Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Real 'Get Hard:' Real-Life Consultant Shares Misconceptions about Jail Time

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Real 'Get Hard:' Real-Life Consultant Shares Misconceptions about Jail Time

Article excerpt

The real 'Get Hard:' Ottawa consultant on prison prep

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TORONTO - Lee Steven Chapelle had heard of "Get Hard," a new flick about a white-collar criminal prepping for a prison sentence, but was surprised to learn it was a comedy.

In the movie, opening Friday, Will Ferrell plays a desperate millionaire who seeks expert advice on how to survive behind bars.

Chapelle is a real-life prison consultant, based in Ottawa, who works with the soon-to-be incarcerated and their families to ensure their time in jail is as safe, productive and brief as possible.

He has spent roughly 21 years total in prison. He was first convicted at 16 and would eventually end up in a dizzying number of minimum, medium and even maximum-security facilities.

Now, Chapelle is an author and active advocate for inmates' rights. He says he only takes on clients he believes are sincere in their desire for rehabilitation.

"That's probably counter-productive to running a business," he says, "but that's my feeling."

Chapelle spoke with The Canadian Press about some of the most common misconceptions about life in prison and how to adapt:

1. PICKING FIGHTS

Collective wisdom seems to suggest that freshly incarcerated individuals should testify to their tenacity by attacking someone, anyone, right away.

"If you're a person who's built to be able to do that, great," says a chuckling Chapelle.

But such aggressiveness will only make it harder for inmates to campaign for parole later.

Instead, he recommends that those new to prison mind their own business and find other ways to prove their "savvy and experience."

"The reality is, whatever they're going to do to you, they're going to do," he says.

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2. SHOWER HORROR

Chapelle confirms that rape can be a chilling reality of prison, but he argues that it doesn't occur the way most people think.

"I advise people not to accept favours because that's potentially the opening that leads down that road," he explains.

"It's not so much a violent gang approaching you in the shower -- that doesn't fly.

"It's more about ... 'You don't have anything, let me help you,' and the next thing you know you're being manipulated. …

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