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, July 24, 2017

Family ReEntry Insider: Two Reflections on the Cheshire Tragedy






Two Reflections on the Cheshire Tragedy

Monday, July 24th, 2017
After my release in early summer of 2007 from a Federal prison (where I served almost fourteen months for a white-collar crime), I spent five weeks in a halfway house in Hartford that served both Federal and State of Connecticut clients.

I was released just two weeks before the Cheshire tragedy, an event that not only traumatized all in our state (including my family) but effectively shut down all Connecticut halfway house and parole releases for over six months. For good reason. The Cheshire murders called to attention deficiencies in the state system of release. These deficiencies were successfully addressed (in part) over the next decade by strengthening the system of community nonprofit partners that provided critical, effective wraparound services to those returning home so that they would be less likely to return to criminal behavior and return to prison. Unfortunately, due to the state fiscal crisis, many of these services have been cut back or terminated. The Governor and Department of Corrections are committed to enlightened, progressive criminal justice reform, but without adequate funding it is easy to see how their hands are in many ways tied. What we need are creative private-nonprofit-public partnerships to rethink, rebuild and fund our system of community corrections, and mental health and substance abuse programs, before there is even one more tragedy.

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Executive Director, Family ReEntry
Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk CT
The summer of 2007 was the most challenging of my professional career.

As the Director of the Department of Correction’s Parole and Community Services Division, I received the call from then Commissioner Theresa Lantz advising me that the two men charged with the Cheshire murders were under my Division’s supervision. Like all citizens of CT, I had been horrified that week to learn of the brutality that had been visited upon the Petit family.

As the father of young children at that time, I was also struck by the random nature of the crime, and the realization that even in my “safe” community, my family was equally vulnerable. I was then at the 27 year mark of a career in community corrections and proud of the role that it played in public safety. The shock of that crime was also met with the knowledge that I would be responsible to help ensure that crimes of that nature would not be repeated. For the next two years until my retirement, I kept a picture of the Petit family in my top right hand desk drawer; a constant and personal reminder of the stakes involved.

Within weeks of the Cheshire tragedy, men on parole were charged with several other high profile violent crimes, prompting then DOC Commissioner Theresa Lantz to suspend all further releases and to order a complete review of the Department’s community release, supervision and support services infrastructure. In addition to a renewed emphasis on inter-agency information sharing (neither the Parole Board nor supervising parole officers had complete prior arrest reports), and the increased use of new technologies (i.e. Global Positioning Systems), DOC reexamined the role of the parole officer, and reinvested in the tools and resources they needed to better perform their responsibilities. Chief among these concerns, was the recognition that evidence-based risk and needs assessments, and the intervention strategies that they would direct, would become an essential ingredient in addressing the complex behavioral health needs of offenders; needs that when left unaddressed, can substantially increase the likelihood of continued criminal behavior.

In the years that followed the Summer of 2007, CT made substantial investments, in partnership with our non-profit provider network, to streamline, expand and coordinate the number, type, and proficiency of services available to the reentry population. Those investments contributed, along with many other factors, to CT’s substantial reduction in its prison population (from over 20,000 in ‘07 to approximately 14,000 today).

Unfortunately, as a result of our budget situation, these programs have experienced severe reductions. Last year, DOC was forced to terminate contracts that provided essential mental health, substance abuse and employment services to men and women transitioning from incarceration to the community. This year, additional budget cuts have already forced some non-profits to shut their doors or roll back the services they provide. The inability to learn from our past failures and our past successes, will cost Connecticut not only in dollars, but in human misery.

Randy Braren
Director of Reentry Initiatives, Family ReEntry, Inc,
Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, CT
Former Director, Parole and Community Services Division, Department of Correction, State of Connecticut
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 on Facebook and Twitter. All proceeds go to supporting these valuable programs.
Family ReEntry, Inc.  |  jeffgrant@familyreentry.org  |   501(c)3 Organization  |  203-290-0865

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jeff Grant, Greenwich White Collar Criminal, Shares His Journey Back to the Board Room By Emilie Munson - Reporter, CT Post


Jeff Grant, Greenwich White Collar Criminal, Shares His Journey Back to the Board Room

By Emilie Munson - Reporter, CT Post

Jeff Grant Speaking at The Nantucket Project's TNP Library in Greenwich

GREENWICH — It was a transformation that Greenwich resident Jeff Grant never saw coming.

Twenty years ago, Grant was a successful business lawyer in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a member of the Rye Neck school board and owner of “The Good Life” restaurant inWestchester County.

But an addiction to prescription pain killers that led to his arrest and imprisonment on charges of money laundering and wire fraud changed all that.

“I was an entitled guy,” he said. “It was a wake up call.”

Grant shared his story at The Nantucket Project Library in Greenwich earlier this week. Grant has spoken twice at Nantucket Project events and has known Nantucket Project Founder Tom Scott for 10 years.

“We do this from time to time as a series of ways to learn,” said Scott, about why The Nantucket Project invited Grant to speak. “We are about what matters most.”

A literal misstep one day in 1992 set Grant on a path from the corner office to solitary confinement and back again. The 34-year-old Jewish lawyer was playing basketball with one of his firm’s biggest clients when he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

On his ride to the hospital, Grant called his orthopedist and asked for Demerol, an opioid pain medication.

“I was just in pain and I needed it,” Grant said.
For the next 10 years, Grant swallowed the addictive medication nearly every day, picking up a new bottle of Demerol multiple times a week from a doctor friend who he said he lied to and manipulated to get the drug.

At work, he said, Demerol-induced boldness made his law
firm, Jeffrey D. Grant and Associates, even more successful — until 2000, when the money started petering out, in part because of Grant’s drug-induced overspending, he said.
Faced with financial disaster, Grant gave orders to dip into the account reserved for funds received from and intended for clients.

“With two key strokes on the computer, it was done,” he said.“That was the day I made my deal with the devil and my life was over.”

Two years later, in the haze of an Oxycontin high, Grant said he decided to embellish an application for a $240,000 Sept. 11 disaster-relief loan from the Small Business Administration. Grant lied on the application, stating that he had an office in Manhattan, and used the funds on personal spending.

That July, when it became clear he was going to lose his law license for ethical violations, he resigned the license and swallowed an entire 40-tab bottle of Demerol in a suicide attempt.

“I had no way of knowing that that was going to be the start of my new life, that moment,” he said. “There was no going back.”

After a seven-week stay at a New Canaan addiction facility and two-years of intensive drug recovery programs, with his house in foreclosure and his wife on the verge of leaving him, Grant said, he felt like he was finding himself.

“Finally (in drug recovery), there were people who were not judging me and willing to accept me with all my warts and my wrinkles and my flaws,” he said. “I just turned myself over to it.”

At 20 months sober, while walking on West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich, Grant got a call from the FBI. Because of his Sept. 11 loan, Grant was under arrest. He handed himself over to the U.S. Marshalls in Manhattan, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

On Easter Sunday 2006, he was checked into the low security Allenwood Federal Correctional Institute in Pennsylvania.

“There were parts of prison that were helpful. Whatever was chasing me most of all, whatever I was running away from, I felt safe in this kind of cocoon, this kind of community,” he said. “I learned a lot about other religions, suffering and depression and I just kind of found my calling.”

When he was released in June 2007, Grant reconnected with his drug recovery community. He volunteered at the New Canaan facility and later at Family Re-Entry in Bridgeport, a nonprofit with wrap-around services for individuals leaving the criminal justice system.
Grant was baptized a Christian, and in 2009 applied to the Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He graduated with a master’s in divinity and a focus in Christian social ethics in 2012. He started preaching at First Baptist Church in Bridgeport.

At the same time, Grant realized there was a need for spiritual guidance and practical advice for convicted white-collar criminals in Greenwich.

“In Greenwich (drug) recovery, anyone who was kind of going on their way to or from prison, everybody said, ‘Go see Prison Jeff. He knows about prison,’” said Grant. “I probably worked with 100 guys who were going to prison, coming from prison, dealing with incarceration issues and these were captains of industry! This is Greenwich! It was crazy — hedge-funders, bank presidents and they have problems just like other people.”

In 2012, Grant founded Progressive Prison Ministries in Greenwich — an organization that provides counseling and support for local white-collar criminals as they transition in and out of jail, which Grant says is the first of its kind in the United States.

“We were finding broken people and there was no compassion,” he said. “Their wives are sitting in these carcasses of houses and their husbands are in prison and they can’t afford to heat the house, they can’t afford to keep the lights on, they’re on social services, they’re on SNAP (food stamps)... It’s a personal family disaster and no one is really telling the story.”

Last year, Grant was appointed executive director of Family
ReEntry, after several years on the organizations board of directors.

“The reason I’m doing it is because I get to be proof that people can come back from prison,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous experience.”

emunson@greenwichtime.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

Reprinted from CT Post, June 29, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Do No Harm: How Can the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community and State Government Work Together to Get Through the Fiscal Crisis? An Open Letter





First Do No Harm: How Can the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community and State Government Work Together to Get Through the Fiscal Crisis?
An Open Letter
An Open Letter to Governor Malloy, State of Connecticut Legislators, and Members of the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community:

The Hippocratic Oath compels those in the medical profession to make certain that they first do no harm. A just and ethical principle to which all professionals should pay heed. History, as well as Connecticut’s recent experience, shows that rescissions to cost effective programs has far reaching detrimental collateral and economic implications. Once cut, restoration simply does not happen. These vital and proven programs will likely vanish.

It costs about $34,687 per year to incarcerate an individual versus less than $5,000 per year to provide services to that same individual in the community.  Too often, economic downturns compel funding cuts to social services, cuts that are both inhumane and end up driving up costs to our state in the long run. Many services have already been reduced to the bare bones over the past several years as a result of the last recession. The current series of proposed cuts to community-based prevention, intervention, diversion and reentry criminal justice programs – as well as to including and mental health and addiction services – will lead to more people unduly suffering, costing the state (and the taxpayers) significantly more money in the end than it would to help provide for their basic needs.

People returning from prison are among society’s most vulnerable – as are their families.  After having served their sentence they are now trying to rebuild their lives with the stigma of a felony conviction that functions as a scarlet letter. Many of these individuals live in the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in our state, with limited opportunities – which is in part why they became susceptible to crime in the first place. Many or most also suffer from mental health issues and addiction problems.

Without public policies that promote social cohesion and well-being for individuals who have been in prison, research shows that they will soon return to the criminal behavior that landed them in prison in the first place.

Nonprofits already do the job with very little funding and resources.
Research, for which Connecticut has been at the forefront, categorically demonstrates that good community criminal justice programs (crime prevention, reentry, mental health, substance abuse treatment, diversion programs) reduce recidivism and incarceration rates thereby saving the state (and taxpayers) money (Fagan & Buchanan, 2016); a lot of money in both the short and long term. These programs have a positive return on our investment by eliminating the costs of returning these individuals back to prison or the court system, and helping individuals become productive, tax-paying citizens. Long-term benefit-cost ratios for some community reentry programs in CT are as high as $405.23 for every dollar invested (see “Results First Benefit-Cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Programs”).

Connecticut can be the nation’s leader in criminal justice reform. 
We propose that that the state and the nonprofit sector jointly adopt a motto of “First Do No Harm.” While we recognize the challenges and competing priorities within social service programs, let’s not rush to reduce spending on or cut critical interventions that have been built over thirty years of thoughtful planning supported by research and measurable outcomes. Instead, let’s create a re-envisioned public-private-nonprofit partnership that is committed to enlightened policy decisions in our state by investing today in programs that work to help reduce recidivism and provide health coverage and addiction services to those in need, so as to help ensure our future prosperity as a state and a country.

We urge the legislature’s passing of the mini-budget this Thursday as an important next step!


We at Family ReEntry welcome all thoughts and comments. My contact information is below.

Respectfully and gratefully submitted,

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director

Family ReEntry, Inc.
75 Washington Street
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604
(office) 203-290-0855
(mobile) 203-957-0162
jeffgrant@familyreentry.org
familyreentry.org

Citations:
Clark, A., Janicki, M. M., & Noonan, J. (2016). Connecticut Results First Benefit-cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-based Programs, Pursuant to Public Act 15-5, June Special Session, Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 4-68r and-68s. Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, Central Connecticut State University.

Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Fagan, A. A., & Buchanan, M. (2016). What Works in Crime Prevention?. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(3), 617-649.

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 on Facebook and Twitter. All proceeds go to supporting these valuable programs.
Family ReEntry, Inc.  |  jeffgrant@familyreentry.org  |   501(c)3 Organization  |  203-290-0865

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