White Collar Support Group 300th Meeting Reflection – Keith Orlean, NY
Keith Orlean is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. We will celebrate our 300th meeting on March 14, 2022, 7 pm ET, 4 pm PT.
As I write this, I am on home confinement with an ankle bracelet, having had the good fortune of being released 12 months earlier than I anticipated, thanks to the Cares Act. As our group heads towards its 300th meeting I can’t help but think about the earliest part of my journey. Looking back at that time, my life was already a bit out of control as my company was preparing to go public and I was sinking financially. That plan ended on May 3rd, 2018, with the 6:00am wake up call from 8 federal agents banging on my front door. Frankly, I prefer an alarm clock. To say I was in shock would be an understatement. For many in our group my story is not unfamiliar. I’ve compared this experience to a car wreck where the driver gets badly injured, and the rest of the passengers (family) are also physically and emotionally traumatized.
How does one navigate life when the s**t hits the fan? There is no map for this type of journey. Sure, there are many books that have been written, and what seems like a never-ending line of prison consultants ready to pounce with false promises of keeping you out of prison or getting you early release. I spent the first 8 months after my arrest depleting my bank account from paying legal fees and trying to make sense of how I found myself in such a horrible position.
Therapy and a 12-step program helped but it wasn’t till I found myself in a dark place that I sought the help of others that were going through or had been through the criminal justice system. I googled white-collar support groups and the first choice and what I believe was the only one was Progressive Prison Ministries. I immediately filled out the contact form requesting info and quickly received a reply from the founder Jeff Grant. Jeff’s ability to communicate his personal experience and show compassion was immediately evident and he invited me to my first meeting that coming week. The group was smaller than it is today but nevertheless I was immediately made comfortable as Jeff has a process that welcomes all new members by having others who have been in the group for a while share their stories. He then allowed me to share my story if in fact I wanted to. As most of the group now knows, I rarely miss an opportunity to speak. LOL
Since that first meeting and prior to reporting in January 2021 I attended over 120 consecutive meetings sharing my story and trying to be a source of inspiration for others, as others had been for myself. My regular participation thoroughly prepared me for what to expect while I was incarcerated. Having access to so many who have been through the”system” made it so much easier to deal with the earliest stages of being away. Would I have survived without this help? The answer is yes but why would anyone want to? When I returned home in early November of 2021, I knew there were people outside my immediate family that would welcome me back with open arms. Knowing that, I picked up where I left off attending our Monday night support group meetings.
For myself my journey through the criminal justice system will not end till I finish home confinement and then supervised release which is still 3+ years away. What many come to realize is that life after prison has its own challenges and part of what continues to help me through this time is my weekly meetings with our group and the opportunity to help others as they begin their own journeys. Since my first meeting we have grown considerably, and I believe that due to our success providing a proven path to a brighter future, we will continue to grow. I want to congratulate Jeff and all the other travelers who are part of our unique community as we celebrate meeting # 300. – Keith Orlean, NY