Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.: the first ministry in the United States created to provide confidential support and counseling to individuals, families and organizations with white-collar and other nonviolent incarceration issues. Greenwich CT & Nationwide.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Journey From Darkness to Light, By Melissa Tanis - Child of an Incarcerated Parent & Guest Blogger


Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 
& News Concerning National and 
International Criminal Justice Themes


Journey From Darkness to Light 

By Melissa Tanis - Child of an Incarcerated 
Parent & Guest Blogger


Melissa's first guest blog for prisonist.org, Child of an Incarcerated Parent, (Jan. '15) chronicled her reunion with her father who was sentenced to 50 years in prison - it became our most-viewed blog ever! Below is her follow-up blog that brings us up-to-date on her incredible and heartwarming story.
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Jeff Grant and Lynn Springer and the Progressive Prison Project are on a mission to change the lives of families impacted by incarceration, and they changed mine in a very unique way.  At the beginning of this year, I was without a job, searching for places to live and having to consider moving out of the city. I knew I wanted to work at a nonprofit and I knew I wanted to work in criminal justice reform and was doing everything I could to try to get my foot in the door. I was applying to jobs every day but with only a bachelor’s degree in this day and age, the only response I received was an automated “thanks for applying, we’ll get back to you soon.” They never did.

I came across Jeff on LinkedIn because I was searching people who worked in criminal justice reform. I took a shot in the dark, used one of my free LinkedIn messages and introduced myself, asking him if he knew of anyone looking to hire in New York City. I had shared a short overview of my story with him and he said he and his audience would be interested in hearing more. So one afternoon I sat down at a coffee shop and in about thirty minutes to an hour typed out my first draft of my story of having a parent who is incarcerated, Child of an Incarcerated Parent. I sent it to Jeff for review, to see if I was even going in the right direction and did not anticipate his response. He said he was so moved by it and wanted to post it as is. I was a little shocked. I knew my story was interesting, I knew it was unique, but I guess I was a little used to it and forgot the impact it could potentially have on people. I was excited and somewhat nervous to see the response.

I like to think that I tweet funny, clever things on a regular basis, but my phone has never seen more Twitter notifications than when Jeff posted my blog. People were tweeting directly at me, thanking me for sharing my story. The blog caught the eye of Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is The New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison and her compliments were very meaningful since she has also been impacted by the system and is now working to change it. The best responses came from people who not only were moved by my story but could relate. People would email me saying I put into words what they have been trying to express for so long and wanted me to talk with their children who have a parent who is incarcerated.

A couple weeks later I got an email from Tanya Krupat who works at the Osborne Association and is the Director of the New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, and my jaw dropped. She told me she had read my blog, loved it and wanted to talk on the phone. Eventually I came into the Osborne office and shared more of my story, both past and present, with Tanya and her team. Tanya had asked how comfortable I felt with advocacy and sharing my story more publicly. I took the opportunity to casually mention that I was actually currently (and desperately) looking for a job doing just that. One thing led to another and in April of 2015, I started working in the Communications Department at Osborne’s office in the South Bronx. Ironically, a part of my job is writing blog posts.
 

One of the many lessons I have learned is the power of vulnerability and the beauty of what can happen when we are transparent with each other and how that can open doors for support. This year is the first time I’ve really felt like I’ve known other people like me, other adults who have had or do have a parent who is incarcerated and struggle with similar emotions. I now feel less lonely. I now feel less burdened by my past and all the difficulties I have experienced throughout my life. I feel less ashamed of my struggles with depression or anxiety or the emotions that arise when memories are triggered.  As I’ve embraced being a daughter of an incarcerated parent rather than ignoring it, I have learned so much more about myself. In getting to know my dad, I have become better acquainted with me.

Another lesson I have learned is that not only is it powerful for me to share my story as an adult with an incarcerated parent, it is powerful for my dad to share his. As I wrote in my last blog post, my dad had cancer and at the time was in remission. But in March of this year I got a call from my dad like I normally do except this time, he told me his cancer had returned and spread to his lungs. The doctor said he had at best, two years to live. He has responded well to chemo but it will be an ongoing treatment and at different moments, he is very vulnerable to infection. If it’s not the cancer that gets him, it could very well be a minor infection that his weakened immune system is not able to fight off.  When I first found out about his cancer returning, everything seemed meaningless. What do we talk about now? How do we catch up on 20 years of not knowing each other in at best two years?

Because we are not sure of the amount of time he has left, visiting has felt more urgent. A couple months ago, after the Ella Baker Center issued a report about the cost of incarceration on families, I started a GoFundMe to help supplement the costs of visiting my dad in another state. Friends, family and people I don’t even know have generously supported me so that I was able to visit him at the beginning of this month, cost-free.

Before the visit, I was wondering what kind of impact it would have on children to talk with their incarcerated parents, at an age appropriate time, about their crimes. Tanya had recently told me a story about a young girl who thought her dad’s incarceration was her fault because of something she construed in her head and it wasn’t until she went to visit him and heard from his mouth that his incarceration had nothing to do with her, that she felt freedom and was smiling when she came out of the visiting room. I wondered what kind of pain and guilt that girl would have struggled with as she got older had she not talked with her dad. My dad and I talk about his crimes and what led him to such a place where he was capable of committing them. He assures me over and over that it never had to do with us, it was his issue. It wasn’t because of a lack of love or care or desire to be with us, he was in a bad place and made terrible choices. To this day, although he can walk me through the how’s and the why’s of committing his crimes, he still cannot fully grasp what would cause him to push his loving family away like that. He assumes it must be some deep level of self-loathing. We may not figure it out, but watching him wrestle with it is healing for me. It is healing for me to sit across from him in a visiting room and hear him say that and it is healing for him to be given the opportunity to say that to me. I believe when people are truly remorseful, they not only say they are but they desire an opportunity to make things right, to somehow fix their wrongs. And for people in prison, we consistently deny or limit the ability for someone to do so. I know why. I know there is risk, I know there is a lot of pain involved in bringing a harmed party around the party that has caused the harm or bringing up years of buried pain, and in some cases, it may not be for the best. But I believe every person should know that it is at least their right to decide what they want and that there is potential healing in doing so.

In order for someone to begin the healing process, there has to be community and policy support. I could not have started reconnecting with my dad if I did not feel I was in a safe space to do so. I know the key to my continued health and well-being is the support of new and old friends and family, people on Facebook I haven’t talked to in years sending me words of encouragement, donating to my GoFundMe and offering for me to stay at their house when I visit my dad.  It’s not easy, it is overwhelming, but the payoff is worth it. My dad is worth it. His healing, my healing, and the impact it has on people in my same situation is a million and one times worth it. So thank you New York City, thank you Osborne, thank you Twitter, thank you Tanya Krupat and the New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, thank you friends and family, thank you prisonist.org family, and thank you Jeff Grant and Lynn Springer for opening your arms to me and not only allowing me the opportunity to share my heart, but for taking such good care of it.

Happy Holidays, Melissa



Melissa Tanis happily resides in New York City, loves to travel, learn new things, binge-watch Netflix, and is currently teaching herself Spanish. Melissa can be reached at mntanis89@gmail.com. Twitter: @meltanissa


Comments from Social Media:

Gary Baney Jeff Grant, JD, M Div - keep up the excellent posts. You never know whose inbox these will end up in and how much good they can be doing. Have faith!

Barry Diamond. "This is an inspiration to anyone who is currently incarcerated or to a child of someone in prison. It gives hope to children of inmates because it shows you that you can be a person of quality & contribute to the world. It also gives hope to the incarcerated that their children with the right attitude can get somewhere in the world & accomplish things. Thanks Melissa for sharing your story so that others in the same situation can have hope." 

Sharon Traeger Goldberg This is so powerful. What an amazing strength of character for someone so young who is been through so much. God bless you and Lynn for all you do

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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
Twitter
Facebook
Linked In
Pinterest
Google+




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.






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Prisonist.org Dec. 2015 Newsletter. Happy Holidays! Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project



Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes


Prisonist.org: Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Happy Holidays! December 2015 Newsletter  




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. We offer spiritual solutions to material problems all the way through the incarceration and reentry process to a new and transformed life of productivity and helping others 

Thank You For Your Year-End Donation To Our Ministries!
Donations Are Our Only Source of Revenue

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

Article: Our Ministries Featured in December 2015 Issue of "The Vision" 

The Newspaper of The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

White-Collar Ministry: A Riches-To-Rags-To-Redemption Story

"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 reporting 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."  To read the rest of this article, please click here (see page 8).
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Conference: Building Bridges: Refocused. Tues., Jan. 5, 2016, 9am - 4pm, Central Connecticut State University    

Please join us at Building Bridges: Refocused, Setting A Course For Reentry in a Second Chance Society. Student Center, Alumni Hall, CCSU, New Britain, CT. We are honored to sit on the faith-based break out panel in the afternoon. Please click here to register for this important conference.

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Radio Interview: Darby & Friends, WGCH Greenwich 1490 AM 


We were interviewed by Darby Cartun on her news/talk radio show, Darby & Friends. Original air date, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 at 12:30 pm. To listen to the live stream, or archived interview after the air date, please click here.

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Guest Blog: Last Blog Before Prison, by Brian  Jorgenson - White-Collar Felon
 
At the time he wrote this guest blog for prisonist.org, Brian Jorgenson had been a ministee of ours for a short few months.  Brian taught us new lessons in opening up to faith and reaching out to others for help.  We are honored that he wrote this blog post for us the evening before he reported to the camp at FCI Herlong in California to serve his two-year sentence for a white-collar crime.

"I'm sitting here looking at the pink sunrise pouring over the hills in Reno. The sky may be completely clear but that doesn't remove the dark cloud in my life. In just a little over 24 hours, I will be self-surrendering to federal prison (likely I will already be there by the time you read these words). Titles like felon or fraudster will be my label for the foreseeable future but starting tomorrow, my new title will be inmate. I'm not trying to get in a "woe is me" mentality but this is the stark reality of my situation." To read the rest of Brian's guest blog, please click here.
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Guest Blog: Child of an Incarcerated Parent, By Melissa Tanis

We asked Melissa to write a guest blog for  
prisonist.org after she contacted us looking for a job.  She sent us one of the most poignant, moving and authentic pieces we have ever had the honor of reading. 

"When I was five years old my father was sentenced to a maximum of 50 years in prison. I was not able at that age to comprehend how much my life would change from that moment on. I visited my father in prison when I was eight years old and then went 17 years without any contact."  To read the rest of this compelling guest blog, please click here. 

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


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. 



"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."
To read the balance of Ken's guest blog, please click here.
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Video: Greenwich Leadership Forum


We were interviewed by David Miller, Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, before a gathering of 200+ leaders dedicated to faithful and ethical business practices. To view the highlight video or the full-length video, please click here.

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Article: Our Ministries Featured in the Weston Magazine Group

We were featured in Greenwich Country Capitalist, Westport Country Capitalist, New Canaan Country Capitalist, Westchester Country Capitalist, Hamptons Country Capitalist, Long Island Country Capitalist, Litchfield County Country Capitalist, Rye, Weston, Alpine, Upper East Side, SOHONyc, Tribeca and Central Park West magazines. Please click here to read article.

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

Donations: Thank You For Your Support & Generosity! 



We are grateful for all donations made to our ministries. 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.  We are a CT Religious Corp. with 501(c)(3) status - all donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holidays! Blessings, Jeff & Lynn

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Comments from Social Media:

Barry Diamond: "To all of my connections who are in CT. I will be at the Building Bridges meeting. Come over & say hello"

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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  
 
 

  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.





Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee Kicks Butt In Texas Reentry, By Barry S. Diamond - Reentry Survivor & Guest Blogger



Prisonist.org: Blogs, Guest Blogs 

& News Concerning National and

International Criminal Justice Themes
A Connecticut Yankee 
Kicks Butt In Texas Reentry

By Barry S. Diamond - Reentry Survivor 
& Guest Blogger

A few months ago, I found out about a National Reentry Convention in Austin, TX called the Vision Summit.  They were looking for people anywhere in the U.S. that had an original idea or story to be told to be considered as a speaker.  I forwarded a compelling article (from the boardroom to the jail room) about my life, which was printed in the Connecticut Statewide Roundtable Newsletter.  I also included a letter about a program that I developed called the P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM (People Reentering Into Doing Entrepreneurship).  This is a course exclusively for inmates, released inmates & people with a criminal background that trains them how to go into business for themselves.  It is unique because it is 60% Business data,  40 % Life Lessons.  It is taught in 10 sessions, one a week for 2 ½ hours.  Monthly Mentoring sessions are available for 6 months.  After completion every graduate that has a completed business plan, a good idea & a good attitude will receive funding to start their business.  The combination of having a criminal background, reentering back into my community & developing a program to help those still in the system to help themselves was a double whamo.  I was quickly accepted as a speaker & made arrangements to get to Texas.  Through the cooperation of my Probation Officer (I served prison time for a white-collar crime), I was allowed a special travel pass to go out of the state to lecture.


WHAT HAPPENED DOWN THERE

When I started my lecture I noticed the room was full.  After I spent 1 ½ hours talking about my life & my new program, I expected everyone would walk out to the next lecture.  Instead they gave me a standing ovation & wanted to speak to me more.  Everyone wanted to know how they could get my program in their state.

I learned about one stop centers where when a person is released the first place they go to is  this center.  They are greeted by Reentry people who went through the same release problems they did.   They guide them through where to go for food, clothing , shelter etc.    They have frank conversations about expectations & the time needed to adjust.  They are brought up to date on what to expect.  I also learned about cooperation between school systems & the prisons.  Trade schools as well as high schools & colleges are working together to help educate the inmates.

I experienced my fifteen minutes of fame when I went into another lecturer’s room to hear his information.  When I asked the instructor about educating the inmates in how to start their own business, I was greeted by “Oh, you must be Barry Diamond with the P.R.I.D.E. Program in Connecticut... we heard about you”.

It seems like the whole U.S. wants to do something about educating the incarcerated.  I guess they all got the memo that said:

"Make Taxpayers not tax burdens", also, "if you educate them the recidivism rate drops."



HOW IT IMPACTED THE 
P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM

The moment I got back I started to receive inquiries about the course.  People in my own state started to want the program.  As of now, starting in 2016, in
Connecticut we will have 4 training sites, one of them inside a prison.   Early in January I am scheduled for several radio interviews.  Due to requests from other prisons in other states, we are now working with IPPC Technologies (SecureLearn Platform) to computerize our course so we can bring the program into prisons across the U.S. This will allow inmates to use the internet for learning & research without being able to go where they are not allowed.  This is a new application for an old company that specializes in Parole & Probation monitoring.  Sometime in the near future your local prison may be helping inmates become good neighbors again.

We are totally funded by your donations to: "The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport/P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM," 1100 Boston Avenue Bldg 5A, Bridgeport, CT 06610.



For more information: 
Barry Diamond, P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM, 
Reentry Survivors LLC, reentrysurvivors.com, reentrysurvivors@gmail.com
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Comments from Social Media: 

Ian Russell Lowell Interesting imagery: but there is a flaw. The space shuttle has to use up its fuel to get into orbit, we however do not use up our past experiences, but build upon them. In that sense, we carry much more rather than carrying much less. It is a rather naïve imagery therefore. Our past cannot propel us forward like rocket fuel, because there is so little control — it is rather like switching off the higher brain functions and being totally dependent on the ganglia. The concept of the programme of help seems worthy, but if it is building a rehabilitation scheme on a false premise, that doesn’t bode well.
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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.