Blog Article 

 Preparing for Prison 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

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Mario Hernandez started preparing for prison early. His solid preparations led to a two-year sentence, rather than the lengthy sentence prosecutors requested.

When people struggle with court or sentencing, it’s good to get perspective. And it’s great to start preparing early.

When Mario first reached out to us, he described his defense attorney as being one of the tops in the city. But the attorney wasn’t very communicative about what Mario should expect. The unknown kept Mario awake at night. He didn’t know what steps to take when preparing for prison.

We discussed different options that may be available for him. Like any defendant, Mario could:

  1. Wait for his attorney to make all of the decisions,
  2. Learn more about the process,
  3. Figure out what steps he could take to influence the process,
  4. Put a plan of action in place to influence the process.

There were many other options. But we both recognized that the first option, sitting around and waiting, wasn’t going to stop his anxiety.

When we think about the best possible outcome, we’re more inclined to come up with a plan. When we come up with a plan, we’re better able to understand priorities—what we need to do first. And when we have a plan, we can complete one task at a time. 

When we pursue that path, we restore confidence. We stop waiting for authority figures with different agendas—like prosecutors, probation officers, and defense attorneys—to determine the outcome of our life, without any input of influence on our part.

To get the best outcome, Mario would need to take action. He would need to convey his remorse. He would need to show what he learned from the experience. Most importantly, Mario would need to show the steps he was taking to make things right. 

As a result of Mario’s action-oriented approach, a federal judge ignored the prosecutor’s request for 10 years. The judge sentenced Mario to two years in prison. And as a result of his preparations, he served 11 months. 

“the major reason the Judge showed leniency was that he saw me a human being, he got to know me and didn’t just see another case.” 

Does your Judge know you as a human being? 

Will your case manager in prison see why you are worthy of early release? 

Do you help yourself by being a person of action, or waiting around and hoping?

Recently, a private-equity professional contacted us because authorities indicted him. He wanted to build a comprehensive mitigation plan that would help him in the same way that a plan of action helped Mario. 

But the banker didn’t know how to start. 

Why should he? 

He was a financial professional, experienced with excel spreadsheets and creating value. He didn’t know what to expect from the judicial process. When he read allegations against him, he couldn’t come to terms with the way that prosecutors described him. From his perspective, prosecutors were acting in bad faith. 

Like most white-collar defendants, the private-equity banker had a different self-perception:

  • He saw himself as a father. 
  • He saw himself as a husband. 
  • He saw himself as a son. 
  • He saw himself as a taxpayer. 
  • He saw himself as a coach.
  • He saw himself as a good citizen

Prosecutors portrayed him as being a criminal, without any concern for his intentions or the nuances of the case. They wanted to frame a narrative to insinuate that his alleged offense defined his character and entire way of life. 

The banker didn’t know how to convey value he offers to society. He didn’t know what a best-in-class mitigation plan would look like. 

Anyone facing a challenge with the criminal justice system should architect a comprehensive mitigation strategy. The goal would be to differentiate him from the story that prosecutors present.

Our team believes that it’s never too early and it’s never too late to begin sowing seeds for a better outcome. Don’t squander days, weeks, and months that you could be using to prepare your mitigation strategy. Waiting to start a mitigation strategy is like waiting for a few days before a dental appointment to start flossing.

Mario Hernandez didn’t wait. He built a record that made his commitment to redemption self-evident. The judge responded with a two-year sentence. Not the ten-year sentence prosecutors requested.

  • Every defendant wants the shortest sentence in the most favorable prison. 
  • Every defendant wants the most halfway house time.
  • Every defendant wants a high level of liberty and early termination of probation. 
  • People want to rebuild, launch new careers, and restore their good reputation. 

But as Bobby Knight said:

“It’s one thing to want to win. It’s another thing to want to prepare to win.”

Mario succeeded because he prepared to succeed.

Are you going to prepare to succeed? 

Or are you going to wait?

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