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WESTON – Rev. Jeff Grant and his wife, Lynn Springer, held a seminar to provide support and counseling to individuals and families with white-collar and nonviolent incarceration issues at Norfield Congregational Church, held by the Weston Kiwanis Club on Saturday morning.
After serving 14 months in a federal prison, Grant gives spiritual and practical advice to those in need based on his own experiences.
“Our job is to try and reach people who are suffering in silence,” said Grant, minister and director of the Progressive Prison Project. “I provide one-on-one pastoral counseling for the men (who are serving their sentences) and my wife Lynn supports the families going through these tough times.”
Grant and Springer are an outreach ministry who work with Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, the Christ Church in Greenwich and the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport.
“We try to change the mindset of these families,” said Springer, founding advocate for the Innocent Spouse & Children Project. “These people come from very privileged lives. We try to get these families to find gratitude in their situations, and we work on that a lot.”
Springer also helps the families with practical information because once the men are sentenced, the families are (usually) left without the breadwinner. She instructs them on using food banks and other services.
“We help people all over the country. If they are close by, we invite them to our house,” said Springer. “We are like one family. One Christmas, we had a family over and we helped them make Christmas presents for their kids … We try to shift them into a loving life in a different way, where they are grateful for a new day — which can be quite a contrast since there’s no more jetting off to the Bahamas or St. Barts.”
Grant has been a guest preacher at the Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport and the Emmanuel Episcopal in Weston.
“Part of my one-on-one pastoral counseling involves prison readiness,” said Grant. “Not only do I do the spiritual side, but I also counsel them on the pragmatic side: how to navigate the system and try to help them get a career afterwards. I also help teach them how to handle themselves (in prison) — what to talk about and what not to talk about.”
Grant and Springer emphasize that they try to teach these people that they need to treat these experiences as transformative and periods of growth, instead of punishments.
“We want these people to build their own rehabilitation program,” said Springer. “
Grant was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison for making false statements on the SBA 9/11 loan application — low-interest loans for businesses that had been adversely affected by the terrorist attack. Grant was a corporate and real estate lawyer for a firm located in Mamaroneck, N.Y. He applied for the loan because of the shame and guilt he felt towards his struggling business, as well as his escalating addiction to painkillers. On Easter Sunday of 2006, he reported to Allenwood Low Security Corrections Institution in White Deer, Penn.
“I got a reduced sentence for my service work,” said Grant. “I made full restitution of the money that was loaned.”
Grant turned to the ministry when he was released from prison, after a recommendation from Rev. Chris Tate at the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich.
“There is a lot of suffering for these fathers and families, and they could be living right down the street and you’d never know,” said Grant. “We try to show passion and empathy to their struggle and help them through it.”
The Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project is the first ministry in the U.S. created to provide confidential support and counseling for white-collar and other non-violent incarceration issues.
For more information about Grant and Springer or for people going through a similar situation, visit their website for Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse & Children Project at prisonist.org or call them at (203) 769-1096.
We are grateful for all donations to our Ministries that enable us to grow, reach out and serve this community for which there is far too little understanding, compassion and empathy. Donations can be made by credit card/PayPal here, at the “Donate” button on on our site, prisonist.org, or by sending your check payable to: “Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc.” P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883.
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