by Monte McCoin
Peter Borenstein graduated from law school in 2014 with a burning passion for criminal justice reform ignited by his 20-year pen-pal relationship with a federal prisoner who had been a client of his father’s. He began volunteering at Francisco Homes, a halfway house, as a legal consultant to former prisoners who needed help with housing and employment issues, public assistance benefits or expunging their criminal records.
After a few months of working at the facility, Borenstein discovered a common theme among his clients: while they were imprisoned, someone they trusted had defrauded them by taking their money or property.
Following an initial success in the 2016 case of ex-prisoner Rodney Ficklin, who successfully sued his brother, Eddie, for transferring real estate out of Rodney’s name while he was incarcerated, Borenstein quickly carved a niche for himself representing people who were defrauded in a similar manner. He is now considered “the guy prisoners call when they’re betrayed from the outside.”
Borenstein said in a January 28, 2018 collaborative interview with The Marshall Project and Vice.com, “You still have property rights in prison. You’re paying your debt to society with your liberty.” He added that long-term prisoners tend to be especially vulnerable to fraud and theft by people who believe the assets of a person who might die in prison won’t be missed. Borenstein also said family members, business associates or others in a position of trust are the most likely perpetrators of such schemes.
Borenstein plans to expand his outreach by teaching newly-incarcerated prisoners how to avoid becoming fraud victims by managing their finances from the outset of their sentences, such as setting up bank accounts or trusts. One can only hope that other attorneys will follow his lead to help protect prisoners from fraud and theft while serving their time.
Sources: www.themarshallproject.org, www.vice.com
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