Progressive Prison Project 

Greenwich, Connecticut

Letter from Prison 2013: 

The Next Letter

Hello Jeff,

Life is going well.  I have been able to keep busy reading the books my family sent me.  With every day that passes I feel a sense of accomplishment because I’m one day closer to being released.  My health is good, I have plenty of food, and nobody has tried to start anything with me.  Your guidance has helped me keep the right attitude in jail.  Thank you for the time and advice that you have given me.  It has paid huge dividends.

My experience of prison life is similar to the scenario described during our sessions.  My observation skills are paramount.  I am better off observing my surroundings from my bed then I am engaging with other inmates.  I have learned how to be respectful and interact with inmates while revealing little about myself.  There is a high turnover of inmates in the block so new faces give me renewed anonymity.  I have also discovered the trouble makers find the trouble makers and the wallflowers are left alone because they don’t provide a high stimulus reaction that the trouble makers seek.

I met a person who could use your services in jail.  He is a loud mouth lawyer who thinks he has the system figured out.  He shows no restraint in letting the correction officers or the counselor know how he should be treated.  He aggressively questioned the counselor about his good-time in front of the entire block instead of being respectful and enquiring about his situation in her office.  She was not willing to go out of her way for him and rightfully so.  He embarrassed her in front of other inmates.

The lawyer has witnessed that karma is a bitch.  He wanted a lower bunk so he gave a significant amount of food to a drug dealer that was going to be released on Thursday.  After the dealer was released the lawyer went to tell the counselor the dealer gave him the lower bunk.  The counselor had to explain how she gives the bunk assignments, not the outgoing inmates.  The lawyer continues to make life tough for himself.  He never learned that you can’t trust anyone in jail and that all inmates, and some of the guards, are con-men.

You warned me about letting people know about my life on the outside.  I keep my name tag hidden whenever possible.  People refer to me with all kinds of names and rarely call me by my actual name.  I welcome the confusion because I do not want people heading to my door step after they get out of jail.  It did get difficult remembering all the different names people had for me.  I wear ear plugs because it is loud in the block.  The plugs are also a great excuse to not answer people when they call my same.  If people want something then they walk up to my bed, otherwise I’m left alone.

You warned me that it will be obvious to inmates that I’m well educated and have money.  I use both to my advantage. I pay to get my laundry done a few times per week, give some extra food to guys who have no money in commissary, and help people write letters to family members.  It is the right thing to do and people notice I help out others in need.  It has generated more respect for me.

I wish I could say all inmates are as blessed as me.  It is sad to experience others being shunned by their families.  Most of them have been to jail multiple times and their loved ones are trying to break the enabling process by ceasing contact.  Is there a problem with the rehabilitation system or are the people in the system not willing to accept responsibility for who they are?  I’ve been amazed with the majority of inmates who admit to having a substance problem but not willing to change.  It is hard for me to sympathize with them.

I am in a great place spiritually as my stay within the penitentiary system is coming to an end.   I am not as worried about finding employment once I am released.  I’ve been able to generate a few leads while corresponding with people on the outside.   

I hope life is treating you well.  See you soon, XXX

This is the second letter from prison from this friend.  It was completed and sent to me upon his release.  The first letter:

Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Minister, Activist,
Social Ethicist, Author

Director, Progressive Prison Project
Forensic Ministry
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887