key community resources that will lead them to healthier, crime-free lives. Family ReEntry’s efforts are aimed at comprehensively and effectively addressing the enormous social problems related to crime, violence, abuse, and the unprecedented rates of costly incarceration.

This event is planned to educate and broaden community awareness of these huge issues. Mayor of Bridgeport, Bill Finch will do welcoming remarks and Reverend Jeff Grant of the Progressive Prison Project and Family ReEntry Board Member will Emcee.
Below is the event panel:

1) Colin McEnroe (Moderator) Radio Personality from WNPR
2) Steve Lanza – Executive Director of Family ReEntry
3) Erika Tindill – Superior Court Judge & former Family ReEntry Board Member
4) Glenn Martin – Founder and Chief Risk Taker of JustLeadershipUSA
5) Joseph Gaudett, Jr – Chief of Police Bridgeport,CT
6) Fred Hodges – Family ReEntry FreshStart Program Manager
7) Charles Grodin – Actor & Social Activist

For ticket or sponsorship information visit familyreentryevents.org or call Jeffrey Earls at 203-290-0865.

Reprinted from Stratford Star on March 17, 2015. 
_________
Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project
 
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
Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278



__________

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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Malta Justice Initiative Legislative Breakfast: Thurs., March 26th, 8:30 am, Capitol Building, 3rd floor, Hartford, CT.



Malta Justice Initiative Legislative Breakfast:
  Thurs., March 26th, 8:30 am
Capitol Building, 3rd floor, Hartford, CT.


'Malta Justice Initiative announces a LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST, Thursday, 3/26, at 8:30 am at the Capitol Building (3rd floor), Hartford, CT. MJI has worked with the Republican leadership in the state House and Senate to host this breakfast which will focus on a discussion of legislative objectives as outlined in the book, The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream.  You are encouraged to attend and to contact your local legislators to be sure they attend. For more information, visit www.maltajusticeinitiative.org.'

Babz Rawls Ivy & I serve as Online Editors for Malta Justice Initiative and its important book and movement, "The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream." - Jeff

Malta Justice Initiative announces a LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST, Thursday, 3/26, at 8:30 am at the Capitol Building (3rd floor), Hartford, CT. MJI has worked with the Republican leadership in the state House and Senate to host this breakfast which will focus on a discussion of legislative objectives as outlined in the book, The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream. You are encouraged to attend and to contact your local legislators to be sure they attend. For more information, visit www.maltajusticeinitiative.org.
__________

John Santa, Chairman of the Malta Justice Initiative,  on Counterpoint w/ Scott Harris, WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport CT

John Santa, Chairman of the Malta Justice Initiative talks about MJI’s proposals for reforming the criminal justice system both in Connecticut and the nation — and his project’s new book, “The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream.”
Counterpoint, hosted by Scott Harris, is heard every Monday night on WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport, CT between 8:00 – 10:00 pm ET. Webstreaming and audio archive at http://wpkn.org.

Link to Counterpoint Radio web page: http://counterpointradio.org/2015/150309-cp.html

Link to the MP3 audio file only (unedited interview):
http://counterpointradio.org/2015/mp3/150309d-ctpt-santa.mp3

The WPKN Radio audio archives of the full 2 hour Counterpoint program can be found here:
http://archives.wpkn.org/bookmarks/listen/94562

________________

Join MJI’s Advocacy Efforts: Become a Malta Justice Associate

Sign Up!
MJI will keep your e-mail address confidential. We will not sell, rent, or lease our subscription list to third parties.
________________


Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project:

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

Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

JustLeadershipUSA: A New Paradigm, by William Eric Waters - Guest Blogger


Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich I Weston I Bridgeport

Connecticut



JustLeadershipUSA: 
A New Paradigm

by William Eric Waters - Guest Blogger 


Glenn Martin, CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, will be a panelist at Family ReEntry Presents: An Evening With Danny Glover, May 6th at The Klein in Bridgeport. Danny will be interviewed by WNPR's Colin McEnroe.  Other Panelists & Presenters include Charles Grodin, Mayor Bill Finch, Steve Lanza, Hon. Erika Tindill, Fred Hodges & Joe Gaudett.  I am honored to serve as the event's Emcee.  Link for tickets. - Jeff
__________

With the recent launch of JustLeadershipUSA, Glenn Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA, is looking to elevate the voice of Americans impacted by crime and incarceration, especially people who have been imprisoned, by positioning them as “informed, empowered reform partners.” This will be done through leadership development, policy advocacy and reframing. JustLeadershipUSA has as its goal cutting the U.S. prison population in half by 2030. 

At 2.2 million people confined, the U.S. prison population has increased exponentially since the late 1960s, beginning with Richard Nixon’s candidacy and declaration of war, that is, the “war on crime,” in 1968, which specifically targeted Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, which Nixon declared “lawless.” Since then, various laws and policies, on the Federal and state level, have contributed to mass incarceration and the grossly disproportionate imprisonment of people of color, mostly men, in the United States: Rockefeller Drug Law in New York (1973), which was adopted in other states; mandatory minimum sentencing across the nation as well as the Federal criminal justice system (1984), with the Federal government providing monetary incentives, in the form of block grants, for states to adopt mandatory minimum sentencing, which almost always increases the length of time in prison (New York’s Governor, George Pataki, continuously mentioned how New York would not be eligible for these block grants to build more prisons or hire more police if the state did not adopt mandatory minimum sentencing, which it did in 1998 after the tragic killing of a young woman by an individual who had been on parole for a nonviolent crime); crack-cocaine laws, which created longer prison sentences for crack-cocaine convictions over cocaine convictions, which disproportionately impacted people of color; the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which made it easier, read quicker, to execute people sentenced to death; it also limited the right of habeas corpus, creating procedural hurdles that were too high to jump, not to mention the United States Supreme Court even ruling that a showing of “actual innocence” by an individual in prison could not overcome these procedural hurdles; tougher parole releasing policies as well as the increase in technical parole violations (returning people to prison for non-criminal violations of parole rules such as curfew violations or “fraternizing with known felons”); elimination of temporary release (including work release) programs; and three strikes laws requiring life sentences for those with three separate felony convictions, even relatively innocuous and nonviolent third felony convictions. 

Thirty years after Richard Nixon declared his war on crime, people incarcerated in the mid- and late ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s were being released from prison. This is the reality, as Jeremy Travis writes and thus entitles a journal article and a book: “But They All Come Back: Rethinking Prisoner Reentry” (2000), and But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry (2005). At the other end of the mass incarceration tunnel were individuals coming back from prison. The numbers are staggering. In 2002, more than 630,000 individuals were released from Federal and state prisons, and since then that number has remained pretty much the same. Thirty years prior to that, the number was less than 150,000 individuals.

When we look at the more than 630,000 individuals released from Federal and state prisons every year, this translates into, every day, about 1,700 individuals released from these prisons, exploding onto the American landscape and this Era of Reentry. At the same time, there was great interest and thus an explosion of journal and newspapers articles on this phenomenon as well as books such as Jennifer Gonnerman’s Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett, which shows how a bit player, not a queenpin, got caught up in a drug sale and was given a life sentence under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Law, while the more culpable people involved in the drug world who set her up got a get-out-of-jail-free card. Additionally, there were the stories of the people themselves, those who had been imprisoned; they showed us compelling cases of the possibilities of transformation and what it looked like. They added something new, something different, to the reentry narrative, that is, through their stories, which they began to tell at conferences, at colleges, to journalism grad students, on radio shows and television. Some wrote about these experiences, mostly stories of their transformation. See Harvey Brown’s Freedom at Last: The Life of an Ex-Con, and Theo Harris’ Blessed and Highly Favored: Memoirs of a Multiple Felon. See also Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. The most important thing was that these men and women were taking control of their stories, not just being subjects, but also being authors of their own stories. 

There was something familiar in their stories, in their narratives, if you will, something that tapped into the historical connection between slavery and imprisonment in the United States. As many should know by now, imprisonment of people of color replaced slavery. (And the disproportionate imprisonment of people of color began even before the end of slavery. Gustave de Tocqueville and Alexis de Beaumont, in their study, On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France, published in 1833, noted the disproportionate imprisonment of “Negroes” in the Southern States.) This is stated explicitly in the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The big difference is that people who have been duly convicted of a crime aren’t given any moral agency – “They committed a crime!” This, some think, takes away from the fact that imprisonment is slavery under another name, and imperfectly Constitutional. 

These stories, these narratives, are similar to the slave narratives, eloquently given voice by Frederick Douglass. Making the transition from talking about slavery to talking about prison, more recently, we think of Malcolm X and his odyssey as documented by Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 

These stories have been critical in including the voices of those imprisoned and those formerly incarcerated. However, they are mere testimonies, powerful, but individual stories that only touch the iceberg of the problems of mass incarceration. Imagine if Frederick Douglass confined his speeches to his experiences as a slave. We would not have got his talk about the importance of the franchise, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (1852), which is an issue of importance today for those imprisoned and those formerly incarcerated, many of them having lost the right to vote for life in a number of states, mostly Southern, as a direct result of a felony conviction. And imagine if Malcolm X confined his speeches to his experiences as a prisoner. 


We would not have his famous speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (1964), given more than 100 years after Douglass’ speech on the same topic. 

When Martin of JustLeadershipUSA talks about elevating the voice of Americans impacted by crime, he is talking about much more than the formerly incarcerated providing their testimony. He is talking about the people “closest to the problem” providing solutions to the problem. Indeed, many who have been on this reentry circuit for a number of years think of this “testimony-telling” and only testimony-telling as a “dog and pony” show. Needless to say, providing this testimony is important, more so for someone recently released as opposed to someone who has been out of prison for a number of years and has continued his or her formal education and worked in various capacities in the for-profit and the not-for-profit world, oftentimes in leadership positions. 

JustLeadershipUSA is positioning itself to go beyond the dog and pony show. It is, however, only the most recent organization looking to elevate the voice of formerly incarcerated people, but unique in that its goal is to reduce the U.S. prison population in half by 2030. Before JustLeadershipUSA, in New York, there was the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. In California, there was All of Us or None. 

The mission of the Center For NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is “to influence socio- economic, criminal and juvenile justice policy by providing research, advocacy and leadership training to formerly and currently incarcerated people, their families, communities, allies and criminal justice professionals....” Similar to JustLeadershipUSA, the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions promotes “active participation in criminal and social justice policy decisions, discussions and deliberation by the people whose lives are most directly affected and who have a legitimate stake in the outcome.” 

All of Us Or None “is a grassroots civil rights organization fighting for the rights of formerly- and currently-incarcerated people and our families. We are fighting against the discrimination that people face every day because of arrest or conviction history. The goal of All of Us or None is to strengthen the voices of people most affected by mass incarceration and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Through our grassroots organizing, we will build a powerful political movement to win full restoration of our human and civil rights.” 

There are other organizations across the country, founded by formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, most notably Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc., based in New York, which holds an annual Awards Ceremony honoring formerly incarcerated people for their work in the world and in their communities. The Awards are named after formerly incarcerated people. Also worth noting is Exodus Transitional Community, Inc., a faith-based reentry organization in East Harlem founded by Julio Medina, which has garnered national attention for its work in the field of reentry. 

Many of the above organizations were formed because the founders wanted to create new possibilities for themselves and others similarly situated. Additionally, working at established organizations, reentry organizations included, these individuals encountered the green wall, the glass ceiling for formerly incarcerated people. Most of these organizations were not truly cultivating the leadership of its formerly incarcerated employees. 

Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), has mainstream America and academia talking about the criminal justice system in ways we have not previously, stating that incarceration is being used as a"system of racial control."

Martin and JustLeadershipUSA, and the other organizations mentioned above, as well as those not mentioned, are creating a new paradigm to not only elevate the voice of formerly incarcerated people, but also to develop the leadership of this group. With this, we are moving into another stage of this Era of Reentry. Stay tuned. 


We have become friends with Eric Waters from his regular attendance at the Bridgeport Reentry Roundtable. 

William Eric Waters has more than 25 years experience in the criminal justice system. He is the author of three books of poetry and one novel. He has a master's degree from New York Theological Seminary and bachelor's degrees from the University of Albany and SUNY New Paltz. Check out his blog at www.ezwaters.wordpress.com.

___________

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
Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278




__________

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, March 5, 2015

The CT Reentry Entrepreneurial Course, By Barry Diamond- Reentry Survivor & Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich I Weston I Bridgeport

Connecticut
 

The CT Reentry Entrepreneurial Course

By Barry Diamond- Reentry Survivor 
& Guest Blogger

Our friend Barry Diamond is the founder of ReentrySurvivors.com, a website publishing reentry stories and hosting information about the Connecticut Reentry Roundtables. - Jeff
____________

My name is Barry Diamond & I am a released prisoner.  Prior to prison I owned a business consulting company that taught companies how to work smarter not harder.  For the past 2 ½ years, I have been teaching formerly incarcerated people how to get a job.  I have discovered something very interesting.  Some of them should not look for employment.  The reason is that some of them should be self-employed.  They have skills & walk to the beat of a different drummer.  Prior to incarceration some earned good money at a skilled job while some were already in business for themselves.  If we are to allow each & every person (including formerly incarcerated) to express their dreams, maybe the time is right to create an Entrepreneurial course exclusively for formerly incarcerated persons.  Many organizations are struggling to find employment for them.  With the economy still sagging & businesses reluctant to hire (especially people with a criminal past)a new direction must be taken.  

I have created the first CT Reentry Entrepreneurial Course, exclusively for formerly incarcerated persons.  In the past (for 3 years) I taught this same course as an evening adult education course at the local High School.  Currently the course is being taught in Bridgeport at the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, 1100 Boston Ave., Bldg.5a, Bridgeport.  See below for information:
                                      

REENTRY SURVIVORS PRESENTS
CT REENTRY ENTREPRENEURIAL COURSE

A FREE WEEKLY SELF-EMPLOYED READINESS COURSE
FOR FORMERLY INCARCERATED PERSONS

9-SESSIONS, STARTING MAY 1 through JUNE 26, 2015 FRIDAYS from 9-11:30 am, at: The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, 1100 Boston Ave., Bldg. 5A, Bridgeport, CT.

LEARN EVERYTHNG YOU NEED TO KNOW TO OPERATE YOUR OWN SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS!

ARE YOU? A SELF-STARTER, HARD WORKING, NOT AFRAID TO FAIL, SPORTS MINDED


THEN FIND OUT HOW TO ENROLL
Contact Barry Diamond: (203) 767-4090
or E-MAIL: reentrysurvivors@gmail.com 


There are only 8 seats available!

__________


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
jgrant@prisonist.org
(o) 203-769-1096
(m) 203-339-5887



Lynn Springer, Founding Advocate, Innocent Spouse & Children Project
lspringer@prisonist.org 
(203) 536-5508


George Bresnan, Advocate, Ex-Pats
gbresnan@prisonist.org
(203) 609-5088

Jim Gabal, Development
jgabal@prisonist.org
(203) 858-2865

Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact
mediababz@gmail.com
(203) 645-9278   





__________

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.