In 2004, New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey announced he was a gay American engaged in an extramarital affair and submitted his resignation. McGreevey’s governorship had been controversial, dogged by charges of political fundraising extortion. His appointment of Golan Cipel to the position of homeland security advisor was met with criticism that Cipel was unqualified for the position, especially as Cipel, not being an American citizen, could not receive Federal security approval. The announcement Cipel was the man with whom McGreevey had the affair only added to Jim’s political downfall.
Ten years later, Jim McGreevey has little in common with the man who left political life in disgrace. Today, he’s the driving force behind the Exodus Transitional Community, a volunteer program helping female prison inmates seek drug and alcohol rehab. His transformation from politician to rehabilitation advocate is the subject of Alexandra Pelosi’s Fall to Grace HBO documentary.
Rehabilitation or Imprisonment?
Jim’s work has had an amazing effect. By offering long term drug rehab to female inmates, the program reduces recidivism by more than half, and it is recognized by the Justice Department as one of the best re-entry programs in the nation. In addition to rehab therapy, the program offers transitional housing, job training, and other services to support a successful re-entry into society.
Such programs are important. Drug-related offenses account for approximately 51.5 percent of incarcerations, costing the nation $64,338 to house an inmate for 25 months. Drug courts and rehab programs such as Exodus Transitional Community help break the cycle of re-incarceration — at much lower cost. The typical drug court program costs $32,974 per person, half the amount required for a prison term.
Redemption through Service
Jim earnestly believes he’s been redeemed through his work, and he wants to give others the same opportunity. I’m sure some critics out there are unwilling to believe he’s changed and will hold his past against him no matter what he does. In the eyes of the women he helps, however, Jim is a life-changing force.
I can understand his motivation. I struggled for years with alcoholism, and the effect my drinking had on those around me. I went through rehab, undergoing the mental pain and self-examination necessary for healing. Rehab gave me my life back, and in turn, encouraged me to found Clarity Way. Like Jim, I want to offer others the second chance I received, whether they need alcoholism detox or long term drug rehab.
Redemption can be a powerful force for good. Just ask Jim McGreevey.
Photo: David Shankbone