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Soon-to-be prisoners can get advice from coach with prison experience

Posted at 12:12 PM, May 07, 2019

Justin Paperny has a unique career — he has met a lot of defendants busted for white collar crimes.

Soon-to-be prisoners from all over the country pay him thousands to help get prepared for life behind bars. He bases his advice on his own 18-month sentence in federal prison for bank fraud.

"I made a lot of bad decisions, including lying to the FBI; I lied to my family," Paperny said.

He teaches criminals the ropes of prison life, from how to get the best job to living "under the radar".

Paperny says white-collar federal prisoners like the former fixer for Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, often end up in what's called a federal prison work camp — there's no forced labor. Instead, it's relaxed minimum security.

Inmates aren't locked in cells but live in large rooms that have a dorm-room feel. Often there's no barbed-wire fences like seen at other prisons.

Inmates could walk away at many facilities if they chose to do that. But the rules inside are very different than in the outside world.

"Something happens in our community ... you may go to your police officer and say, 'mister police officer, something happened.' I'm a big proponent of prisoners not associating with staff any more than they absolutely need to," he said.

"Why? Something happened. You go complain to a guard. Twenty minutes later, that guard is searching someone's locker and another prisoner may say, "Wasn't that the new prisoner talking to that guard?"

Paperny says white collar prisons usually aren't violent. The inmates are there for only a few years usually or are at the end of a long sentence and usually don't want to get involved in a fight that will ultimately add more time to their sentence.

Paperny believes even well-known people such as Cohen can survive prison life. Cohen's three-year sentence could really be closer to two and a half years … since federal inmates must serve a minimum of 85 percent of their time and are sometimes then eligible for release.