Barry Jewell

Prison was the best thing that ever happened to Mr. Barry Jewell.

Mr. Jewell graduated in the same year as Mr. David Massery. Mr. Massery said, “I’ve known him [Mr. Jewell] since we met in the ninth grade. He was a very good student and quiet.”

Mr. Jewell said, “I moved around a lot. By the time I was in the ninth grade at Catholic, I had been to eight different schools, so I was very quiet and withdrawn.”

After he graduated from college, Mr. Jewell created pension plans as a tax attorney for 25 years. He had offices in Dallas and in Little Rock and represented people from all across the country. He said, “I represented a lot of doctors, lawyers, and other small business owners. I was well known and well respected in pension circles, but I always had more work than I could possibly do. I spent way too much time working and not enough time enjoying life. The pressure was incredible.”

The pressures of pension law ceased following Mr. Jewell’s conviction in September 2008. He said, “I was indicted on five charges related to one of my law partner’s actions, and the last charge related to something he did for one of my clients. This client was about to receive a large settlement from a lawsuit he’d filed against Comcast, and it was way too much to fund into a defined benefit plan. I didn’t do income tax planning or transaction work, so I handed the client over to my partner who specialized in that.

“After a crazy three-week trial, I was found innocent of the main charge against me, Count 1, where they tried to tie me to my partner’s theft of client money from his own client trust account that didn’t even occur until 18 months after our law firm split up. I was found guilty of Count 5, ‘causing tax evasion,’ a charge my lawyers thought was so stupid that we didn’t even put on a defense to it.

“It was a long battle. I spent every dime I had defending myself, so I lost all my money. I also lost my ability to practice law along with the respect and status that goes with that. I lost my business, and I lost my freedom.”

Mr. Massery said, “I was shocked because he seemed to be a model citizen. I knew he was not one to waste time, and I’m sure when he got in that he used his time wisely.”

The summer of 2009 marked the beginning of Mr. Jewell’s 30 month sentence, of which he would serve 21 months and one week at the Federal Prison Camp in Millington, Tennessee. He adjusted well despite his childhood fears of prison. He said, “But prison camp wasn’t that bad. The grounds of the prison camp looked like a college campus. After 10 days at camp, I wrote in my journal that the years of accumulated stress were pouring out of me like impurities, and that not a day goes by that I don’t experience a feeling of absolute bliss. I’m not recommending it, but I’m just saying the reality didn’t match up to the fear. Camp was nothing like I’d imagined it would be.”

Junior Ethan Bennett said, “After I heard the story about the place, it made a lot of sense. He wasn’t stressed out about providing for his family or work at the office. It made sense, but I was very surprised.”

The Millington camp introduced a whole new world. The culture, lifestyle, and people were all different. Mr. Jewell said, “We weren’t in cells at the camps; we had these dorms. The way they keep control of you is by counting. One guard will sit up at the front desk, and another guard every once in a while, if he wants to, will walk around the yard to make sure that guys aren’t smoking cigarettes or doing something that they weren’t supposed to.

“Their main job is to count, and it’s always at the same time because it’s a national deal—the Bureau of Prisons. They have to file these reports. They have to do a midnight count, and then by 12:35, or something, they have to fax these reports saying, ‘All right, we had 750 people just like we’re supposed to.’ They do the counts, and then they go back to the front desk. After the count was over, there were always guys who would get up and sneak out. There were places where they could run along behind the buildings and cut across the field, and somebody might pick them up out on the street. Wives or girlfriends could meet them and take them to the liquor store, Walmart, or wherever. Not everybody left, but a lot of guys did.

“In the wintertime, they give you a coat. They had these big, heavy, orange overcoats. They don’t care how big or little you are. They didn’t try to fit you; they’d just toss you one. Mine was this huge coat. It was perfect for smuggling [food] because I could stick stuff behind my back and stuff in my belt, and there’s no way they could see it. It worked out perfect.

“There was always a lot of joking and whatnot. There were these three guys. One was this Hispanic guy, and they called him Eat ’Em Up because he was so big. Then there was Big Billy, a big, fat, white dude. I can’t think of the last guy’s name, but he was a big, fat guy. They started debating over which one of them could beat the others in a race. They had a race between the three fat dudes, and people were betting on it. They bet 12-packs of Coke and stuff that they get from the commissary. It was a big deal. We had this race, and I think the Mexican dude won. If you can imagine a whole bunch of guys lined up cheering these three fat dudes having a race down the track, it was pretty funny.”

Although prison brought some entertaining moments, it still had its lows. Mr. Jewell said, “The worst part was being away from my family and missing out on the little things that you kind of try to avoid when you don’t think about it, like on the weekends with my wife and my youngest daughter when we would go up to Conway to my wife’s family to have lunch. I went on some Sundays, but most of the time I tried to get out of it. Just little things like that.”

Prison lent Mr. Jewell room to breathe. He said, “Basically, it was stress free. It was just a huge relief. It really gave me time to relax and figure out who I am and who I want to be. It turned out to be a positive experience for me.

“I think I’m a lot different. I was so stressed all the time that I had an edge to me. I like who I am now more than I liked who I was then. I heard the term ‘Live

in the present.’ That’s what I really had learned and still use today. I really try to be present and not worry about the future or agonize over the past.”

Mr. Massery said, “He made the best of a terrible situation. He continues to do all he can when we ask him to come and speak. I appreciate that he’s willing to share his story.”

Unfortunately, not everyone can appreciate this transformation. Mr. Jewell said, “It’s tough. I can’t be a volunteer at my daughter’s school. I just did an eight week training program to be in CERT, Community Emergency Response Teams, a federal program that was started after 9/11. At the end of it, we had to turn in the paperwork to get a background check. I wrote this two page letter to the fire chief saying, ‘Look, here’s the deal.’ Now, I’m waiting to see if I’m going to be able to be a member of CERT, and I probably won’t be.

“I’ve applied for permission to be what’s called an enrolled agent with the IRS where I can represent taxpayers in front of them without being a lawyer. They denied me. You have that felony, and everybody just slams the door in your face. It’s really pretty incredible. I haven’t seen much from a personal standpoint. People who know me or meet me aren’t critical of me, but it’s just the establishment. I even applied to be a volunteer for the Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas where I could help people. They said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ It would have been for free, and I had years and years of experience. It is tough.”

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