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

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Nantucket Presents: Down & Out in Greenwich: An Insider's View of Prison and the Road back to the Boardroom

 

Presents:

Down and Out in Greenwich: 

An insider's view of prison and the road back to the boardroom - with Jeff Grant





Greenwich, CT - (June 20, 2017) - It happens more than you imagine. A high-flying executive makes a fateful decision and winds up in legal trouble. He’s sentenced to time in prison and his life and the lives of his family are shattered. 
 
Next week, The Nantucket Project presents Down & Out in Greenwich: An Insider's View of Prison and the Road Back to the Boardroom. On Tuesday, June 27 at 7:00 PM, Jeff Grant will share his story about prison life and his difficult road back to life after incarceration. TNP Library, 123 Mason Street, Greenwich. Grant was a Main-Stage Presenter at The Nantucket Project in 2013.


In Grant’s personal account, the audience will hear full details about a few poor decisions, what life is like in prison, and how one man has been able to successfully navigate a course to become


the first person in the country, who was incarcerated for a white-collar crime, to be named the head of a major criminal justice nonprofit. He has methodically rebuilt his
life, personally and professionally, and was recently named the Executive Director of Family ReEntry, a nonprofit leader that supports families affected by the criminal justice system. He has been the subject of articles in regional and national media and has received numerous business and service awards.

Grant said, “I want my story to be a cautionary tale, but I also want anyone affected by the criminal justice system to know that there is hope and help after prison.” "I am grateful to The Nantucket Project for its support and leadership in justice reform."


 
Currently, there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States and over 70 million with criminal records. Nearly 11,000 individuals will be released in Connecticut this year. "It is vital that we reach these individuals at critical junctures in their lives and provide them with enough support so that they can have every
opportunity to achieve, learn and grow as citizens who are not forced to return to the kind of activity that caused them to be incarcerated in the first place," said Grant. 

To learn more about attending the upcoming presentation at The Nantucket Project,
https://nantucketproject.regfox.com/jeff-grant-tnp-library-event




About The Nantucket Project: Led by co-founders Tom Scott (who also created Nantucket Nectars and the HBO television series "The Neistat Brothers") and Kate Brosnan, TNP brings live events, short documentary films, and meaningful storytelling to audiences hungry to know what matters in our noisy and messy world. Past presenters have included Tony Blair, Steve Wozniak, Deepak Chopra, Hope Solo, Norman Lear, Christy Turlington Burns, Mellody Hobson, Neil Young, Seth Godin, Eve Ensler, Julie Taymor and Paul Giamatti. Visit https://www.nantucketproject.com/ to learn more.


More about Family ReEntry:

Family ReEntry is a 501c3 nonprofit, which was founded in 1984 as a reentry support group for men at the Isaiah House in Bridgeport. It has since grown to include policy advocacy, and intervention, prevention, in-prison, reentry, fatherhood and youth & family programs. Over the past 33 years, effective advocacy efforts and community-based programs developed by Family ReEntry have significantly reduced the likelihood that clients will re-offend, be re-arrested, or be re-incarcerated. Its programs provide a spectrum of services designed to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. Family ReEntry addresses the specific needs of each client and their families through individualized case management and support services. It works to create a positive social network for each client, helping make their transition from prison back into the community a successful, self-sufficient one, while strengthening their families and the community. Family ReEntry operates its programs in strategic locations that encompass eight municipal regions and judicial geographic areas, two parole districts and five prisons. Approximately, sixty-percent of those served by Family ReEntry are from greater Bridgeport – Connecticut’s largest city. The organization has offices in Bridgeport, Norwalk and New Haven, CT. Programs are also held in Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, New London and Norwich, CT. More information is available at www.FamilyReEntry.org and on its social media including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube 



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Prison Portal Project to be Presented at CT Governor's Reentry Conference - First Portal Installed in a U.S. Prison Scheduled to Open in CT this Fall





Prison Portal Project to be Presented at 
CT Governor's Reentry Conference 


First Portal Installed in a U.S. Prison 
Scheduled to Open in CT this Fall 



 




PRESS RELEASE: Hartford, CT - (June 14, 2017) - Family ReEntry, a nonprofit leader that assists families affected by the criminal justice system, and Shared Studios, a design technology company, will be presenting the new Prison Portal Project during the Connecticut Governor's Reimagining Justice Conference in Hartford, June 14-15. 

Amar Bakshi, Founder & Creative Director of Shared
Studios, and Jeff Grant, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, will present the new Prison Portal Project, including a video demonstration of the real-time, face-to-face interactive technology, on Wednesday, June 14th, at 11:15 a.m. as a part of the special conference held at The Hartford Marriott Downtown (200 Columbus Boulevard in Hartford). 

Created by Shared Studios, the portals and
the patented innovations in hardware, software and design, can be made for all types of remote presentation uses. Family ReEntry’s Prison Portal Project will establish Connecticut as one of the first states in the nation to adopt the use of the portals specifically for incarcerated individuals,
returning citizens, and their families and friends.



Working in partnership with the State of Connecticut Department of Corrections and the City of Bridgeport Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs, portals will be installed this Fall linking the nation's first portal to be
placed within the confines of a correctional facility and a second portal anticipated to open in downtown Bridgeport. This will allow families to directly communicate with their loved ones in prison in an immersive environment “as if they were in the same room,” saving them time off from work and school, costs in travelling to remote prison locations, etc. 

Additional portals are being considered for presentation around the state later this year and in 2018. Suggested sites for the new portals include New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Stamford and New London, among other locations. 

Grant explained, "The Governor's Conference is a perfectly
Pres. Barack Obama utilizing a Portal
timed opportunity to show the full extent of this new, immersive audiovisual technology and the way it will be used by the families and communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Not only do the portals allow accessible remote visitation between loved ones, but are means for curated 'visits’ to other portals installed around the world in locations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, etc. They can also be utilized for multiple location visits, group dynamics, counseling sessions and much more.”



The Prison Portal Project presentation is in addition to Family ReEntry's booth exhibit throughout the conference, where attendees can discover all of the programs and services that the organization provides.

Organized by the office of Governor Malloy, the Reimagining Justice Conference brings together leading criminal justice professionals from across the country for robust discussions about the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system and will aim to strengthen a growing consensus that states must reimagine justice in order to reduce crime and end the cycle of mass incarceration. The conference will include new approaches on the topics of juvenile and young adult offenders, pretrial justice, incarceration, and re-entry. Additional information about the conference is available at http://portal.ct.gov/reimaginingjustice 

More about Family ReEntry:


Family ReEntry is a 501c3 nonprofit, which was founded in 1984 as a reentry support group for men at the Isaiah House in Bridgeport. It has since grown to include policy advocacy, and intervention, prevention, in-prison, reentry, fatherhood and youth & family programs. Over the past 33 years, effective advocacy efforts and community-based programs developed by Family ReEntry have significantly reduced the likelihood that clients will re-offend, be re-arrested, or be re-incarcerated. Its programs provide a spectrum of services designed to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. Family ReEntry addresses the specific needs of each client and their families through individualized case management and support services. It works to create a positive social network for each client, helping make their transition from prison back into the community a successful, self-sufficient one, while strengthening their families and the community. Family ReEntry operates its programs in strategic locations that encompass eight municipal regions and judicial geographic areas, two parole districts and five prisons. Approximately, sixty-percent of those served by Family ReEntry are from greater Bridgeport – Connecticut’s largest city. The organization has offices in Bridgeport, Norwalk and New Haven, CT. Programs are also held in Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, New London and Norwich, CT. 

More information is available at www.FamilyReEntry.org and on its social media including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. 




Media Contact: Greg Walsh, Walsh Public Relations 305 Knowlton Street, Bridgeport, CT 06608
Tel: 203-292-6280; E-Mail: greg@walshpr.com 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Correcting Corrections in Connecticut: How Commissioner Scott Semple Is Making Juvenile Justice More Just


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Correcting Corrections in Connecticut: How Commissioner Scott Semple Is Making Juvenile Justice More Just



Reprinted from Public Safety on Medium.com, By Steve Hawkins

This is part of a series of interviews conducted by Steve Hawkins, president of the Coalition for Public Safety, featuring individuals taking the initiative to change the justice system within their sphere of influence.

How deeply should brain science inform our approach to crime? In many justice reform circles, that’s up for debate. Research showing that human brains do not fully develop until the age of 25 has led many correctional leaders to reconsider the age at which young people “age out” of the juvenile justice system. If younger minds are more amendable to treatment and rehabilitation, the logic goes, why not take the opportunity to get things right?

Enter Scott Semple, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Connecticut’s journey to justice reform has already produced a notable decrease in both the crime rate and prison population, freeing up space and resources for Semple and others to more expansively rethink how to effectively administer justice. Semple has taken that opportunity to hone in on youth incarceration and recidivism with the creation of the T.R.U.E. Unit — a program for incarcerated young adults within the Cheshire Correctional Institution, designed specifically for 18–15 year olds. Young adults incarcerated at Cheshire are taught both practical and relational skills with the goal of helping them avoid the cycle of recidivism and emerge capable, compassionate adults.

I had the opportunity to connect with Commissioner Semple about his vision for the program at length. The interview has been edited for clarity.

S.H.: What was the source of inspiration for your new second chances initiative at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, and why are you launching it now?

S.S.: In 2015, I had the pleasure of visiting prisons in Germany with Connecticut’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, and members of the Vera Institute of Justice. Among the many remarkable things I witnessed was a prison facility, which housed only young adult offenders. The operation of the facility was geared to the specific needs of that age group.

The goal was to launch a similar facility within the Connecticut Department of Correction. Initially, we had hoped to dedicate an entire facility to the needs of young adult offenders, but due to fact that this was a groundbreaking concept, coupled with a difficult fiscal climate, the decision was made to start out by opening a single unit within a facility. After much planning and hard work, the unit officially went online in March 13 of 2017.

S.H.: What is the history of Cheshire, CT, and why was this the place you launched T.R.U.E.?

S.S.: The building that comprises the original portion of the Cheshire Correctional Institution predates the inception of the Department of Correction as a state agency by more than 60 years.

Established by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1909 and opened in 1913 after three years of construction, the facility was first known as the Cheshire Reformatory. Ironically, it was designed as a reformatory for male offenders ages 16 to 24, with the intention of separating these offenders from the adult prison population. Within the context of the Department of Correction, the Cheshire Correctional Institution houses primarily long-term sentenced adult offenders.

The reason this facility was chosen as the site for the T.R.U.E. Unit is, quite simply, its staff. Warden Scott Erfe, the management, as well as the rank and file of the facility all embraced the challenge of implementing this new concept. In fact, more than 100 staff members volunteered to work in the new unit.

S.H.: This program focuses specifically on 18-to-25-year-olds. What is unique about this age group, and why is the state investing in changing their outcomes in the justice system?

S.S.: Scientific research has shown that the brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25. Neuroscience has shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into their early twenties, and that their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed.

Offenders in this age group frequently display poor decision-making ability, and are also prone to impulsive behavior. These factors, when combined, all too frequently result in disruptive behaviors which endanger not only themselves and other offenders, but staff as well. It is in everyone’s best interest to attempt to better manage this age group with the hopes of reducing the number of violent incidents within our facilities.
S.H.: The program is titled: T.R.U.E., which stands for Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding, and Elevating. What is the importance of each of the elements?

S.S.: Ironically, the actions defined in the acronym of the T.R.U.E. Unit, are actions that offenders, especially in this age group, struggle with. They struggle with being truthful, with being respectful, with understanding another person’s[perspective]. The acronym T.R.U.E. serves as a constant mental, as well as visual, reminder of what they are striving for, what they aspire to be.

S.H.: Describe how the program works.

S.S.: The program works on a therapeutic community based model that applies behavioral modification techniques in association with peer mentoring guidance from offenders who are serving life sentences. Family support is also a key component of the unit.

S.H.: How does T.R.U.E. differ from previous approaches in Connecticut, and why do you think it will work?

S.S.: We have never before targeted the specific age group of 18-to-25-year-olds. Up until now, the demarcation between an adolescent and an adult was 18. If an offender was 18 years old, they were not only considered adults, but they were also treated like adults. We now know, thanks to scientific research, that this may not be the best approach.
To be candid, because this is the first of its kind unit we are facing many unknowns. However, early anecdotal reports indicate that the changes are working. As time goes by, we will collect data on such factors as disciplinary reports in order to create tangible performance measurements for the unit.

I also firmly believe that, thanks to the high caliber of the staff members working within the unit, the T.R.U.E. Unit will be successful.

S.H.: What role does family play in the rehabilitation of people behind bars?

S.S.: Simply put, family support plays an essential role in the rehabilitation of offenders. If offenders have strong family support, their chances for successful reintegration are greatly enhanced. That is why staff at the T.R.U.E. Unit have made additional efforts to engage and connect with the family members of offenders.

They have gone out of their way to invite family members of the incarcerated to informational session at Cheshire. The staff has also taken the added measure of creating a special email address for family members of those in the unit. The email address allows for specific information related to be shared quickly and frequently, thus keeping family members and offenders invested in the success of the unit.

S.H.: The T.R.U.E. mentors are serving life sentences. How does this program challenge some of our assumptions about people sentenced to life in prison?

S.S.: It is often assumed that those serving life sentences have no incentive or motivation to act in a constructive manner. After all, no matter what a “lifer” does, he’s never getting out.

The reality is that many lifers feel the need to find some meaning or value in their lives. They often informally offer advice to younger offenders, hoping to help them avoid the mistakes they had made.

The use of lifers in the T.R.U.E. program is a win/win/win situation. The young offenders, or mentees, benefit from the wisdom of the mentors. The lifers are able to feel that they are being productive by giving something back. Even the staff wins, as the mentor/mentee relationships improves the overall climate in the unit.

S.H.: Was it counterintuitive to imagine people who have committed serious crimes helping younger men chart a new course for their lives?

S.S.: For someone not familiar with a correctional environment, the idea of a lifer helping anyone is indeed counterintuitive. But for those who work inside prisons, older offenders giving advice to younger offenders is a daily occurrence.

S.H.: It’s not always immediately intuitive to people that an investment in changing correctional practices can be an investment in public safety. How do you see this as ultimately upholding the safety of all of Connecticut’s diverse communities?

S.S.: A frequently quoted statistic is that 95 percent of all offenders will eventually return to the community. Would you rather have offenders return to their communities and just pick up where they left off with antisocial and violent behaviors? Or would you rather have them equipped with the support and knowledge necessary to enable them to return as productive, law abiding members of society?

S.H.: How have correctional officers responded to and engaged in the T.R.U.E. program?

S.S.: The officers’ reaction to working in the unit has been extremely positive. Who wouldn’t want to feel like their efforts are having a positive impact on the lives of others?

S.H.: Do you have any favorite stories from the program to date?

S.S.: The vast majority of the staff members working in the T.R.U.E. Unit are seasoned correctional veterans with many years of experience. Traditionally, these staff members have always thought of offenders as inmates — undistinguishable, interchangeable, and incorrigible. While speaking with someone working in the T.R.U.E. Unit, they referred to the offenders in the unit as mentors and mentees. Having an appreciation of correctional culture as I do, this seemingly simple change in terminology in fact represents a significant change in the way we do business.

S.H.: How do you plan to measure success of the T.R.U.E. program? Does the Connecticut DOC track recidivism rates in all of its facilities?

S.S.: We are collecting data specific to the T.R.U.E. Unit on such things as disciplinary infractions. It will take some time, but we will also compile recidivism statistics specific to the unit as well.

S.H.: Do you have plans to expand this program or bring similar versions to other Connecticut facilities?

S.S.: Plans are already in the works to open a similar unit at the department’s only female facility, the York Correctional Institution. If all goes as planned, the unit should be up and running within the next six months.

S.H.: What would you like your legacy to be when it comes to justice reform in Connecticut?

S.S.: I am no different than anyone else. Just like the staff of the T.R.U.E. Unit, I am trying to implement policies that will have a lasting positive effect on the lives of offenders.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Family ReEntry’s 2016-17 Annual Appeal: We Need Your Help!



Family ReEntry’s 2016-17 Annual Appeal
The Problem
Even as the Connecticut government is closing prisons and reducing the prison population to the lowest level since the 1970s – a good thing – the fiscal crisis has caused it to terminate the funding for and close EVERY community-based nonresidential prisoner reentry behavioral health program in the state. (Family ReEntry’s residential and intervention programs were unaffected.) This means thousands of people, many or most of them people of color, will be released from jails and prisons this year without access to mental health services, substance abuse counseling, life skills training, family therapy, housing opportunities, education, or even minimum wage jobs. Without this critical support, research shows that most will likely recidivate and will return to prison in record numbers…but not before they re-engage in the very behavior for which they were incarcerated in the first place. A very bad thing – for everyone.
“With the help of Family Reentry, I was able to finally have my first shot at honest employment. The re-entry team (which has become my own family) gave me the push I needed to go to college and work hard to be where I want to be in life. Family ReEntry is filled with people that are willing to help, support, encourage and motivate anyone who needs them.” —Tavon Williams  (Warehouse Worker, CDI & full time student at HCC — released March 2016)
The Solution
With fewer government dollars to support our mission, Family ReEntry is getting creative. We are seeking out and finding innovative solutions for these critical problems. Our new First Chance Society initiative is designed to disrupt the intergenerational cycle of incarceration by giving at-risk youth and families a first chance at the kind of opportunities that they may have been denied because of poverty, race and/or zip code. And, giving returning citizens the first chance they may have never had before their incarceration. We are growing our award-winning programs – Family ReEntry is opening four new intervention programs with even more new programs on the horizon. And we are up at the Capitol intensely advocating for criminal justice reform and fairness for all.
“I was officially hired in October full-time as a driver for the lumber yard. I am proud to say I am currently employed today because of the opportunity Family ReEntry afforded me.” —Marcellus Ruffin  (Driver, Northeast Building Supplies — released June 2014)
Family ReEntry Needs Your Help.
At this time, when we and the people we serve need your help more than ever, we hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to Family ReEntry’s 2016-17 Annual Appeal. 

Mail your donations to: 

Family ReEntry, Inc., 75 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604

or click here to donate online.

Thank you in advance for your donation. I hope to meet you soon and thank you personally.

Gratefully,

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director
 
 
Family ReEntry’s mission is to develop, implement, and share sustainable, cost-effective solutions for the unprecedented numbers of people involved in the criminal justice system, which empower individuals, strengthen families, and build communities.

For more info please visit our website at familyreentry.org and you can follow us onFacebook and Twitter. All proceeds go to supporting these valuable programs.
Family ReEntry, Inc.  |  jeffgrant@familyreentry.org  |   501(c)3 Organization  |  203-290-0855