By Walt Pavlo, Reprinted from Forbes.com, April 16, 2019
White collar defendants (felons) face a number of obstacles. Many face their past demons and attempt to make amends with victims, family and friends. It is a difficult road and one where there are few supporters. It is a lonely journey discovering how to make people trust again, how to find purpose and how to find forgiveness.
Jeff Grant is celebrating a milestone for providing a support group for white collar defendants … its 150th support group meeting. His life was changed by prison. After an addiction to prescription opioids and serving almost fourteen months in Federal prison for a white-collar crime years, Grant, by then a disbarred attorney, chose a new path. He earned Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, with a focus in Christian Social Ethics and has since co-founded Progressive Prison Ministries.
Progressive Prison Ministries in Greenwich, Connecticut offer an online white-collar/nonviolent support group. They hold their meetings on Monday evenings, 7:00pm to 8:15 pm Eastern and white collar defendants talk about life, forgiveness, coping with the consequences and moving beyond the experience. The program is unique because it proclaims to be the first confidential white-collar/ nonviolent online support group of its kind. As this support group is run by ordained clergy, Grant said that he expects law enforcement will honor what he believes falls under clergy privilege laws. Such privileges vary by state. Florida’s 2018 statute 90.505 “Privilege with respect to communications to clergy” states that:
A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication by the person to a member of the clergy in his or her capacity as spiritual adviser
Grant told me, “We are extremely proud and grateful to reach this milestone for the group. When we started the group nearly three years ago, we had a dream that people with white collar issues living in shame, guilt, fear and isolation could form a supportive community that would embrace compassion, empathy and kindness for each other.” Through taking his message online, he has expanded reach to states across the country. “People are living with issues in isolation and that benefits nobody,” Grant said.
White collar cases are often complex and the motivations different. One can imagine the cases involving the college entry scandal (known as “Operation Varsity Blues”) is exposing a number of people to an unfamiliar and punitive federal justice system. While those involved (alleged to be involved) in drug cases and other crimes have known the effects of this justice system for years, many white collar defendants are overwhelmed by the consequences.
About Walt Pavlo:
Walt is a recognized expert on federal white-collar criminal matters and consults with defendants and attorneys on case strategy, You can reach him at waltpavlo@500PearlStreet.com.