Progressive Prison Project
Not long ago I met with a hedge fund manager who had already been sentenced to five years in prison – he had been designated to report to a Federal prison in five weeks. Although his case was highly publicized, he preferred to meet in a diner – I have found that many people feel more comfortable having a first meeting in this kind of neutral setting. After our initial introductions, he told me that he had an “army of professionals” and had “everything covered.” As the conversation unfolded it became clear that although the lawyering and many of the other professional pieces had been handled well, nobody had ever discussed with him –or his wife – how to survive the prison experience and then put their lives back together on the other side.
I asked him, for example, if he understood that once he surrendered he would be a prisoner of the Federal Bureau of Prisons – and that it was possible that he would be placed into the Segregated Housing Unit (solitary) for days or weeks before he was put on the compound? Did his wife know how to track his movements if he was transferred to another prison? Did anybody prepare his wife for her first visit to the prison visiting room, so that she wasn’t sent home due to wearing the wrong clothing? Or because of incidental drug residue on her clothes or money she might bring in to buy him food in the vending machines?
He looked dumbfounded – and a little embarrassed. He was reporting to prison in five weeks and nobody had ever discussed with him and his family anything that they would need to survive the ordeal ahead.
I told him that there was no reason to be embarrassed – that for families of his economic circumstances this was a common paradigm. This is perhaps the most difficult situation to ever happen in a family’s life- who could blame them for not knowing the right questions to ask or in not understanding how to find experienced, compassionate support with the kind of background that they really need?
I suggested that he start taking notes.
We called the waiter over and asked for a stack of place mats and a pen. We talked for the next four hours.
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Associate Minister/Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport Connecticut
Experienced and Compassionate support of families affected by incarceration issues
on all ends of the social and economic spectrum.