Reprinted from The Weston Forum,
May 12, 2016
Spirituality wasn’t always a word in Jeff Grant’s lexicon, but after a near 14-month stint in prison for committing a white-collar crime, Grant isn’t just practicing spirituality, he’s preaching it.
In 2012, Grant and his wife, Lynn Springer, co-founded an outreach ministry called Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project.
The ministry helps people suffering from white-collar crimes connect with their spirituality. White-collar crime is defined as “financially motivated and nonviolent crime” committed by business and government professionals.
Calling their ministry “safe and secure,” Grant and Springer discuss matters of shame, ostracism, grief and remorse with individuals and families affected by white-collar crime.
Grant, a Weston resident, has developed relationships with white-collar criminals from across the country and uses phone, email and Skype to connect with them on a regular basis.
Through what they refer to as “pastoral care,” the couple uses their experiences to guide individuals and families through the time surrounding the criminal’s prison sentence.
“When someone is convicted of a white-collar crime there is a stigma to that,” Grant said. “There is a shame and they don’t know where to turn. They are often shunned from their community.”
While Grant counsels the individuals who commit the crimes, Springer turns much of her attention to their families. Their services are entirely confidential, which means that lawyers often allow Grant and Springer to continue their relationship with clients during trials.
“What we’re doing is the first step in the formation of a new community of people looking for acceptance and redemption,” said Grant of the Prison Progressive Project. “These people are willing to adopt a spiritual solution.” Grant’s relationship with clients doesn’t end at sentencing.
He also communicates with them while they’re incarcerated. Now that his service is in its fourth year and his clients are beginning to see the end of their sentences, he’s starting to help guide them with their post-prison life. While a client is in prison, Springer communicates and counsels family members who are suffering from shame from their community during that time period.
Prior to his turn to spirituality, Grant was convicted of fraud, a common white-collar crime.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Grant, a successful corporate and real estate attorney, applied for a low-interest Small Business Administration loan for $247,000, claiming he had suffered economic hardships from the attack at an office near Ground Zero. However, he didn’t actually have an office there.
Grant said he was in the midst of a 10-year addiction to painkillers that impaired his judgment and rationality at the time.
In 2002, shortly after the Sept. 11 loan scam, Grant called his ethics attorney and relinquished his law license.
That night, he attempted suicide by taking an entire bottle of painkillers.
After his suicide attempt, Grant spent months in a rehab hospital in New Canaan. He has been sober since his stint at the hospital.
In 2004, after two years of sobriety, Grant received a call informing him there was a warrant for his arrest in connection with the fraudulent 9/11 loan.
Grant fully repaid the loan plus penalties, and in 2006 was sentenced to 18 months at the Allenwood Low Security Prison in White Deer, Pa.
Grant said he survived prison due to a new dedication to mind, body and spirit.
“In my 13 and a half months at prison, I walked 14,000 laps at the track,” he said, explaining that was 3,500 miles, or the distance from New York to Los Angeles. This resulted in him losing more than 40 pounds that he had put on in the months when he was waiting to go to prison.
During his stint behind bars, Grant’s devotion to spirituality began when he started actively attending church services.
“Everyone goes through some form of transformation in prison,” he said. “I became open to all forms of religion; Christianity, Islam, Judaism. I became interested in the ways of these faiths,” he said.
After his release from prison, Grant received a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
After he completed the program in 2012, Grant quickly was given a job as a practicing minister at the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport and soon after was named associate pastor and director of prison ministry at the church.
Grant was living in Greenwich at the time, and working in Bridgeport he noticed the monumental financial divide of rich and poor in each community.
However, Grant said, financial wealth and spiritual wealth flipped once a member of each community was incarcerated.
“Once someone was convicted of a crime, there was a new definition of rich and poor in each city,” said Grant. “Families in the inner cities rallied around the oppressed, while families in Greenwich would push them away.”
Prison Progressive Project
In May 2012, Grant established the outreach ministry Prison Progressive Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project, and began working toward establishing spirituality within white-collar criminals.
As far as Grant knows, his ministry is the first of its kind.
“I found my calling which was based in my own experiences,” said Grant. “The need for this work was there. Many affluent areas deny the existence of crime. They deny the existence of substance abuse,” he said.
Grant looks back on the pressures of his job as an attorney and understands why many white-collar criminals turn to substance abuse and crime.
“There were a lot of long hours, long nights and stress,” he said.
Before his incarceration, Grant said, he was very “materialistic” and more focused on his BMWs and vacations than his spirituality. But he is grateful that his life has turned in the direction it has.
“We have worked with wellknown people, with lawyers and doctors,” said Grant. “We’ve worked with people who have exercised poor judgment, or have substance abuse issues. We’ve worked with people who don’t have the resources to bounce back.”
Grant and Springer don’t charge for their services, but they accept donations. Grant said donors are often affluent individuals, faith-based institutions or merely “compassionate people” who want to make a difference.
Approximately 80% of their clientele finds them, and family members will often reach out to them before the criminal does.
One of the primary goals of the ministry is to educate the public on the shame that white-collar criminals feel, and Grant will do that through guest preaching at churches around the area.
Grant and Springer often attend Norfield Congregational Church on Norfield Road, and Grant has spoken about his work in sermons there.
“We talk about why we are a unique ministry and how others can relate to these experiences,” he said, adding that he also speaks about his ministry at organizations, conferences and clubs.
Ultimately, Grant hopes to give white-collar criminals and their families the spirituality they need to ensure they aren’t going through challenging times alone.
“We really try to bring faith, dignity and respect to all of those who are suffering,” he said.