"Field Days" interviews SADO mitigation specialist Pete Martel

Pete Martel, SADO mitigation specialist, was recently interviewed on “Field Days,” a Michigan Department of Corrections podcast hosted by Greg Staub and Chris Gautz. In the interview, Pete describes his incredible life journey from prison to paralegal to his current position with SADO.

After graduating high school, Pete’s goal was to be a gangster. In pursuit of this goal, Pete was involved in various crimes leading up to armed robbery, for which he was ultimately arrested and sentenced to prison. During his arrest, Pete was involved in a shoot-out in which, Pete says, “Thank God, nobody was hurt.” After being locked up at age 20, Pete unsuccessfully attempted to escape from prison. Consequently, Pete spent a lot of time in segregation (“the hole”). While in segregation, Pete reflected on how he had “screwed up” his life. He dedicated himself to making the best of the second chance he would get upon parole. Particularly, Pete determined to “get a shot” at college, so he began to “read and read and write and write.” In this process, he developed an interest in legal research and “disentangling” MDOC documents. He also came in contact with Paul Reingold and Kim Thomas of the University of Michigan Law School, who helped him in his legal efforts to get out of segregation.

Pete credits his turnaround to the strong support he received from his family and from Reingold and Thomas. He says, “I got tired of letting the people who believed in me down.” Support from prison staff and older prisoners also aided and guided Pete on his path forward. And, upon his release in 2008, he received support from his parole officers in Lapeer County, who allowed him the freedom to pursue his goals.

Pete’s legal studies in prison served him well on his release. While attending Mott Community College, Pete was able to, as he puts it, “weasel” his way into a part-time paralegal position at Michigan Law working on the Foster-Bey class action suit. This position developed out of the relationship Pete established with Paul Reingold while in prison; Reingold hired Pete and continues to be a “great mentor.” In 2010, Pete began working as a program associate with the American Friends Service Committee, advocating for persons in prison, training volunteers and interns in advocacy, and running parole readiness workshops. Again, Pete’s experience in the prison system, legal study, and grasp of MDOC documents helped him to obtain and succeed in the position at AFSC. His background is likewise invaluable in his current position as a mitigation specialist at SADO, which he began last summer, 2016, and where he works with the Juvenile Lifer Unit and other SADO clients. His experiences in prison “lit a fire” in Pete for the work he does, giving him both a passion for his work and credibility with his clients. As Pete says, “I know what they are going through.”

During the interview, Pete was asked for his most important advice to persons who are released from prison: “The best thing that people can do when they get out is to get into community college, whether it’s a 12-month certificate or a two-year degree. It gives you new training, relevant training, and maybe even work-study, which is probably the easiest way to get a job.” He also observes, “Family support is everything.”

Pete is seeing improvement in the prospects for persons released from prison: “From what I’ve noticed with the Department, in my time working at AFSC, and since I’ve been at SADO, it just seems like things are on a really good path improving and helping people out once they get out.”

Pete’s story is inspirational, and his work is impactful on behalf of current and former prisoners. And he is continuing to develop his ability to make an impact; Pete just took the Michigan Bar Examination in February 2017 and he is awaiting the results. Thanks for your strong work, Pete, and good luck on the bar exam.

Listen to the podcast of Pete’s interview here: https://soundcloud.com/field-days/pete-martel.