Ex-con uses what he learned behind bars to launch consulting service for new inmates

·4 min read
Darin Edwards and Amy-Rae Goodman of St. Albert have started a consulting service for current and soon-to-be inmates.  (Adobe Stock - image credit)
Darin Edwards and Amy-Rae Goodman of St. Albert have started a consulting service for current and soon-to-be inmates. (Adobe Stock - image credit)

During the 23 years he spent behind bars, Darin Edwards witnessed multiple murders and assaults.

When he learned about the prison consulting industry in the U.S., he saw an opportunity to use his unique insight to create a career while helping those entering the system to stay safe.

A consultant is often someone who has served a prison sentence and is hired to brief convicted individuals on what to expect when entering and exiting the correctional system.

Edwards and business partner Amy-Rae Goodman co-founded DeadEyes.NoLies Inc. seven months ago. The business is based in St. Albert, Alta., a small city located on Edmonton's northeast edge.

Submitted by Amy-Rae Goodman
Submitted by Amy-Rae Goodman

The catalyst was in 2001 when Edwards, then aged 19, witnessed a prison riot at Drumheller Institution, 132 kilometres east of Calgary. That incident resulted in a friend being killed.

Of the violent incidents he saw during his time behind bars, Edwards noted: "It was just one thing that just cascaded down the line and ended up getting them killed."

Services offered

DeadEyes.NoLies offers a variety of services such as cleaning up their online image, learning to advocate for parole and reduced sentencing, and following their correctional plan.

For individuals returning to the community, the business helps connect them to community services, housing and job planning.

The business charges for its services on a case-by-case basis, which is based on services provided and an individual's ability to pay. There is paralegal on staff who can provide additional legal assistance.

While conducting research before starting DeadEyes.NoLies, Edwards only came across one other Canadian prison consulting business: Toronto's Canadian Prison Consulting Inc., which was founded in 2010 by Lee Steven Chapelle.

Chapelle, who spent more about 20 years bouncing in and out of institutions in Quebec and Ontario, said the idea came to him in 2007 when he was serving as chair of an inmate committee.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Chapelle said he often interacts with people who are entering the system for the first time.

"They wish they had that knowledge prior to when they were going through court," he said.

"There was a lot of buyer's regret ... and it really did indicate to me that there was a void between defence counsel, whose job is the best result in a courtroom ... and the correctional system."

In the past 12 years, Chapelle has developed connections within the legal world to bridge these gaps by offering consulting services that are focused on accountability.

He said he handles an average of 25 clients at any given time. Clients pay about $300 for his services.

"You need to understand and attain insight into what led you to that point, in order to move forward not only to do your time, but to get over and not go back."

Booming business in the U.S.

The United States, which consistently ranks as having the highest incarceration rate in the world, has a well-established prison consulting industry.

Consultants have been used by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Martha Stewart and even some individuals facing charges related to the Capitol riot in 2021.

The U.S. spends more than $80 billion each year to keep roughly 2.3 million people behind bars, according to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In comparison, Statistics Canada reported that 37,854 adult offenders were incarcerated in federal and provincial correctional institutions in 2018/2019.

whitecollaradvice.com
whitecollaradvice.com

Justin Paperny is co-founder of White Collar Advice, which is a U.S. crisis management and federal prison consulting firm.

Paperny, who served a 18-month sentence in federal prison when he was sentence in 2008, co-founded the firm formally in 2009 with his business partner Michael Santos, who had been in the prison system for 26 years.

"The United States continues to send a lot of people to prison, we're the world leader and white collar crime investigations have grown over the years," he said.

"People are finding more ways to prepare and educate themselves, so there's a market for it [consulting]."

System of violence 

Molly Swain is a member of Free Lands Free Peoples, an Indigenous-led anti-colonial penal abolition group. The Edmonton-based group provides support for prisoners while advocating for the abolition of police and the penal system.

She said the nature of prison consulting highlights the violence that is prevalent in a broken system.

"This is a service that is definitely filling a void." Swain said about DeadEyes.NoLies Inc.

"We know the Prairies have incredibly high rates of incarceration, particularly of Indigenous people, but of marginalized people generally," Swain said.

Swain is concerned that prison counselling is only provided by private businesses, making it out of reach for people who cannot afford it.

"It does create a scenario in which it renders it more palatable for the violence of prison to be unaddressed on a systemic level."

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