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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thank You For Supporting Our Ministries on #GivingTuesday or Any Day!


Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes





Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.
 Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project 

Thank You for Supporting Our Ministries on #GivingTuesday
or Any Day!



The First Ministries in the U.S. created to provide
confidential religious/spiritual support and counseling to individuals
and families with white-collar and other nonviolent incarceration issues
- before, during and upon reentry from prison


A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION

In the 10+ years we've been working with individuals and families before, during & upon reentry from prison, this is our simple conclusion: those who adopt a Spiritual Solution evolve and cope more successfully than those who do not.

We offer spiritual solutions for material problems, and strive to engender and evoke understanding and compassion in all people for all people. 

  
WHAT WE DO

Shepherding people and families with care and compassion all the way through the incarceration and reentry process to a new and transformed life is our mission. We engage in direct pastoral care in person/ telephone/ Skype/ FaceTime/ mail/ email (many Federal prisons now have email).

Confidentiality. As clergy, our communications and counseling are strictly confidential. For this reason, we are often the first people that families call when they are ready to end their isolation and reach out for help. This is also a major reason that many attorneys allow their clients to maintain relationships with us. 

Pastoral Care.  Utilizing our professional backgrounds and real world experience in religion, law, business, reentry, addiction & mental health recovery, family work, ethics, and advocacy, we are the only ministry in the country created and committed to guide individuals and families though this difficult time.  Our services also provide all the practical steps for the entire process. 

Sanctuary & Refuge. We are a safe and secure place of sanctuary, privacy and refuge where individuals and families can discuss matters of shame, ostracism, grief, remorse, etc. with complete confidentiality, and can learn, grow and evolve into the spiritual beings God intends them to be. 
Expert Testimony. We can provide expert testimony services to criminal defense teams to assist them in presenting a truthful and balanced package to the court. Utilizing

our unparalleled and unique bios, we can also document the individual's and family's fresh start in writing, and in testimony before the court.   
 
Dispute Resolution & Mediation.  Individuals and families who are experiencing issues in the criminal justice system often have many other pressing matters including financial problems and disputes, family disruption, etc.  Using our unique experience and backgrounds, we can assist in resolving these matters.

OUTREACH

Boards. It is our honor to serve on the Board of Directors of the two largest nonprofits in Connecticut dedicated to families affected by issues of incarceration, Community Partners in Action and Family ReEntry. In New York City, we serve on the Board of Healing Communities Network.  Additionally, we serve on the Editorial Board of the book & movement, The Justice Imperative (CT), and on the advisory boards of The Phoenix Association (CT) and Creative Projects Group (Los Angeles, CA).

Speaking engagements. We have had the privilege of speaking at some of the most important and influential venues in the United States, including (links are underlined): The Nantucket Project, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center (Hartford, CT), Greenwich Leadership Forum, Correctional Ministries & Chaplains Assoc. Conference (Wheaton College, IL), Yale Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary, churches, prisons and community reentry programs, etc.

Sermons. Preaching frequently at churches and houses of worship provides an opportunity to share our work and spread the message of compassion, forgiveness and redemption.

Media. Articles featuring Rev. Jeff Grant and  our ministry have appeared in Forbes, HedgeFund Intelligence/Absolute Return, New York Magazine, Fairfield County Business Journal, All 14 Titles of Weston Magazine Group (Greenwich Country Capital), etc.
 
Additional Advocacy/Press.  We further advocate for criminal justice reform by providing quotes, sound-bites and non-confidential information to the press.
Blog.  Authoring, curating and editing the important and widely read blog and site, prisonist.org, we focus on national and international criminal justice advocacy/ministry themes. Exclusive articles and guest blogs are posted by some of the world's foremost experts in their fields.

Social media. Progressive Prison Project is a major presence in criminal justice reform on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, etc.


DONATIONS

We are grateful for all donations to our Ministries that enable us to grow, reach out and serve this community for which there is far too little understanding, compassion and empathy.  Donations can be made by credit card/PayPal via the "Donate Now" button below, or by sending your check payable to: "Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc." P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883. 

Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc. is 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 you, a friend or a family member are experiencing 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.
 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Unnamed Victims of White-Collar Crime: The Family, By Ken Citarella, Esq., Former Prosecutor & Guest Blogger


Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes



The Unnamed Victims of 
White-Collar Crime: The Family

By Ken Citarella, Esq. 
Former Prosecutor & Guest Blogger 
Ken and I were law school classmates from 1978 - 1981.  When we learned about Ken's own spiritual & faith journey, we asked him to guest blog for prisonist.org - Jeff
__________

I was a prosecutor in Westchester County, NY, for more than 25 years.  For almost all that time, I specialized in investigating and prosecuting white collar crime: embezzlements, swindles, investment fraud, corruption, forgery, etc.  Restitution was a constant theme.  I always wanted to get the stolen funds returned to the victim.  The difference between a prison sentence or probation often hung in the balance.  It did not take me long, however, to recognize the unintended and unnamed victims of the defendant’s crime.  It was his (at least 99% of the time his rather than her) family.  

Oddly, enough it was the defense attorneys who represented those I convicted who introduced me to these people.  During the course of plea negotiations or sentencing argument in court, defense counsel often commented on how incarceration would harm the defendant’s family.  I never doubted that was true, but always objected that it was relevant to the sentencing.  After all, I argued, the defendant was not really concerned about his family when he committed his crimes, why was he suddenly and conveniently concerned about them when it might keep him out of prison?  It was disingenuous to use sympathy for his family as a barrier to a justified incarceration.

Of course, and particularly in the state system (as opposed to the federal), not all those convicted of white collar crimes go to prison.  But even during a term of probation, the white collar probationer will most likely be paying restitution to his victims, which means that some of whatever he is then earning legitimately is diverted from his family to his victims.  He continues to hurt his family even as he hopefully rehabilitates into socially acceptable behavior.

That was where my job ended.  After all, I was a prosecutor and not a social worker.  Although it was very rare, I did have continuing contact with some defendants.  Indeed, some even thanked me for convicting them, since it was the forceful redirection they needed to reform.  But over time, the plight of the victimized family remained with me just as did the more recognized status of the crime victim.  Moreover, the state had Victim Services offices that could assist crime victims recover from the harm done to them; the family did not.

Our criminal justice system will never be perfect.  But how hard could it be to allow the family that has lost husband, father, income and perhaps home as well to have a place to go to register their need for assistance and receive guidance?  Society should care for all the victims of a crime.

Oddly enough, Jeff Grant and I were law school classmates.

Ken Citarella

Ken left the District Attorney’s Office in 2008.  Since then he has continued to investigate economic crime and corruption in the private investigation industry.  Ken is also a Postulant for ordination to the Diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

__________


Progressive Prison Project/

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

 

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

 https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=R6XKLHXQJ6YJY
 
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, November 23, 2015

Last Stop Babylon, by Rev. Jeff Grant. The Art of Surviving Prison


Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes








LAST STOP BABYLON:
THE ART OF SURVIVING
PRISON
BY REV. JEFF GRANT




This article first appeared in Weston Magazine Group's fourteen titles in NYC, the Hamptons, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester and Connecticut (Summer 2014, pages 66-69).
_________________

I thought I was lucky–one of the chosen. It was 1992; I was a young, successful corporate/real estate lawyer living in Rye, New York. My law firm was located in Mamaroneck–about a mile from our home–and so was a restaurant I owned. I would soon be elected to
the local school board. I drove a big BMW, my family vacationed four or five times a year. I thought I was bulletproof.

One day, while I was playing basketball with my biggest client, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. In the course of rehabilitating from the injury, I became addicted to prescription narcotics. I never meant for it to happen– but it did. For over ten years I took painkillers almost every single day. Day after day, little by little, they cut away at my soul and ate away at my judgment. If I’d had the ability to pull back and look at my life from a distance, I would have seen the compromises I was making–the physical changes, the mood and behavior issues and all the money problems. I was miserable even if I didn’t necessarily appear that way–my weight had ballooned up to 285 pounds. I was vomiting blood from anxiety. I was spending much more money than I was making. As I took more and more pills, I showed up for fewer and fewer client meetings.

One day, my office manager came to me and told me we weren’t going to make payroll that week. I didn’t understand how that could have been possible. I had been in business as a lawyer almost twenty years–and de- spite all the problems and all the madness, the firm had grown to become one of the most successful law practices in Westchester County. We were bringing in millions of dollars a year–but we were out of cash. I could have called a friend and asked for help–or called my bank–but the drugs wouldn’t let me focus. And that’s when I made my deal with the devil.

I told my office manager to borrow the money from the firm’s client escrow account. She asked me if I was sure that’s what I wanted to do, and I told her to do it. And with two keystrokes of a computer, my fate was sealed. Racked with shame and guilt, my painkiller use
escalated and I was really out of control.


After Sept. 11th, I couldn’t think and couldn’t work–I had lost clients and staff. I was in this pit of denial and looking for a way out. There were commercials on TV and the radio offering low-interest loans under the SBA loan program for businesses that had been adversely affect- ed by the tragedy. I called and they told me that I qualified for a 9/11 loan. But I was so desperate–and the pills were clouding my judgment so much–that I embellished my loan application to make sure I got the loan anyway. In a few weeks the loan came through and I thought I was on track to save my law firm. But it didn’t help–within a few very short months it became clear that I was going to lose my law license and was going to be disbarred from practicing law. In July 2002, I had no more fight left in me; I called my ethics attorney and told him to resign my law license for me. That night, after my wife and kids went to sleep, I sat down in the big easy chair in our den and swallowed an entire bottle of the painkillers. I just wanted the pain and the madness to stop. 
 
A few days later I checked into the Acute Care Unit of Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan. There was no way of knowing then that instead of my life ending, a new life had begun. I made it through seven weeks of rehab and started the arduous journey on the road to recovery. I went to my first recovery meeting the first night out of Silver Hill Hospital. I raised my hand and said, “My name is Jeff, I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict, and I need a sponsor.” 
 
We moved to Greenwich about a year later – perhaps the wealthiest community in the country. I had lost my career, my money, I lost our home in foreclosure, and my marriage was soon to end. But I was staying sober. One morning, after 20 months of sobriety, I received a call from the FBI. The agent told me that there was a warrant out for my arrest in connection with my fraudulent statements on the 9/11 loan. I made full restitution and was sentenced to eighteen months in Federal prison. 
  67 WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM

  __________
HERE’S HOW THE designation process works in the Federal prison system– the day your name comes up you are designated by your security level, lowest to highest, and given a bed. I had a security level of “zero” – so I could have been designated to a camp anywhere within 500 miles of our apartment in Greenwich. But on the day I was designated there were no beds in camps in this area – so I was designated to a Low Security Prison. On the inside there was one former lawyer–that would be me–two former doctors, five former stockbrokers, and 1500 drug dealers. 
 
On Easter Sunday 2006, I reported to Allenwood Low Security Corrections Institution in White Deer, Pennsylvania. A guard came out and I showed him my court orders–he did not seem happy about my coming in on Easter Sunday. As we went through the metal door he spun me around, held my hands behind my back and slapped handcuffs on them. I had been anticipating this moment for over a year and not once did I consider that I would have to be handcuffed. At that moment I had my first inkling of how little I knew about surviving in prison. 
 
I was escorted to a bulletproof glass teller’s cage behind which was a guard who asked me for my “register number.” I had no idea what that was–I’d never heard that term before. He asked me for it again and when I didn’t know he came out and taped a number on my clothes. That was my Federal Bureau of Prisons register number, and it became my identity. 
 
Next, I was brought to a section called R & D–Receiving & Discharge– and it felt very much like its title–a place for FedEx packages. I was processed and then told to strip naked. They took all my clothes and put them in a box to ship back home. While I was standing naked in this cold room, on a cold cement floor, a man entered who I would later learn was the Head Lieutenant. He basically ran the day-to-day operations of the prison. He looked me up and down, and then asked me if I was the lawyer. I told him no, but that I used to be one. He seemed pleased with that answer. He then told me that there were 1500 men on his compound, and I was to be the only lawyer. There were some jailhouse lawyers working out of the library. He told me that I’d have no problems on his compound if I stayed out of other people’s legal business and I took no money or favors from another inmate. He told me that I was a short-stayer and he suggested I just do my time and go home without a problem. He asked me what I thought of that? I was standing there naked. I told him that making a few dollars from other inmates was the last thing on my mind. 
 
I was given an orange jumpsuit to put on, re-cuffed and marched across the compound to the SHU (Secure Housing Unit). It was a time- honored tradition at Allenwood to hoot and holler at new inductees as they were being led through the compound to the SHU on their first day. I certainly didn’t understand why people were hollering at me. The guards never told me where I was going or why. When I got to the SHU, it looked like something out of the worst prison movie I had ever seen–dark and dimly lit, with rows of metal doors with tiny holes in them. I was put in a rubber lined holding cell, re-stripped and re- searched. I guess they were satisfied that I hadn’t picked up any weapons or contraband in the 300-foot walk from R & D. 
 
I was never told where I was or why I was there. I didn’t know if this was what the entire prison was like, if it was a holding area, or how long I would be there. Inside the cell was a narrow bunk bed–barely wide enough for a grown man’s shoulders–a combination toilet and sink, a desk and a chair. And there I met my first “cellie”–a black man, around 50 years old, with dreadlocks down to his waist. When I came in, he didn’t acknowledge my presence at all. He just pointed to the upper bunk. I understood–that was mine. 
 
His first words came about ten minutes later when he told me to move fast. The sound of a cart moving down the hall meant we had no time to lose. The slot on the metal cell door opened, and very quickly, four covered trays of food slid in through the slot. I understood what he meant by moving fast. If we didn’t catch the trays they would have dropped to the floor and the food would have spilled all over. He caught each tray and quickly handed them to me. I put them on the desk. We sat on the floor, dividing the dinner between us. I had already decided that I was going to lose the forty pounds I had put on in the months I was waiting to go to prison. I looked in the trays, and saw there was a little meat of some sort, and lots of bread, potatoes and rice. Starches were apparently the mainstay of the diet–I asked him if he wanted my potatoes and rice. We became friends in no time. His name was Raoul. 
 
Almost everybody who came to Allenwood was first brought to the SHU, Raoul explained. There was no way to know how long I’d be in the SHU, but Raoul suspected that I wouldn’t have to wait long: first timer, middle age, and most importantly, white. I later learned that some inmates are kept in the SHU “waiting for a bed” thirty days or longer. I only had to wait 16 hours before I was released onto the compound. I was shoved out the door of the SHU without any other instructions than to report directly to the laundry. It was about nine o’clock in the morning, bright daylight, and my eyes were trying to readjust after having been in a dungeon for the past day or so. 
 
I got to the laundry and knocked on the big metal industrial door– my big rap was much louder than I intended. The door opened a sliver and a head popped out to tell me that I would have to wait for “the move” before I could gain entry. I had no idea what that meant, but after the door closed there was no way that I was going to knock on that door again. In about fifteen minutes, a siren went off and people started scurrying around all over the place. This, I understood, was “the move.” The door popped open, I stepped inside and I was first in line. I presented the clerk with the papers I had been given in the SHU– he sized me up for a uniform, t-shirts, shoes, a laundry bag, duffel, sheets, blanket, towels, a soap kit, and just about everything I would need to make my stay at Allenwood complete. Union A, Cube 25, Upper Bunk would be home for the next thirteen and a half months. 
__________

I WAS RELEASED from prison in 2007 and had to do a stint in a halfway house, home detention and then three years of Federal probation. I also had court ordered drug and alcohol counseling. It was my counselor–a former Catholic Priest turned drug counselor–who recommended to me that I rebuild my life through volunteerism. I called my old rehab, Silver Hill Hospital, and asked them if I could come interview for a volunteer position–they told me to come over that day. I fully disclosed everything that had happened in the past few years. I was nervous. I figured that if my own rehab wouldn’t take me for a volunteer job, who in the world would ever let me work for them? 
 
Two hours later my phone rang and I was a recovery volunteer for Silver Hill Hospital. This led me to becoming a volunteer house manager at Liberation House in Stamford–a residential rehab where guys are sent in- stead of being sentenced to prison. Next was Family ReEntry, a nonprofit serving the ex-offender communities in Bridgeport and New Haven, the first organization that asked me to serve on its Board of Directors. The first project I worked on at Family ReEntry was with my girlfriend, Lynn Springer–who is now my wife; we converted a blighted inner-city block in Bridgeport into the largest privately owned public use park and garden in 
68 WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM 
the State of Connecticut. It is an oasis in the ‘hood–just beautiful.

All this time we were living in Greenwich and attending AA meetings–and I became known as the “prison guy.” I was sharing my journey–going to prison, surviving prison, and staying sober through the entire experience. Soon guys who had white-collar legal problems were seeking me out, and since then I’ve met with over one hundred men in
various stages of going to or coming back from prison.

I had no idea that it was going to turn into a ministry–I was just putting one foot ahead of another. I went to Chris Tate, a Reverend at the Second Congregational Church which Lynn and I were attending in Greenwich, and told him that I was searching for something more meaningful. He recommended that I apply to seminary. I told him that I thought that was a little crazy–for one thing, I was a Jew (I’ve been baptized since). I asked him how I would ever get accepted to a seminary with my story? But, he told me that seminaries are in the re- demption business and that I should apply. And I did. I was accepted to Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, the preeminent urban seminary in the world–and went to school there for the next
three years, earning a Masters of Divinity.

A few months later, while still working with white-collar families in Greenwich and doing inner city reentry work in Bridgeport, I accepted an offer from Pastor Hopeton Scott at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport to become Assoc. Minister and Director of Prison Ministries. From there, Lynn and I founded the Progressive Prison Project and the Innocent Spouse & Children Project, the first ministries in the United States created to support the families of people accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes. Christ Church Greenwich has become a second home for our prison ministries, and is important in our mission to foster communication between the inner city and white-collar communities suffering in silence.

We still spend the majority of our time in the inner city, but we find our work with white-collar families equally as important. These spouses and children are innocent victims in situations not of their own doing, where they have usually not been independently repre- sented legally, and often been left penniless, homeless and shunned by their communities. For this new class of victims, we assemble teams of ministers, advocates, lawyers, counselors and other compassionate people to protect them and get them safely through to a new life in a new family dynamic on the other side of prison. As I see it, the big- gest tragedy of all about white-collar and nonviolent crime is not how big the matter is, or sensationalized the headlines–it is in our failure to see it as a human story, with real people, real brokenness, and real families left behind.

I received a call from a former hedge-funder I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. He looked like the weight of the world was off his shoulders; he’d lost thirty pounds, and had a smile ear to ear. He looked nothing like the guy I remembered. He told me that he had been to prison and wanted my help in finding a new career. Now, he’s in school to become a drug counselor.

Most white-collar criminals can’t go back to their old lives and careers, so what choice do they really have? Why not embrace a completely new life, with new options and new opportunities? The most fortunate are those who figure out that their attempts to solve problems in isolation did not work, and that they no longer have to go it alone.*
69 WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM  


__________
Progressive Prison Project/

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

 
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

 https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=R6XKLHXQJ6YJY
 
We are grateful for donations from individuals, religious groups, charities, foundations and the like. Donations can be made by credit card/PayPal or by sending your check payable to: “Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.” P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883. Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project are missions of Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc. We are a CT Religious Corp. with 501c3 status - all donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Thank you for your support and generosity.


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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Connecticut Gets & Gives A #SecondChance, By Andy Thibault - Guest Blogger

Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes


Connecticut Gets & Gives 
A #SecondChance

By Andy Thibault - Guest Blogger

How Much Has Connecticut Progressed 
Since Prisoners Were Punished 
For Therapeutic Writing?
  

 


Our post Ready For Freedom (Oct.29th) 
announced a panel of Connecticut criminal justice 
experts that will be speaking at the Hartford Library 
on Weds., Nov. 18, 2015.  The panel's moderator, 
 Andy Thibault, guest blogs below for prisonist.org
__________

HARTFORD – Connecticut has progressed in some measure since prisoners were punished by the full weight of state government for therapeutic writing about a dozen years ago.

How much?

We’ll get some solid answers from a spectrum of well-informed sources – including prison authors and top state officials – during a #SecondChance forum Wednesday at 6 p.m. the Hartford Public Library. The official program title is: “Ready for Freedom? Life after Prison in Connecticut.”

Panel participants will include Scott Semple, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction, Deborah Rogala, Program Operations Director at Community Partners in Action, Robert J. Devlin, Jr., Chief Connecticut Criminal Court Judge, and Bonnie Jean Foreshaw, incarcerated for 27 ½ years and granted clemency in 2013 after appeals and a review of her case. Also participating: Gary Roberge, Director of Adult Probation and Bail Services, State of Connecticut, the Rev. Jeff Grant, Director of the Progressive Prison Project, and Robin Cullen, of Color Outside the Lines, an organization that facilitates groups in prisons and community outreach programs.

Foreshaw and Cullen both contributed to the critically-acclaimed book, “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself – Testimonies From Our Imprisoned Sisters,” edited by the novelist and jailhouse teacher Wally Lamb and published by Harper Collins with Judith Regan.






 (Photos: Bonnie Foreshaw & Robin Cullen)
“Couldn’t Keep It To Myself” grew out of the despair that engulfed the Niantic jail in 1999. Two suicides and a number of suicide attempts led staff members including librarian Marge Cohen and teacher Dale Griffith to canvass peers and inmates about what might help. Dancers, musicians and businesswomen came to the jail to volunteer. There was also talk that writing might help as a coping tool.

Cohen reached out to Lamb, who at that time was studying how to say no. Lamb said yes, he would do a workshop.

“You coming back?” he was asked as the 90-minute session ended. “Uh, well OK,” he said. “Write something and I’ll see you in two weeks. Any subject, two pages minimum.”

Thirty students dwindled to 15. One woman sat hunched forward, fists clenched on her desktop, silent, for 90 minutes. In the third session she raised her hand. She read a story of her life, in two pages. Like many of the tales of her peers, it included incest, abuse, depression, indifference. Lamb said the writer, Diane Bartholomew, “sledge-hammered the dam of distrust, and the women’s writing began to flow.”

Three workshops turned into 50 and they stopped counting [more than 12 years ago]. The writing got better and better. Lamb taught the students how to recast memories as dramatic scenes. Then he read a piece to powerhouse publisher Judith Regan, who wiped her eyes and said, “Shall we do a book?”

The inmates did what they were supposed to do: They confronted themselves and developed the will to strive for better lives. They offered a message of redemption and hope.

“He [Lamb] helped the women to be more realistic,” Foreshaw said recently, “instead of taking that way [suicide] out.”

The state played dumb during the Rowland administration, ignoring Lamb’s requests for feedback on this success story. Then, Connecticut’s state government attacked with a vengeance.

Then- state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed suit, placing liens against their virtually non-existent assets ranging up to $913,777 for Foreshaw. Cullen, who had served her time and would go on to work for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was confronted at home by a deputy sheriff.

“My first reaction when I see this guy with a badge is somebody’s coming to take me back to jail,” Cullen told CBS’s 60 Minutes. “My bill, was, I believe, $139,000.”

The state of Connecticut was just warming up.

The Correction Department spokesman denied that the work of the writers was destroyed, removed or taken away. In fact, hard drives, diskettes and personal papers were all taken away from members of the writing group. This was the department’s response to the literary group PEN awarding writing group member Barbara Parsons a $25,000 prize in absentia for fighting to safeguard the right of free expression. The award was sponsored by A.E. Hotchner and Paul Newman.  

“Effective immediately, all activities related to the Wally Lamb writing group are suspended,” Dorothula Green, principal, wrote in a memo. “Students involved in this program will not engage in any activities related to this program. Computers, other equipment, time, space in classrooms are not to be used.”

The memo – one of two written by Green – came days after The Norwich Bulletin reported that Lane had won the prestigious PEN award for freedom of speech.

Green, in cooperation with the warden at the time and other higher-ups, went out of her way to give the writers the message: “The Thursday Writing class is being reviewed. Therefore, it is suspended. Students involved in this class will not engage in any activities related to this program. All computer disks, as are, are to be returned in to my office immediately and all information on hard drives is to be removed. Computers, other equipment, time and space, are not to be used for purposes related to the Thursday Writing Class.”

Blumenthal ultimately withdrew the lawsuit – citing the rehabilitative nature of the book – and as a U.S. Senator he later supported Foreshaw in her clemency bid. He negotiated a royalties settlement with the prison writers that funneled a total of $4,000 to the re-instated writing program and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

I got into this story reading “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself” and attending the writing workshop at the Niantic jail. Over more than a decade, I researched and wrote extensively about police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the Foreshaw case. The turning point came after publishing the long-suppressed memo Judge Jon Blue wrote as a public defender: Blue detailed the jacked-up charge of premeditated murder of a person Foreshaw had never met in an accidental shooting and the myriad failures of her unseasoned lawyer to provide an adequate defense.

In the intervening years I got to know Parsons, Cullen and Foreshaw as fellow writers, gaining a respect for their journeys of survival.

Foreshaw has spoken eloquently about her remorse, prison experience and challenges on the outside during appearances at Gateway Community College in New Haven and the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield. You can be sure she won’t hold anything back during the Nov. 18 forum.

Nor will the other participants.

Scott Semple, the new Correction Comissioner, is a strong advocate for Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Second Chance Society – which was the result of bipartisan support. Semple has presided over a reduction of about 4,000 inmates in Connecticut’s prison system, down from a high of about 20,000.

The Second Chance Society law promises to “ensure nonviolent offenders are successfully reintegrated into society.”

“I am open to any questions and looking forward to a learning experience,” Semple said in advance of the forum.

Another participant, Gary Roberge – Director of Adult Probation and Bail Services – is prepared to address questions including how the state can help with jobs and housing.

As Connecticut’s criminal court administrator, Judge Robert Devlin can speak to his experience working with probation to help ex-offenders resolve technical violations.

The 90-minute forum will begin with statements from the participants and will include questions from the audience.

Big thanks to Jeffrey Mainville of the Hartford Public Library for putting this program together and for asking me to be the moderator. We have a talented and diverse crew for this event, all working in earnest to improve the quality of life in Connecticut.

LINKS:

Official announcement via Hartford Public Library is posted here: http://cooljustice.blogspot.com/2015/11/hplct-announces-ready-for-freedom-nov.html

Photos, bios, background: http://cooljustice.blogspot.com/2015/10/all-star-lineup-for-upcoming.html

Foreshaw & Thibault podcast, Oliver Wolcott Library:
http://cooljustice.blogspot.com/2015/10/morecooljustice-foreshaw-thibault.html\

The Blue memo:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/147874099/The-Blue-Note



[Editor’s Note: Posting & reprinting this column OK courtesy of the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project]
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Andy Thibault, author of  "more COOL JUSTICE’ , covered the Boston Marathon bombing trial for NBC News and WhoWhatWhy.com.  Thibault was honored in 2014 by the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information with the Stephen Collins Award for his “many contributions to the cause of open and accountable government and a free and vigorous press.” Currently, he works as a private investigator for Integrated Security Services of Hartford. Andy's Twitter handle is @cooljustice. He can be reached at tntcomm82@cs.com.
__________
Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project

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   


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