Jim McGreevey hit the talk show circuit last week to promote the HBO special, “Fall To Grace.” Since resigning as governor of New Jersey in 2004, Mr. McGreevey has spent a great deal of time working with inmates at the Hudson County Correctional Center and, more recently, at the Integrity House drug treatment centers in Newark and Secaucus. The documentary, shot under the direction of Alexandra Pelosi, explores his post political journey.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time working with inmates as well. A program I developed, “A Deeper Groove,” uses music to bridge the gap that separates inmates-often poor and with little formal education-from the world that exists beyond the mean streets where many of them were raised. We search for themes that bind together the work of artists who at first glance seem to have little in common. Beethoven to Beyonce, Stravinsky to Shakur; the emotions these folks explore vary little once you dig beneath the veneer. If an inmate yields to the unbridled enthusiasm that defines the first movement of Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony” his life may change. A cultural traveler, he might be ready to move outside his community, to look for a good job, perhaps, wherever it may be.
Gratifying though it is, the work is lonely. I go into a halfway house, spend some time with the inmates, and leave. I’ve tried reaching out to people, including some high profile television commentators who wax on and on about the need for ordinary citizens to get involved with the process of change. However, the package of materials I send out, which includes a course syllabus, has met with little response.
Until today. I called the Hudson County Correctional Center yesterday and asked if I could e-mail a package to the institution to be forwarded to Governor McGreevey and got a positive response. I fired up the computer this morning and the following communication was waiting for me:
Thank you for reaching out. May we meet in Newark on a convenient day?
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