A Group Project
By Rev. Jeff Grant
I will be guest preaching at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport on Sun, Aug 24th, 10 am. My intended sermon topic is: Issues of Incarceration and Depression – I invite any contributions, experience or thoughts you might have regarding this matter. I am looking for contributions from persons who are preparing to go to prison, who have been to prison, family members, friends and loved ones, advocates, professionals and clergy, and anyone else who touched by this issue (and/or by the scripture selections: Exodus 1:8-2:10, Romans 12:1-8, & Matthew 16:13-20). Thank you.
Please send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate whether would you like to be quoted or quoted anonymously (or feel free to enter your contributions as an online comment below). I will try to use all contributions in either the sermon and/or this companion piece; they are to be published on our blogsite, prisonist.org, and may be republished elsewhere.
Thank you for your kind support and important contributions.
Depression has to be my biggest demon throughout all this. The past few weeks I have struggled to talk myself away from my darkest thoughts. Ron keeps telling me he is okay as long as the kids and I are too. I have been trying to hide how I really feel from him. Like me. Ron has good days and bad days. When I can’t hide it from him he gets emotional. He says it is killing him to be away from the kids and I. Knowing that each day he is closer helps.
We did everything together.
Our life revolves around our kids and their sports. Ron took care of everything after my son was born 13 years ago. I herniated a disc in my back and Ron started doing everything and never stopped. Somewhere throughout all this legal mess he began sheltering me. He says protecting me from what he thought I couldn’t handle. I lost my identity. Now everything now falls on me. I struggle. He know what I am facing because he faced it everyday. This is what makes Ron depressed most. He took care of everything and now he can’t. He feels helpless. He knows I am struggling. Day by day, one thing at a time, he says. Easier said than done.
We do try to look at the good that has come out of all this. He realizes now he did me a disservice by not letting me in. I realize how much he had on his shoulders all alone. We look forward to tackling things together from now on. I learned how to forgive him. With all my anger gone I realize how much I love and want him in my life. We both realize this saved our marriage and our family & so much more. Now we just need to get through to the end….that I right now can’t see.
If I can get through my darkest days we will survive this. It takes every once somedays. Peace.
Hi Jeff, I hope this will be helpful in helping others. You may quote me. In war time one method of breaking a prisoner was deprivation and disorientation of the senses. They would put a person in a room with no windows so they could not tell what time it was. They were completely alone. No stimulation of any kind including sound was allowed. Eventually the mind unable to combat, gives up and breaks down. Am I describing another kind of war?. A war on crime, where people’s everyday lives are hidden from them by isolation. Think of being thirsty and being in a boat alone in the middle of the ocean and unable to drink the water. Normal time is eliminated as jail routines take over your life. You are alone, together. Many prisoners are depressed (you should see the long lines of people getting their “ meds”). A method that I used to keep mentally healthy was to ask everyone writing me to tell me about the mundane, everyday silly things they were doing. Who got engaged, what parties they went to, who got promoted, fired, what siblings were fighting, fighting over what? The trick is to stay mentally connected. Keep your senses stimulated. Keep busy doing things ,exercise, read, find people with common interests and never forget to help others. I was there, I am now here and that is how you survive to come out mentally healthy.
We each visited 4 inmates once a month, visiting each inmate for about 45 minutes. The only agenda was to be present for a lonely, mostly depressed person in whatever conversational direction she wanted to go, without judgment. It is a ministry of PRESENCE.
Some inmates are encouraged to tell PVS what the visits meant to them. A woman Becky visited told PVS that she came to prison feeling like a piece of crap; but the fact that this complete stranger visited her regularly every month with great wisdom brought her to realize her life is important. She is out now and has written again about how she is confidently rebuilding her life. One of my inmates, still incarcerated, also wrote a testimonial letter to PVS. The inmate does the work to rebuild self esteem, without which rebirth is extremely difficult.
Many we visited are mentally challenged. In these cases I felt our visits were comforting companionship.
I have also been a volunteer mentor at Manson Youth Correctional Institute, on behalf of Family ReEntry. This was better than a decade ago, in the early days of the program. I was the first recipient of the The Elizabeth Bush Leadership Award for this work, and perhaps, unmentioned, for the care I gave my late wife who succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease. Hope this helps. See you Tuesday.
I think this will be a most powerful sermon, I wish you well. I know I could speak forever and a day on what prison has done to not only my husband but our entire family. Tom has fallen into a shadow of the man he was. The once man of the room, now sits in a plastic chair 12 hrs a day and reads and does his coursework, wishing death to take him.
My children all have suffered from depression from the loss of their dad, their home, their school, their friends, and their belongings. My oldest has had to seek counseling for suicidal thoughts. My 11 year old has wetted the bed everyday since he has left. My 9 year old has attention and bullying issues. My 7 year old cant sleep in his bed without the light on. The baby asks every day when is dad coming home. His parents are fighting as well. His dad has fallen into despair. I haven’t slept in almost 3 years and have almost doubled my weight.
I really think the judges of these cases need to look at the whole picture, not just the crime…but what 12 years of tearing a family apart will do…not just short term but the long term as well. Sorry for my rambling on. Thank you for your time.
As a Christian, it’s okay to be sad or upset at circumstances on earth. However, our ultimate hope isn’t in the things of this world or in a comfortable, easy life while here.
1 Peter 3:15 has been my mantra during this difficult time. If everything is going great and I’m nailing life, then why would anyone ask what my hope is found in? They would assume that if I’m having success by worldly standards that there’s no reason to even ask about my hope. When we experience a difficult situation and are able to cope with it, others will naturally ask how we are able to respond this way. This is when we can do as commanded in 1 Peter 3:15 — be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you for the reason of the hope that is in you. This is our opportunity to point to God and give Him glory, especially in our low points.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 has been another verse of mine that I reflect on daily. Even if everything is going to pot, we need to rejoice in God. He deserves our glory and our joy is found in Him no matter the circumstances.
2 Corinthians 12:9 — Jesus’ power is made perfect in our weakness. We allow God to do His work in us when we are at our lows in life and we realize that we are broken and need Him. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to realize there’s nowhere to look but up (to Him).
The whole book of Ecclesiastes is saying that this life on earth is vanity and chasing the wind. Even in the worst situation on earth, if we can keep an eternal mindset then we can get through the hard times. If you believe in the Lord, accept Christ as your Savior, understand that you will spend FOREVER with Him in Heaven at the end of this life, then it puts things into a perspective. It makes the hardships on earth not seem like such a big deal, because this life on earth is the period and our eternity is a line that extends forever
Romans 12:1-3 — the problem with being a living sacrifice is that you can crawl off the altar. Our submission and dedication to the Lord is a constant, daily decision. The Bible is filled with people who get into trouble (usually of their own doing) yet time and time again, God extends them love and mercy. We need to focus on this instead of dwelling on our failings. If people such as Paul, the writer of Romans, beat himself up over his past failings and wallowed in his mistakes, he would not have allowed the Lord to use him to be God’s instrument, spread the Word and be one of the greatest apostles.
Matthew 16 — I love this chapter. Jesus declares to Peter that He will build His church on him. He says this knowing full well that in the near future Peter would deny Him. If The Rock can make a HUGE mistake and sin, denying Jesus at the most crucial time and Jesus still declares that He will build His church on him, then we need to cast our shame aside for the wrong we’ve committed and realize that Jesus forgives if we come to Him in repentance.
I look forward to speaking with you again on Monday.
TRAIL WISDOM. I have to introduce you to what is known as a “false peak”. You see this outcropping up ahead of you on the trail which looks like your destination. When you get there, its not your final destination but a bump along the way, and there is more elevation to be gained. It can happen several times as you approach the true summit, each time you feel disappointment that you still have a long distance to go. The hiker becomes accustom to “false peaks”. It’s a way of life. The hiker knows that the journey is more important than instant gratification. He or she knows there will eventually be a true summit. Of course, the hiker knows that there will also be another mountain to climb and more “false peaks” along the way. Hikers are just gluttons for punishment. The hiker also knows that there is a time to stop and rest and recuperate, even though the goal has not yet been achieved. Keep hiking!
– Dick Sederquist, Dick is a hiker, depression survivor, and has a volunteer secular prison ministry. Dick can be reached at dicksederquist.com
Hi Jeff. I have attached an article I wrote which you may find helpful.
When I think of depression as it relates to incarceration, I have often thought of the work of Martin Seligman and his Learned Helplessness experiments. I believe that these apply not only to the helplessness that is pervasive in prison itself (prisons were designed to engender this feeling) but it is a major challenge in overcoming this feeling of helplessness upon release. This is further compounded by collateral consequences and family reintegration difficulties. From a spiritual perspective, placing one’s faith in Him as opposed to oneself is a clear way out of this helplessness.
I know that it simplistic but I hope there is something here that can help you. I’m sure your talk will be great.
Wish I had gotten more advance notice, I would have love to be in attendance. Bridgeport is where my youngest son lives and he is attempting to get into the prison system as we speak, literally! He is definitely fighting depression and without the proper intervention, is only a matter of time before he ends up in prison.
I’ve done enough time to compensate all that is required for the men in my family tree. When you have a moment, feel free to view my website, www.witoinc.org. It will convey God’s incredible transformation power and redemption in my life. He intervened and had 175 years of incarceration I was facing evaporate. I was also shot at by two NYC police officers 32 times, not one bullet hit me.
I’m still standing, Glory hallelujah to God!!!
On August 27th, I will be celebrating my 4th year home and he has blessed me abundantly. I’ve started 3 business including my last endeavor a non profit which has me going into the prison system to share all the gifts he has poured into my life. I share Godly principles, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to introduce the many possibilities when one is grounded in the Lord!
The non profit is the link I shared with you and tells my whole testimony. I would love to have some more conversation about Bridgeport, prison and how we can come together to eradicate the pervasive attack in our community.
God bless you my brother, may the Lord continue to use your gifts and illuminate the men about the Gospel and how it brings healing to the sick.
– Raul Baez.Baez Raul, Executive Director at WITO Inc.
A brief comment on ” Incarceration & Depression”
John 1( 12) To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become Sons ( Children ) of God. 13. who were born not of blood or the will of man, but of God.
Being Airs and Joint Airs with Christ, no longer a slave but a child Galatians 4( 7)
As an heir we obtain an inheritance with Christ, but many have yet to believe and accept their identity as a child of God with Rights, Authority, Privileges, and Power.
But sub-coming to the ways and cares of the world, being Depressed,Anxious, Fearful, Confused, Deceived into believing lies, having a chicken coop mentality living beneath the standard of life that is promised. But the goodness and great love of the Father sent instructions in Romans 12 ( 2 ) That we not to be conformed to ” this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so when Jesus told us in Matthew 5 ( 48 ) To be Perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect , starting us on a path and journey of a mind change to have a personal relationship with the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, being Light and his glory in this world 2 Corinthians 3…
– Bro. Michael Jones, peoplexcelnlove.weebly.com
Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
at Christ Church Greenwich 254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883
Central Ministry & Office: Weston, Connecticut
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
Lynn Springer, Advocate, Innocent Spouses & Children
George Bresnan, Advocate
Hello Rev. Jeff,
What a terrific way to help more people understand the incredible pain and harm caused through incarceration, to those incarcerated, and to those they leave behind! I'm so glad to hear you're incorporating this into a sermon. I am sending you (via email) a short excerpt from my book, Grace Goes to Prison, (Brethren Press, 2009) that you may use in your sermon or in any other way that may be useful – it shares a brief story from the experiences of a man named Jerry as he grappled with deep depression remembering his children while incarcerated. (Jerry is still in prison, and has now been incarcerated for over 28 years – my husband and I have been walking alongside him through his journey for about the past 7-8 years….)
Kudos to you for the important work you're doing. I also wanted to share with you a TEDx talk that I recently had the privilege of giving, that, in about 12 minutes, lays out a strong case for the need to invest in reentry programs and alternatives to incarceration.
I tried to structure the talk as a "criminal justice 101" for the masses of everyday folks who don't know much about the system and have a lot of misperceptions. I also tried to make it a talk that reentry coalitions, CJ reform advocates and others could use to help make the case with their constituents to invest in the important work they're doing.
I wanted to share it with you, in case it may be of use to you, your agency and your partners as you talk with your local community members, elected officials and others about YOUR programs and efforts.
Here's the link to the TEDx talk:
I hope this is useful in some way to your organization, and I wish for a wonderful outpouring of compassion and hopeful change as a result of your sermon. Feel free to share the TEDx talk via whatever avenues might help to garner support for the great things you're doing. Thanks for all your efforts to assist those reentering the community, and blessings to you in your work! And look for my email with the book excerpt from Grace Goes to Prison.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Melanie G. Snyder, OWDS, GCDF
Author, Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity
TEDx Speaker: #PrisonAsALastResort: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breaking-out-of-prison-thinking
Executive Director, Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO)