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Criminal Justice

His legal career upended, lawyer feels new freedom in prison

Posted Dec 13, 2013 12:26 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Suspended lawyer Gerard Donley is earning considerably less money these days at his new home—a medium-security correctional facility in Cranston, R.I.

Donley, 55, makes $3 for six hours of work at his prison job reupholstering judges’ chairs and other state-owned furniture, the Providence Journal reports. He was sentenced in September to six years in prison in an alleged plot to bribe a stabbing victim not to testify against his assailant.

Prison rules and Donley's license suspension bar him from advising his fellow inmates. He told the Providence Journal he feels a tremendous freedom no longer doing criminal defense work. He recalled the constant stress as he left the house each day, prepared for battle. To defend accused criminals without feeling for the victims, he learned to turn off his emotions, he said.

“You don’t realize you’re not feeling until you begin to feel again,” he said.

The most difficult part of jail, he said, is not being there for his wife. The couple has been together since they were teens. “It’s been a great deal more punishing on her than it has been on me,” he told the newspaper in a video interview.

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