Last Friday I wrote about people who got themselves arrested by boasting about their criminal exploits on Facebook. This week’s Finally Friday is for readers who want to combine their criminal justice know-how and social media expertise to set up new money-making businesses. The examples below might be commonplace to American readers, but they seem a little unusual this side of the Atlantic.

Firstly, how about a coaching service on how to survive in prison?

The “Go To Girl” for people going into custody

The conviction of Conrad Murray, the doctor who so tragically mismanaged Michael Jackson’s need for painkillers, provided a great advertising opportunity for American “prison consultants”. One of the best-known is Wendy Feldman (@incarcevention) who tweeted frequently during the Murray trial to promote her business. She urges prospective prisoners to:

Get an Incarcevention™ Today – Learn how to get real, get over it and get home!

Prison consultants pitch their services at the middle classes who have been arrested and are worried about getting a prison sentence:

Custodial Coaching aims to take the ‘fear and mystery’ out of going to prison by informing people about the criminal justice system and adding a range of tips and advice including surviving life inside. Topics include:

  • How to receive a sentence reduction?
  • Home confinement and how to qualify.
  • Accommodation and the “bottom bunk”.
  • What are the best jobs and how to get one?

Typically, prison consultants will offer to take care of your business affairs while you are serving your sentence.

It seems unlikely that the Legal Aid changes in this country (detailed coverage over at The Justice  Gap) will pay the fees for such a service for ordinary members of the public. The best alternative for prospective new Brits likely to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure is the new book from @FrankieOwensJnr which gives a frank account of life in a British prison. It’s not out quite yet, but the fact that it received a Platinum Award from @KoestlerTrust  means that it couldn’t come more highly recommended.

Of course, some people are sentenced to probation supervision instead of custody, but don’t worry – there’s a service for this too, all advertised on Facebook, obviously.

How to survive criminal probation

Tim Clay advertises the PDF version of his book ‘How to survive probation’ for free on his website and Facebook page, although you can also buy it in paperback from Amazon for £14.

If you get the book for free, he is good enough to send you a link to Six Questions you Must ask your probation officer.

And finally

Perhaps a more fundamental way in which the USA differs from the UK is that Americans are more willing to give their fellow citizens a second chance. Wendy Feldman trades on the fact that she served almost two years in Federal Prison and is therefore best placed to give real-life advice on how to survive inside. Tim Clay was a drug dealer, then qualified as a probation officer, then started selling drugs again and was sentenced to 8 years (8 months imprisonment, 7 years 4 month probation and 1600 hour of community service). He completed his sentence, wrote the book and now runs his own marketing company.

One of the biggest problems faced by organisations run by and for reformed offenders in the UK (such as UNLOCK and User Voice) is the mainstream British belief that leopards don’t change their spots, despite the fact that one in three adult men have a criminal conviction (not including motoring offences) by the time they are 30.


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