• Prison Orientation Clinic: Counseling for those Entering Prison

    Prison Orientation Clinic: Counseling for those Entering Prison

Going to Prison | Forget What You THINK You Know

For any individual entering TDCJ there is understandably a great deal of trepidation.  There are certainly dangers behind the prison walls that warrant a level of anxiety; however, fear of the unknown likely contributes as much as misinformation to the apprehension experienced by one about to enter prison.  Unfortunately, Society’s perception of prison is largely based upon what they have seen in the media.  TV and movies sensationalize the prison experience by focusing on the most frightening and even gruesome aspects of prison life.  Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of those entering TDCJ will not experience events similar to those depicted on the silver screen.  As is true with most things in life, those who prepare themselves for the challenges they face have the best chance at successfully overcoming those challenges.  Mr. O’Neil’s Orientation Clinic is designed to prepare those about to enter TDCJ with the information they need to meet the challenges they will face in prison. 

Orientation Clinic | What's Involved

The clinic is conducted by Mr. O’Neil, who worked for TDCJ for 5 years before he entered private practice where he focused on parole and prison related matters.  Michelle Belanger, also participates in the clinic; bringing her 12 years of experience as a TDCJ employee and 20 years of experience as a legal assistant working almost exclusively on parole and prison related matters.  In most Orientation Clinics Mr. O’Neil will also involve a former client who has been through the TDCJ and parole experience.  The clinic is designed to include not only the prospective inmate client, but also 2-4 close family members who will be intimately involved in the prison experience their loved one is about to undergo. 

When To Do The Orientation

The best time for participation in the Orientation Clinic is prior to conviction, assuming the client is out on bond pending sentencing, or if they are on bond awaiting disposition of a case where a sentence to TDCJ is anticipated.  In those cases, the client and the family members participate in the clinic together; either at Mr. O’Neil’s Office or at a location near the client.  In those cases where the client is already in jail awaiting sentencing or transport to TDCJ, the clinic will be conducted in two sessions: one for the client at the jail and one for the family members.  The clinic lasts anywhere from 4- 8 hours, depending on the number of questions and whether two sessions are required. 

The article, Going to Prison in Texas, provides the basic road map for the clinic, although much more detail is provided in the clinic.  A good deal of the clinic is also spent answering specific questions based upon each individual’s issues and concerns.