Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project
at The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604
The first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office
to cover all of Fairfield County, Connecticut
Jack’s Pardons Story:
Why a Pardon Is Something All Ex-Offenders
Should Aspire To
Many of our friends and colleagues in the Connecticut reentry, recovery and faith communities know that we at The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport are in the process of opening the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project – which is the first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office to cover all of Fairfield County, Connecticut. This is the story of how this important project came about.
I have a friend for over a decade now named Jack, who just might be the most inspiring person I have ever met. It’s not because Jack has moved mountains or shouted from so many rooftops – it’s because Jack taught me about living in gratitude, suiting up and showing up, and remembering my beginnings so I can be of service to others. It’s a good list to remember every morning.
Unlike so many other kids from the poor side of the tracks in Connecticut urban public high schools, Jack had a warm, loving childhood. There was no way he could have known that giving up an education for the streets was a one way ticket to poverty and jail. But that’s what happened. No matter how hard Jack tried, he just kept drinking and getting arrested.
Nonetheless, Jack was determined to get sober and make a life for himself. He got some technical training, got a job as an auto mechanic and swore to get sober. He went into recovery, and got some clean time and fought his way to better jobs with more responsibility – things were going great. But by age thirty-four, Jack was living in a box under a railroad bridge in Stamford. Living hand to mouth – trying to survive – Jack picked up six felonies in under four years. He was now marked in a way that would affect his life, his career and his relationships forever.
A couple of years ago, Jack asked me to come see him in his office – despite his felonies he had done incredible things with his life. He was by that point over ten years clean and sober; had married a kind, beautiful, sober woman and was the father of five children – in fact, he had adopted his wife’s two disabled children; he had risen to become the general manager of one of the most respected car dealerships in Fairfield County; and was devoting the rest of his time helping young men straighten themselves out. This was an incredible turnaround story!
But Jack had a problem he needed to talk to me about – the factory told him that unless he got his felony removed that he would lose his job. Jack told me that he had twice submitted his papers to the State of Connecticut Board Pardons Board – and neither time had the Pardons Board accepted his papers for hearing. Jack was feeling dejected and desperate – and needed help badly.
I asked Jack if I could see his file and maybe write a letter on his behalf? I really had no idea what I was talking about. But I did have some experience by that point as a Director at Family Reentry and Fresh Start Enterprises in Bridgeport working with ex-offenders, so I figured I could look up the rules on the Internet and be helpful. As it turned out, what Jack really needed was someone to shepherd him through the process. He had done most of the work already – he’s the one who had turned his life around – he just needed a little help in telling his story correctly.
Four months later, Jack received his full pardon and kept his job. Jack now appears with me at outreach and other groups, raising awareness and funding for the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project.
The Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project is a very big deal for us – and for the Fairfield County, reentry and recovery communities – because it marks real on-the-ground change borrowed from enlightened criminal justice theory first discussed at the Department of Corrections under the leadership of then Commissioner of Corrections Theresa Lantz, and by Erika Tindill, who currently serves our state as Chair of the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Why not give each and every ex-offender and his/her family something to aspire to? Why not create a culture of public service, volunteerism, goodness, dedication, forgiveness, grace, discipline, faith, and family – the kind of things an ex-offender needs to obtain a Pardon? Why not instill in each and every family the hope and belief that there might be a day that their nightmare will end – that it will end through their own hope and works, and the enlightenment of the good people of this state?
After all, in a hospital doesn’t a “discharge plan” start on the first day a patient is admitted?
Of course, not every ex-offender and family that applies for a Pardon will be granted one. But great things can and will happen for all who start the process. So why not start as soon as possible?
The point is that more ex-offenders who are granted pardons, the more life will change for the better for all ex-offenders and their families. Now that’s something to aspire to.
Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project. We are in the process of opening the first regularly staffed drop-in pardons assistance office to cover all of Fairfield County (bpapct.org). All volunteers and staff are trained at the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons & Paroles, and have experience in pardons assistance. Our goal is to work with all local pardons assistance initiatives throughout the state and country to create better results for all.
For Information Please Contact: Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Assoc. Minister/Director of Prison Ministries, 126 Washington Ave, Bridgeport, CT, 06830, bpapct.org.
 Name has been changed to protect anonymity.