Finding Hope and Purpose after Incarceration - 10/30/19
From Christian Gagnier
Rev. Jeff Grant and Jacqueline Polverari, whose own experiences in federal prison inspired them to found societal re-entry services for other former inmates participated in a panel discussion about “Finding Hope and Purpose After Incarceration” at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at Western Connecticut State University. Dr. Gorge Kain, chair of the WCSU Division of Justice and Law Administration, moderated the discussion sponsored by the university’s Justice and Law Society.
Grant, a former practicing lawyer who served more than a year in federal prison for a white-collar crime committed after falling prey to opioid addiction, embarked on a new career as an ordained minister with completion of a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. With his wife Lynn Springer, he co-founded Progressive Prison Ministries of Greenwich in 2012, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing confidential pastoral support to individuals and families facing challenges ranging from inmate re-entry into society and substance use disorders to personal crisis management and mental health issues. He also has served as executive director of the Bridgeport-based criminal justice organization Family Re-entry Inc., as a minister at churches in Connecticut and New Jersey, and as a member of municipal and nonprofit organization boards dealing with criminal justice and post-incarceration re-entry issues.
Grant is the editor of the popular blog, prisonist.org, and co-host of the Criminal Justice Insider podcast airing from New Haven. His confidential weekly online “White Collar/Economy Exiled Support Group” has held more than 170 meetings and attracted more than 150 participants. “Sometimes referred to in the press as the ‘Minister to Hedge Funders,’” Grant’s priosonist.org biography said, “he regularly uses his experience and background to guide people faithfully forward in their lives, relationships, careers and business opportunities, and to help them from making the kinds of decisions that previously resulted in loss, suffering and shame.”
Polverari, a former title company owner who served seven months in the Danbury Federal Prison for Women during 2015 for conviction in a mortgage fraud case, has drawn from her own incarceration and re-entry experiences as motivation to research women who commit white-collar crime and correlations to underlying trauma and mental health issues. After working with several criminal justice organizations, she founded Branford-based Evolution Re-entry Services in 2018 with the goal of providing a comprehensive platform of integrated transition services for nonviolent women felons during and after their incarcerations. ERS has pursued collaborative partnerships with state and community service agencies to encourage networking and promote coordination of programs designed to support reintegration of former inmates into the community. Specific priorities include support in securing employment, housing, transportation, financial stability, proper nutrition and sound health.
In an interview with Forbes.com correspondent Walt Pavlo, Polverari said the organization’s objective is “to help women returning from prison put their broken lives back together.” She observed that the public has “little empathy or sympathy for this group of women, typically seeing them as privileged women who were greedy or taking advantage of others, but in reality that is rarely the case. Women are currently being incarcerated at a higher rate than ever before, yet there are few resources dedicated to guiding these women to a productive life beyond prison.”
Polverari, a graduate of Fordham University with a master’s degree in social work, has extensive mentoring and therapeutic experience and is currently pursuing a doctorate in social work with a concentration in criminal justice. She is a frequent speaker regionally and nationally on women’s incarceration and re-entry topics. Earlier this month, ERS hosted the nation’s first retreat for women convicted of white-collar crimes.