Chicago Tribune | 2009

Published March 1, 2009 by Mike Anton

Go-to guys if you’re going up the river

Larry Levine is hard at work in a sketchy apartment complex here. He paces his cramped one-bedroom where stacks of law books purchased on eBay crowd the floor. On the cell phone: a potential client. White-collar criminals have long employed prison-life coaches to prep them on what to expect when they trade in designer clothes for institutional khaki. Past students include Martha Stewart.

Now consultants, like Levine, are using the Web to democratize this rarefied service. Among these self-styled gurus are former prison staffers, disbarred lawyers and self-trained former jailhouse lawyers, like Levine. “We like to use the phrase ‘jailhouse litigator,'” says Levine, 47. “‘Jailhouse lawyer’ sounds cheap.” Such consultants will explain the maze of regulations that govern every minute behind bars. They’ll show clients how to obtain a good prison job.

Most important, they give newbies a crash course on the do’s and don’ts of a place where the wrong move could be their last. Previously Levine was an unlicensed private investigator. “That’s when I got into trouble,” he says. He founded American Prison Consultants in 2006 after he did his time and was placed on supervisory release. “Why trust your future with amateurs?” he asks.