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, February 22, 2016

The Fire Down Below: Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, By Andy Thibault - Guest Blogger


Prisonist.org: Faith & Dignity 
for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News 


The Fire Down Below:
Racial Disparity in the 
Criminal Justice System 

By Andy Thibault - Guest Blogger


Andy Thibault & Bonnie Foreshaw

Let me start with a simple definition for the question, “What is Racial Disparity?” 

The answer comes from The Sentencing Project, a national non-profit promoting sentencing reform: “Racial disparity in the criminal justice system exists when the proportion of a racial or ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the proportion of such groups in the general population.”

In a paper entitled “Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System,” The Sentencing Project notes that in 2006, 38 percent of prison and jail inmates were African-American, compared to their 13 percent share in the overall population. The paper also asserted that a black male born in 2001 had a 32 percent chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life, a Hispanic male had a 17 percent chance and a white male had a six percent chance.

Michelle Alexander calls this situation “The New Jim Crow,” which might also be called “Apartheid, American Style.”

The writer and Union Theological Seminary Professor Cornel West, in his Foreword to Alexander’s book, says: “There is no doubt that if young white people were incarcerated at the same rates as young black people, the issue would be a national emergency … it is also true that if young black middle- and upper-class people were incarcerated at the same rates as young black poor people, black leaders would focus more on the prison industrial complex.”

Alexander characterizes “the popular narrative that emphasizes the death of slavery and Jim Crow and celebrates the nation’s ‘triumph over race’ with the election of Barack Obama” as “dangerously misguided.”

She continues:

“The colorblind public consensus that prevails in America today – i.e., the widespread belief that race no longer matters – has blinded us to the realities of race in our society and facilitated the emergence of a new caste system …

“I use the term racial caste in this book the way it is used in common parlance to denote a stigmatized racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom. Jim Crow and slavery were caste systems. So is our current system of mass incarceration …

“[Chapter 3] debunks the notion that rates of black imprisonment can be explained by crime rates and identifies the huge racial disparity at every stage of the criminal justice process – from the initial stop, search and arrest to the plea bargaining and sentencing phases. In short, the chapter explains how the legal rules that structure the system guarantee discriminatory results. These legal rules ensure that the undercaste is overwhelmingly black and brown.”

__________

No prisoner has served more time in the Niantic jail –  aka York “Correctional” Institution – longer than Bonnie Jean Foreshaw, a battered and sexually-abused woman who has somehow managed to survive and hold on to her humanity.

Foreshaw gave birth to her first child after being raped at age 12. She’s been a victim of violence and sexual abuse from childhood through her 27 ½ years in prison.

After she was beaten by her third husband she carried a gun for protection. She was a machinist for Wiremold Company in Hartford for 10 years, a shop steward. She bought a house in Bloomfield and cared for her children.

Her third husband continued to stalk her.

One night in 1986 Foreshaw stopped for a drink at the Jamaican Progressive League in Hartford. A man named Hector Freeman offered her a drink. She declined. Freeman pursued Foreshaw, would not leave her alone, followed her to her car. Freeman asked why Foreshaw thought she was “too good for a drink” with him. Freeman said again and again he was going to fuck her up. Freeman came toward her, he reached into his pocket. Foreshaw feared Freeman was going to pull a knife or a gun. Instead, Freeman pulled a pregnant woman in front of him.

Foreshaw, then age 38, simultaneously fired her gun. She hit the pregnant woman who died. That woman, Joyce Amos, was used as a human shield after trying to restrain Freeman. Prosecutor James Thomas grossly overcharged Foreshaw for premeditated murder of a person she had never met.

The prosecution conveniently failed to disclose that Freeman had pending charges for assault of a police officer. A judge ruled Freeman's tainted testimony was just fine. That’s the way it works when the forces of the state want a conviction for an inflated charge regardless of the facts.

The highest proper charge for Foreshaw would have been manslaughter. Justice might have been served and she would have been freed many years ago. At times like this it makes absolutely no sense that some people are in jail and others get to play golf and collect state pensions.

Foreshaw wrote of her remorse in a volume of redemptive memoirs, “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself,” edited by the novelist Wally Lamb: “I never lost sight of the fact that I still had my life and Joyce Amos, the lady who tried to help me that night, had lost hers. She had been someone's mother and someone's daughter, same as me. A powerful sadness was closing in. I began to ask myself how I could survive – or if I even wanted to ... ”

Dr. Evan Stark, a professor at Rutgers and an expert on domestic violence, has written that Foreshaw “acted in fear of her life ... and her actions constituted a self defense ... her understanding of the danger she faced and her response were drawn from an astute and experience-tested understanding of situations in which men use violence and control to hurt or dominate women.”

 __________

As “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself” was published in 2003, I began to learn about the Foreshaw case. I wrote about a dozen columns and news stories about prison conditions over the next couple years and made a pitch for Bonnie’s case on Tom Monahan’s NBC30 Sunday show: link.

I received correspondence from Bonnie periodically, then picked up the case again in 2013.

Here are some experts from an Associated Press story dated June 20, 2013 about the long-suppressed “Blue Note” which eventually led to freedom for Bonnie Foreshaw:


>A Connecticut woman convicted of murder for a 1986 shooting death has been granted a clemency hearing after a 24-year-old document questioning her trial lawyer's work resurfaced …


>The state Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Foreshaw’s application for a clemency hearing last month, but changed the ruling Monday after learning about a 1989 public defender’s memo through newspaper columns, board Chairwoman Erika Tindill said. The board didn't know about the memo when it rejected the application May 1, she said ...


>The memo was written by then-public defender Jon Blue, who said he believed Foreshaw didn’t get a fair trial because of serious mistakes made by her trial public defender, Dennis O’Toole. Blue wrote that O’Toole failed to challenge a “highly questionable” confession Foreshaw gave to police, a confession she refused to sign. He also said O’Toole failed to present an effective mental state defense.


>Tindill said a staffer in her office alerted her to the memo after it was written about in news columns by Andy Thibault, a contributing editor for Journal Register Co. newspapers in Connecticut. Thibault declined to say Thursday how he obtained the document.


>“Had it not been for the surfacing of that memo, which we had no idea about, we would not have reconsidered her case,” Tindill said Thursday.


__________

In a May 27, 2013 column entitled, “ ‘The Blue Note’ key to Bonnie Foreshaw case resolution,” I cited this key element of the memo regarding Bonnie’s status as a battered person:
“A great deal of [this] relevant material was never produced [at trial] at all,” Blue wrote. “No friends or family who knew Mrs. Foreshaw testified. A former husband had beaten Ms. Foreshaw on the head with a baseball bat ... and she had spent two weeks in the hospital. No hospital records were produced. Ms. Foreshaw had three failed marriages ending in domestic violence and divorce. No divorce or police records were produced. After she got out of the hospital, she had ‘head problems’ and went to see a neurologist. No neurologist was produced. The neurologist referred her to two different psychiatrists, who saw her a number of times. Neither of these psychiatrists was produced ... The end result was that the jury learned little or nothing about Ms. Foreshaw and what was really happening in her mind. She did not have an effective defense.”

__________

I turn now to an Aug. 5, 2013 broadcast by WNPR’s Where We Live previewing the clemency hearing that was to follow in October. WNPR’s Vice President for News John Dankosky and Managing Editor Diane Orson set the table. Following are excerpts from a transcript:


ORSON: I’d read that a woman in prison at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, named Bonnie Foreshaw, had been granted a clemency hearing and I recognized her name because years ago when I first came to Connecticut Public Radio, I worked as a co-producer for the show Open Air New England with Faith Middleton and I remembered that Faith had actually interviewed Bonnie Foreshaw. It was in the early nineties. Anyway, I contacted Faith and she got back to me and confirmed that this was the same person and I began to research the case ... March 27, 1986, Bonnie Jean Foreshaw – she was then 38 years old – a machinist at the Wire Mold Company in Hartford, she was shop steward, she was active in her union, she was supporting her children, she went to a Jamaican social club on Albany Avenue in Hartford and there she met a man who she’d never met before, named Hector Freeman, who wanted to buy her a drink. She refused him. He was persistent. She was in no mood and she left the club. At this point it’s important to mention that this is a woman who lived a very traumatic life. She is truly a battered woman. She’d been assaulted over and over again. She’d endured physical, verbal, sexual violence as a child. Later she was the victim of, as you said, horrible abuse by three husbands, stuff I don’t even want to talk about on the air. But suffice to say, I mean, she’s been beaten by a baseball bat, all kinds of horrible things. Bonnie Foreshaw made a decision to buy a .38 caliber gun for protection because her third husband was still stalking her and she felt threatened. So, back to the night of shooting, Hector Freeman follows her outside. He continues to sort of shout insults at her. And at this point I want to mention a documentary film was made in the mid-nineties about this case and it’s called The Nature of the Beast [by Ondi Timoner]. It’s quite comprehensive. And at this point I’d like to play an excerpt from that film. This is the voice of Bonnie Foreshaw from an interview in prison describing, in her words, what happened that night.  


BONNIE FORESHAW [IN FILE VIDEO]: [Indistinguishable] with his hands in his pocket and he was cursing and threatening. And all I wanted to do was get in my car. And before I could do that, he came towards me with his hands, cursing, threatening. I pulled my gun out and shot, you know, and just shot once. Next thing I know, the lady fell, the man stopped, I got in my car and left. About 20 minutes later I was pulled over and arrested and charged with murder, which I found out the next day that the lady had died and I was told in court that I was going to be charged with double murder because she was pregnant. I didn’t know him, I didn’t know her and she was just there trying to keep him from bothering me.


ORSON: ... she was tried in 1987 for murder, not for manslaughter. Murder means intentionally causing the death of someone, premeditated murder. She’d never met either Hector Freeman or this woman, Joyce Amos, until the night of the shooting. So, she was arrested, you know, as we heard, minutes after the shooting. She was taken in, she was interrogated. Around 2:00 in the morning she hand-wrote out a confession, but she did not sign it. So, Bonnie has been represented over the years by a lot of people, like 20 different lawyers or something like that. A public defender was appointed to represent her for the death of Joyce Amos, the woman who had stepped – had been used as a shield – stepped into the situation. There are numerous questions, which we’re going to hear from Andy Thibault a little bit more about, about the way her case was handled in court. But the biggest question is why the public defender did not educate the jury about Bonnie Foreshaw’s history, a history that was really critical for people judging her as jurors to understand in order to make sense of why a battered woman might be carrying a gun, why she might shoot it if she felt threatened in self-defense. None of that was part of the trial. Instead, the jury found her guilty. She was given at the time, as you said, believed to be the longest sentence ever imposed in Connecticut’s history on a woman, a 45-year prison sentence. And so she has been incarcerated since then. She was 38 when she was arrested. She’s going to be I think 66 later this month. She’s been behind bars for more than 27 years.


DANKOSKY: I want to bring in Andy Thibault now to talk a bit about this. And as we get to this new piece of evidence, maybe you can shed a little more light on something that Diane was hinting at with that piece of audio from the documentary about why exactly she was charged with murder, why she was given such a very long sentence in this case.


THIBAULT: I think her charges were jacked up to advance the careers of prosecutors and cops and these charges had no basis in reality. In fact, I believe there’s an ongoing criminal conspiracy to violate Bonnie Foreshaw’s civil rights. I base that on a fake drug raid that was designed to dismantle her defense, the suspicious withdrawal of the motion to suppress her coerced confession. There’s a five-hour gap. We don’t know what happened between 2:00 and 7:00 a.m. and the prosecutor, James Thomas, falsely stated that Bonnie was a known drug seller, though he knew no drugs had been found. So, it was a setup. Bonnie, in effect, faced three prosecutors; the judge, the prosecutor James Thomas who stepped on a black woman victim of abuse and made her a poor woman by engineering the seizure of her house and diverting 80 grand that she could have used for a good private attorney...


DANKOSKY: Andy Thibault, why after all these years, given all of this evidence, given what we hear Wally Lamb saying about a model prisoner who has done so much during her time there, why has she not gotten clemency? Why has she not gotten out of prison?


THIBAULT: Well, it’s a fixed game and it’s no question this is a gross injustice and a shame for the state of Connecticut. I’d like to read a quote from Evan Stark, who’s a social worker who’s worked a lot for the prosecution. And he said, had Bonnie not been made stuperous by medication or had her character been accurately depicted, the prosecution would have been forced to answer the question that never surfaced at her trial: Why would a deeply religious woman in the throes of separating from her abusive husband with no history of violence, a good job and a happy family life, good home and excellent future prospects, risk all by shooting a man she had never met? Now, that fake drug raid I mentioned, a key player was Detective Kumnick, who is now the right-hand man of the Hartford State’s Attorney, Gail Hardy. So, I contend that her office and her actions are tainted in this case and others by using a guy like Kumnick. The judge, the public defender, the prosecutor, they all work for the state. They’re all on the same team. The state does not admit mistakes.

DANKOSKY: When it comes to some of the connections that you’re making, what evidence do you have about this fixed game, Andy?


THIBAULT: There was a fake drug raid that was used to dismantle her defense. You’ve got cops saying, oh, there’s all these guys who look like Rastafarians with guns running around Bonnie Foreshaw’s house. They make the drug raid, they seize her house, and on the court documents, nothing found, no drugs. The confession that was coerced in which she stated, I don’t want to sign this, immediately when Detective Murdock is called to the witness stand, the quote-unquote – I hate to say it – public defender, withdraws the motion to suppress the confession. Is that not suspicious? What did the prosecutor have on this guy? Nobody’s that stupid.


DANKOSKY: So, what happens next? There is a clemency hearing now scheduled for October.  


THIBAULT: Right.


DANKOSKY: What exactly happens in the saga of Bonnie Foreshaw next?


THIBAULT: Well, you never know what’s going to happen because everybody in the system is a political appointee, however, the chairperson of the Parole and Pardons Board said that this is new and compelling evidence and that they’re taking another look because of the Blue Note. I challenge anyone to look at the Blue Note and come to any other conclusion that if Bonnie Foreshaw had been charged properly with manslaughter, she would have been free many years ago.

__________

To highlight the double-dealing by the state of Connecticut in this case, I turn again to Dr. Evan Stark, the Rutgers professor and expert witness:


Stark reported the local and federal authorities raided Foreshaw’s home, allegedly in response to reports it was a drug den, and seized her home under the federal forfeiture provision. But the $80,000 or so expended on the forfeiture proceeding and repurchasing the house exceeded the assets she needed for bail and to hire a private attorney. The court appointed an attorney who had never tried a murder case and had little criminal trial experience. In jail, she was given medications for depression that made her so drowsy she had trouble staying awake during the trial, let alone actively participating in her defense, Stark said.

In addition, Stark said, the drug raid was designed to undermine her defense and confounded the problems already faced by her inexperienced lawyer. Drug charges were still pending, when she went to trial and the state’s attorney [James Thomas] portrayed her as a “known drug seller,” though he knew no drugs had been found and that she neither had a history of drug use or any drug-related arrests, he said.

Would any reasonable or thoughtful person believe this kind of set-up is likely to happen to a white person of means? I ask this to set the table for further discussion. Certainly there are plenty of cases to cite in this historical context.

The ultimate outcome of the Foreshaw case, I contend, was a fluke, an aberration. The fortuitous surfacing of the Blue Note came after Judge Blue was embedded in the public consciousness because of his role as the presiding judge in the infamous Cheshire murders. Blue’s word was golden, even if it helped to free a person convicted unjustly. To his credit, Blue showed up at the clemency hearing to affirm his memo. And the chair of the board of Pardons and Paroles, Erika Tindill, displayed courage in affixing her signature to the clemency document.

Bonnie Foreshaw has been a free person since Nov. 15, 2013: link to YouTube.

We are very happy to continue this discussion Feb. 29 at the Willimantic and Danielson campuses of Quinebaug Valley Community College. Click here for details. Special thanks to the poet and Professor Jon Andersen for arranging this event, and to QVCC President Carlee Drummer and Associate Director of Career Services for their hospitality.




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. 
 __________

Editor's full disclosure: Bonnie Foreshaw, CT Commissioner of Corrections Scott Semple and I were panelists at Ready for Freedom…? Life After Prison In Connecticut; Andy Thibault was the moderator. Also, former Chair of CT Board of Pardons & Paroles [now Superior Court Judge] Erika Tindill and I served together on the Board of Directors of Family ReEntry, a nonprofit based in Bridgeport, CT - Jeff

Posting & reprinting this column OK courtesy of the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project.
__________


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 here, at the "Donate" button on on our site, prisonist.org 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
__________


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   


 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference, By Carolyn Esparza - Guest Blogger


Prisonist.org: Faith & Dignity 
for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News



The InterNational Prisoner’s 
Family Conference

By  Carolyn Esparza - Guest Blogger



Carolyn Esparza is the chairperson 
 Conference. We invited her to guest blog for 
prisonist.org about her experiences founding 
and growing one of the most important 
prison-related conferences in the country.
__________

The 8th Annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference will be held May 4 – 6, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  

Just eight years ago, this conference was only an idea bounced around with a few friends until we took a deep breath and made a very bold step of faith to activate that idea solely on the “Field of Dreams Principle:” Build it and they will come!  Today, not only does the conference have an international presence, but unlike a typical (stuffy and often boring) corporate conference, the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference is a powerful, action oriented, encouraging and supportive community.

From a single Facebook page, THOUSANDS HAVE BEEN EMBOLDED TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!  Not only does the our Facebook End Mass Incarceration page have over 8000 “likes,” today, but dozens of similar pages can now be found boldly addressing the many injustices prison families experience.
 
For far too long, with absolutely no valid reasoning, families with incarcerated loved ones were relegated to second-class citizenship, often treated with as much disdain as the prisoner.  Children and family members were shamed into isolation, withdrawing from the mainstream community, suffering alone in painful silence.  In some ways, this factor alone led to the revolving door of inter-generational incarceration, adding fuel to the ever-growing mass incarceration epidemic in our country.

Having had several life experiences and a professional background that told me talking about something bothering you makes problems easier to manage, it seemed that putting people with similar circumstances in the same room could ultimately reduce the unwarranted stigma and resolve many difficult challenges facing families affected by incarceration.  In fact, such a gathering had the potential to improve the quality of life for the entire prison-family.  Today, eight years later, we know we were right!

In eight swift years that initial idea has been affirmed time and again, as the conference has grown into a community of like-minded people, strengthened by others like themselves, as well as community members who care deeply and genuinely want to help.

In eight short years, we have “matured”!  The conference has grown from a solely information sharing venue into an action oriented body.  Today, prison-families who have availed themselves of the conference experience are being empowered as their voices are being heard through the advocacy arm that has evolved from this conference.

In 2012, the first-ever Prison Family Bill of Rights was drafted by conference attendees to be used as an advocacy tool.  In 2013, the National END MASS Incarceration movement began at this conference, taking the prison family voice to the social media – a powerful means for raising the prison family voice.

At the 2013 conference, it was with some surprise that we welcomed our first international attendees.  In 2014, even more international attendees attended.  And in 2015, with the strong commitment and persistent work of Francis Ssuubi of Uganda, the conference officially became INTERNATIONAL, when attendees from nine countries on three different continents came together to launch the first ever International Network for Children with Incarcerated Parents.




Inspired by the more visible support, in 2015 over eighty attendees signed an agreement to launch the "Advocacy in Action Coalition" under the auspices of the conference.   The Coalition Task Force drafted a resolute White Paper, now being used for talking points with lawmakers to achieve critically needed criminal justice reforms that will strengthen and humanize all members of the prison family.  

This, our 8th year we are pleased to expand our conference even further, as we welcome college and university students for our first Student Social Justice Forum at this conference.
 

Perhaps because this conference has filled such a critical void, we have experienced very few growing pains as the conference has evolved from a purely informative venue to an action-oriented body that embraces advocacy.  Conference attendees have been strengthened and inspired, leaving each conference with fresh ideas and a strong desire to actively pursue avenues to continually improve the quality of life and strengthen the voice of the prison-family.

For details about the conference and a listing of the 2016 presenters, visit www.prisonersfamilyconference.org



(The conference is a project of Community Solutions of El Paso, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving the prison-family.)
 

 Carolyn Esparza is a licensed professional counselor with over thirty years experience working with the criminal justice system.  As the founder and director of Community Solutions of El Paso, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving prisoners and their loved ones, she initiated and chairs the annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference.   She can be reached at info@prisonersfamilyconference.org 
or  (915) 861-7733.

__________



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 here, at the "Donate" button on on our site, prisonist.org 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
__________

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   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Faith and Dignity on CorrLinks: Federal Prison Email

Prisonist.org: Faith & Dignity 
for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News 


Faith and Dignity on CorrLinks: 
Federal Prison Email


 CorrLinks is a way for family and friends to
 communicate with their loved ones
  incarcerated in prison.  We received 
our ministee's permission to post (anonymously) 
this series of powerful CorrLinks
 emails that we thought would be 
particularly helpful to our 
audience at prisonist.org.
__________

Good morning Jeff, sorry for delaying this note but money is tight for me right now.

In short I'm assuming that you have some of my background and what issues I might have - but I will be brief to start:


I feel enormously sad and distressed over my crime and all who I have hurt - including XXX (now my Former Wife) and my Children, Friends and other Family. I just couldn't get enough, I had to have it all and didn't value the most important things I had - my Family and Friends - and mostly - God himself.  It pains me now to hold back from openly crying from the pain I feel.  I feel so alone, so damaged.


The only thing its seems I have left is what is in my locker here at [Federal Prison].  I pray to God for forgiveness for my sins and I feel he has forgiven those sins - but its the stain of those sins that have deeply damaged me so much.  The pain is so much that I cry myself to sleep most every night and wake up several times to pray to God for a better life - another chance to do what is right in his way.  


Right now I'm holding my own - but it scares me if things go bad I may not make it as any health care at [Federal Prison] is poor at best. 

I go to Church (Catholic) here every weekend. We only have a Priest once a month so this bothers me.  Its so cold and I miss a real Church with a real Priest to have Holy communion.  But I try to make the best of it. I have hurt XXX very much - it pains me extremely. I can't even call and talk
with her and hold back the tears and crying.  She is very strong and I think she still loves me. I know she doesn't trust me any more - but I can't blame her at all...  Being divorced has devastated me. Losing that Godly blessing has just about put me over the edge - but I pray she stays with me - somehow...


I am extremely lonely here. I trust no one - especially the staff and other inmates. There are so may guards that are crooked and dishonest its pitiful... There is also so much hate [between] the blacks [and] whites it troubles me a lot!!

That's it for now. XXX

__________

Dear XXX,

...I understand and empathize with your sadness. These are very difficult things but I've gotten through it one day at a time by knowing that God does not want me to spend the rest of my life living in shame and distress. I cannot lie to you, I've been going through this for about 15 years and some days are still very troubling. I had a bout of depression last year that I couldn't really explain.  But mostly, life is better than it's ever been before because I've turned my life and will over to the care of God, lead a purposeful life of service to others, and have allowed love to reenter my life.  For example, I never would have met or married my wife Lynn had I not hit my bottom.

One of the things I came to understand was that in the few years before my bottom, in my case it was disbarment, suicide attempt & arrest, I was actually engaged in self-sabotage. That is, I needed and wanted subconsciously for my old life to end but I had no tools to get out elegantly and with dignity.  I've since met many people who do have the ability to end things that didn't work and start new things without blowing things up. But for the overwhelming amount of men I've helped, it's almost always the same: they were heading toward a tipping point, knew it on some level at least, and just couldn't walk into the bedroom and admit to their wives that they were not the men they thought they were, were not capable of doing the things they thought they could do. So instead of honoring and admitting their struggles, they instead chose to suffer. Choosing suffering over struggling is never a good idea. And here's the craziest thing, in most of these families, the wives would have understood and have been glad to downsize, start over, trade a material world for a more spiritual one; what they really needed and wanted was more time, attention and love. 

So here's the challenge, to now choose struggling over suffering. I suggest that you (and I) live a life of being a power of example: examples to the community, our families, to our children, to our wives or ex-wives, and to God.  Why not? You've got the time, as did I. I started with choosing three goals, one each for mind, body and spirit. And once chosen, to work on each a little bit every single day. For my mind, I learned how to play guitar and took over 200 lessons while inside. I now play a heck of a guitar and have played lead guitar in the church band. For my body, I walked 14,000 laps around the track, 3500 miles the equivalent of walking from NY to LA. And for spirit, I read the Bible and turned to faith, religion and service to others in new and unexpected ways. More on that in a future email.

There are many men who have written about their prison experiences (men like Frankl, Bonhoeffer, Mandela, Dr. King) and all agree that there are two things that we can control in such places of limited control: 1. the ability to control our bodies and attitudes, and 2. the ability to help others.

My prayer for you is to grow, learn and evolve in your prison experience the very best you can. I will help in any way I can.  Please write back with your thoughts and feelings.

Blessings, Jeff 

__________

Jeff,

I read your note and have already started my program as
follows - see what you think...


I knew right away after being here for a few months (and these were some very tough months) I need to keep busy and do things with a purpose.  I also confessed my sins to God and I believe I've been forgiven for those sins - now moving ahead with the help of the Holy Spirit.   

I think I owe most of my aggressive work to my Ex-Wife
XXX.   She is my Angel from God giving me the support and Love to continue my recovery... I still do have some days here being so lonely. I miss my Family and XXX so very much and are excited about restarting my Life with them when I get out of here.  


I worked very hard at my Job for over 35 years - 14 hours + a day... I still miss that job - but paying the price for my crime... It still wakes me up at night where I'm still ready to go back to work and lead my department.

Your Feedback and or comments please.


God Bless you and your efforts Jeff !!
You're in my prayers. XXX

__________
Dear XXX,

I think what you've already undertaken is extraordinary. Here's a cool idea. At our [Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, CT] we have a new Men's Bible and Discussion Group [that will meet every other Monday evening], I'd like you to become a member of it in absentia. Simply, I will email you the scripture portions and you can email me your reflection based upon your experience in prison. For our Monday, February 29th meeting, we are using the readings from the Sunday, March 6th lectionary: Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.  I will email or mail you anything that comes from the group. And I will add you to the men's group roster - what a gift!

I'd like your permission to blog our... emails on our website.  They are very powerful! I think they will help a lot of people.  I will post yours anonymously of course. Please let me know if I have your permission?

Blessings, Jeff  
__________

No problem Jeff - Permission Granted without my name.
I will review the scriptures and look for your mailings...
Thank you, XXX

__________


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 here, at the "Donate" button on on our site, prisonist.org 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
__________

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   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Progressive Prison Project Information Package

Prisonist.org: Faith & Dignity 
for the Days Ahead
Blogs, Guest Blogs & News


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

Information Package






Significant Outcomes: Since Jan. 2015 
We Have Served Over 90 Individuals and 
35 Families in 25 States 



Since Jan. 2015, we have served individuals and families in twenty-four states, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. We typically communicate with these families before, during and upon reentry from prison in person or by phone, email, Skype, FaceTime or GoToMeeting, or via CorrLinks if in a Federal prison. Please click here for our full information package.

 


A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION



In the 10+ years we've been working with white-collar individuals, families and organization before, during & upon reentry from prison, this is our simple belief and 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 and by telephone/ Skype/ FaceTime/ GoToMeeting/ 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, parole and probation officers, etc. allow their clients to maintain relationships with us. 

Before Prison:



Overview. Unlike most attorneys, prison coaches and prison consultants, we take a long-term approach to the individual and family's health, happiness and well-being - our calling is to see individuals and families all the way through the process to authentic, dignified and productive lives.

Pastoral Care/Spiritual Counseling.  Utilizing our professional backgrounds and real world experience in religion, law, business, reentry, addiction & mental health recovery, family work, social ethics, and advocacy, we are the only organization and ministry in the country created and committed to guiding individuals, families and organizations from negative to positive, internal and external messages:
Internal Messages: 



We Suffer From: Shame. Regret. Fear. Remorse. Failure. Hopelessness. Helplessness. Denial. Feeling Stuck. Depression. Feeling Life is Over. Uselessness. Feeling Like a Doormat. Unworthiness. Projection. Isolation. Substance Abuse. Mental Illness. Compulsions. Feeling Like an Outcast. Labeling Ourselves as a Criminal and a Felon. Anger. Trying to Control Outcomes. Attachment. Feeling Vulnerable. Loneliness. Sadness. False Pride. Mourning. Sloth. Envy. Jealousy. Avarice. Victimhood. Disbelief. Having Unreasonable Expectations.



Instead, We Would Like to Be: In Acceptance. Surrendering to Reality. Accomplished. Resilient. Resourceful. Faithful. Hopeful. Recognizing Our Talents. Lovable. Accepted. Surrendering to Reality. Lovable. Respected. Forgiven. Trusting. Trustworthy. Accountable. Passionate. Repurposed. A Good Friend, Husband, Wife, Father, Son, Daughter, Citizen, Voter, and/or Taxpayer, Empathetic. Compassionate. Kind. Understanding. Feeling Self-worth and Self-esteem. Debt Free. In Service to Others. Proud, In the Process. Healthy. Free.



External Messages:



We Suffer From: Stigma. Ostracism. Shunning. Public Fear. Blaming. Marginalization. Litigation. Separation. Estrangement. Divorce. Schadenfreude. Underemployment. Unemployment. NIMBY. Being Cast Out. Banishment. Others Hurt. Disappointment of Others. Victimhood. Resentment. Retribution. Revenge. Others Demanding Justice. Restitution. Others Anger. Damnation.



Instead, We Would Like to Be: Forgiven. Accepted. Happy. Relieved. Empathized With. Understood. Tolerated. Shown Compassion. Given Care. Given Support. Shown Service. Reconciled. Given Amnesty. Pardoned. Given Opportunities. Living in Community. Offered Compromise. Allowed to Work. Allowed to Vote. Allowed to Make Mistakes.

Family Counseling. We have dedicated staff and volunteers specifically dedicated to the needs of innocent spouses, families and children.

Women's Incarceration Issues. The fastest growing sector of white-collar incarceration issues, we have an advocate who specializes in women's needs before, during and after prison. 

Prison Readiness. We partner with and oversee the most ethical, compassionate and effective prison coaches and consultants in the country, so that together we can provide all the practical steps for survival and success in prison, and throughout the journey. 

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 for them to be. 

Substance Abuse, Other Addictions & Compulsions, Mental Health.  Not only do we collectively possess decades of experience in recovery and reentry, but we partner with the very best drug and alcohol counselors, interventionists, MSW's, therapists, psychiatrists, psychopharmacologists, etc. 

Pardons, Clemency, Commutation of Sentence.  We believe that individuals and families should start focusing on reentry, life after prison and a pardon from the first moment of the process.  Certainly not everyone will obtain a pardon, but life will continue to evolve and grow more successfully by engaging in a Culture of Pardons. We work with state and Federal pardons/clemency experts to ensure the best results down the road. 



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 unique and unparalleled 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.

During Prison:  

Pastoral Care/ Spiritual CounselingFor those in prison, we engage in direct pastoral care in person and by telephone, CorrLinks, and mail. We meet with spouses and family members to assist them through these difficult, critical times.

Clergy Visitation. Many prisons afford clergy special visitation privileges such as one-on-one private sessions in private attorney/clergy meeting rooms, access on non-visitation days, etc.  

Newsletters, Blogs & Articles. We also send in to prison copies of our newsletters, blogs & guest blogs, and helpful articles 

Family Counseling. We know first-hand how difficult it is for families to be away from their loved one - and for the incarcerated to be away from family. We provide consistent and continual assistance throughout the darkest days of incarceration. 
 
Funds Assistance/ College Scholarships. American Baptist Churches USA has awarded us a grant to provide one-time stipends to individuals or families with white-collar or nonviolent incarceration issues to be used for short-term expenses and for college scholarships. We continue to seek out other compassionate benefactors.

Reentry Preparation. Working with some of the best known reentry nonprofits in the country, we start the reentry and reintegration process long before release. 

Upon Reentry:

Pastoral Care/ Spiritual CounselingIt comes as a shock to most people that their return home is actually the most difficult part of the process. Poorly managed and unsafe halfway houses, home confinement, embarrassing ankle monitors, parole and probation officers who may or may not be kind, dramatic career and financial changes, families in upheaval, loss of old friends and family, etc. This is the time most need to rely on us and our growing community of similarly situated fellow travelers.

Support Groups. We have founded the country's first confidential online white-collar/ nonviolent support group [As this support group is being run by clergy as part of a program of pastoral counseling, we consider it to be confidential and privileged]. We hold our weekly group meetings on Tuesdays, 8 pm Eastern, 7 pm Central, 6pm Mountain, 5 pm Pacific. Link for information.

Advocacy/Community Building. We are at the forefront of building and advocating for an integrative, supportive community of individuals, families and organizations with white-collar issues who were living in isolation and suffering in silence. We offer opportunities to all to help and lead in this noble endeavor. 

Wrap-Around Reentry Services. We have access to and work with some of the best reentry nonprofits in the country, who can provide behavioral services for emotional issues, drug and alcohol counseling, domestic violence, soft-skills training, housing, etc. And many accept Medicaid for approved services. 

Pardons, Clemency, Commutation of Sentence.  This is the time to really focus on the specific steps it takes to obtain a pardon, clemency or commutation of sentence. Each state has its own rules and procedures, as does the Federal government. We work with state and Federal pardons/clemency experts to ensure the best results.

Career Counseling and Placement.  Certainly, this is one of the topics that most concerns individuals and families from the outset and throughout their journey. We have assisted many in the daunting process of letting go of the old life, getting into radical acceptance of the new reality, thinking through the endless possibilities, overcoming both internal and external obstacles, and implementing a new career plan. Many employers, who might otherwise not give a felon a second chance, will entertain referrals from clergy. We are working with world renowned executive and outplacement specialists to develop an integrative white-collar career rehabilitation program. Coming soon! 

Volunteerism.  We have found that service to others is not only the most effective method to grow, evolve and transform, but also gets us out of our own prisons of self. We advise all to obtain meaningful volunteer positions as soon as possible, and help place individuals with charities and nonprofits throughout the country. 



OUTREACH



Boards. It is our honor to have served on a number of criminal justice/prisoner reentry-related Boards including Family ReEntry, Bridgeport & New Haven, CT; Community Partners in Action (formerly the Connecticut Prison Association), Hartford, CT; and Healing Communities Network, New York, NY. Jeff has also served on the Editorial Board of the book, The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream, Southport, CT, and on the Advisory Board of the Phoenix Association, Guilford, CT, and Creative Projects Group, Los Angeles, CA (Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet").  Jeff was the recipient of the Elizabeth Bush Award for Volunteerism '12, and the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative Advocate of the Year Award '13, '14 & '15 and Professional of the Year '16.  JustLeadershipUSA recognized Jeff as one of fifteen "National Leaders in Criminal Justice."  Jeff has been invited to attend the prestigious Collegeville Institute spiritual writing workshop at Louisville Seminary, fall '16.



Speaking Engagements. We have had the privilege of speaking at some of the most important and influential venues in the United States, including The Nantucket Project, Nantucket, MA;  Greenwich Leadership Forum, Greenwich, CT, the Corrections Ministries and Chaplains Association (CMCA) Correctional Ministry Summit, , Wheaton College, IL; Salons at Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT; Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York; Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT; and many prisons, reentry programs, houses of worship and other venues.



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 our ministry have appeared in Forbes, Inc., The Huffington Post, Absolute Return/ HedgeFund Intelligence, Business Insider, New York Magazine, Fairfield County Business Journal, Reentry Central, Weston Magazine Group, Weston Forum, Greenwich Sentinel, Greenwich Time, The Hour and others.

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. We are a major presence in criminal justice reform on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, 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 here, at the "Donate" button on on our site, prisonist.org 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
__________


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

PO Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883
(o) 203-769-1096

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
jgrant@prisonist.org
(m) 203-339-5887
Twitter
Facebook
Linked In
Pinterest
Google+




Lynn Springer, Founding Advocate,  Innocent Spouses, Families & Children lspringer@prisonist.org

(203) 536-5508

Rev. Fr. Joseph Ciccone, Ed D, M Div
Supervising Minister
stjosephmissionchurch@gmail.com
(201) 982-2206

Jacqueline Polverari, MBA, MSW, Advocate
Women's Incarceration Issues
jpolverari@prisonist.org
(203) 671-5139

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