Herbert J. Hoelter

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Herbert J. Hoelter is an American criminal justice consultant and prison consultant. The Associated Press[1] and Boston Globe recognized him as a pioneer in the field of federal sentencing mitigation.[2] He is an expert in sentencing, creative alternatives to incarceration and the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). He is chairman and CEO of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA), a group he co-founded along with Dr. Jerome G. Miller in 1977.

Hoelter himself has never been incarcerated. He prefers "professional federal sentencing consultant", and describes his work as assisting with the "transition from freedom to incarceration."[3]

Early years[edit]

Hoelter completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo, earning a Bachelor of Arts. He then obtained a Masters of Social Work from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[4]

Career and NCIA[edit]

Beginning in 1977, Hoelter and the organization he co-founded,[5] NCIA, have worked with criminal defense lawyers in developing client-specific sentencing alternatives for defendants facing sentences in state and federal court. He led the NCIA's sentencing and parole services, which has prepared cases in all 50 states, 75 federal jurisdictions, and three countries. In total, more than 15,000 cases have been presented by the NCIA for consideration by sentencing courts and parole boards.[6]

Prior to sentencing, Hoelter and his colleagues at the NCIA present recommendations for alternative sentences and work on clients' behalf to secure appropriate prison placement, typically minimum security facilities where the risk of violence is low.[7] They also document the circumstances of a crime, and outline the redeeming qualities of the individual to contrast the prosecution's portrayal.[8] Once a sentence has been handed down, the organization works to help inmates assimilate into the culture of prison life from a practical and psychological standpoint.[7] Arrangements and conditions for family visitation, mail, commissary, telephone privileges, and items permitted inside are thoroughly explained.

Hoelter has also advocated for prison reform and creative alternatives to incarceration. He offers alternatives such as work release, community incarceration, drug rehabilitation centers, home detention, community service, and strict probation aided by GPS monitoring.[9] In June 1987 he testified before the United States Sentencing Commission on the issue of alternatives to incarceration, and again submitted testimony to the Sentencing Commission in July 2008 at a national conference on same issue.[10]


Hoelter focuses on white-collar defendants in federal cases, and has represented prior to and post sentencing Bernard L. Madoff,[3][7] Martha Stewart,[11] Michael Vick,[12] Michael Milken,[8] Leona Helmsley,[13] Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Mike Tyson, as well as politicians, foreign nationals, husband wife or family defendants, independent business people and Wall Street executives such as Ivan Boesky, Dennis B. Levine, and James McDermott. He is also a speaker, and provides testimony to government panels and professional and academic audiences on the criminal justice system and punishment alternatives that do not involve imprisonment.

He also provided consulting services for a number of Enron executives in the early 1990s.[8] Since 2000 he has worked with criminal defense attorneys Ira Sorkin[14] and Billy Martin (lawyer).[15]

Hoelter advised Bernard L. Madoff on medical care, before Madoff began a 150-year federal prison sentence for financial crime.[7] While acknowledging the havoc caused by Madoff's fraudulent activities, Hoelter described the sentence as "the crown jewel" for the federal government and one imposed for "symbolic purposes."[3]

In the majority of cases featuring well-known clients, Hoelter has managed to develop court-approved sentencing proposals which produced more lenient sentences featuring substantial amounts of community service and home confinement.[8] When clients receive more stringent prison terms, as was the case for Vick, Hoelter works to help the client resume life outside of prison, focusing on re-entry back into society.[7]

Sentencing database[edit]

To develop a better understanding of federal sentencing history, Hoelter and the NCIA in 2008 completed analysis of a computerized data collection maintained by The United States Sentencing Commission. The database is housed at the University of Michigan.[16] NCIA reviewed the data sets for fiscal years 1999-2009. The information generated by the NCIA's review is intended as a frame of reference for judges deciding fines and imprisonment terms.


  1. ^ "Prison consultants help inmates get good digs". http://NBC News/id/32184197/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/prison-consultants-help-inmates-get-good-digs/#.T34ops1CBht. 28 July 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  2. ^ Robertson, Tatsha (April 9, 2004). "Not-so-hard-time: Consultants help well-to-do avoid tough sentences". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 13, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Madoff's Prison Adviser Gives a Lesson in Criminal Justice". New York Daily News. August 2, 2009.
  4. ^ Mills, Keith. "Hoelter's Admirable Project Paying Off". PressBoxOnline.com. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Future Trends in the United States Federal Sentencing Scheme". American University International Law Review. 13 (4): 1069–1094. 1998.
  6. ^ "ncia". National Center on Institutions & Alternatives. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e Abrams, Jonathan (11 October 2009). "Consultants Are Providing High-Profile Inmates a Game Plan for Coping". New York Times.
  8. ^ a b c d Oldenburg, Dan (June 2, 2003). "Mr. Liberty: As More White-Collar Criminals Land in Jail, a Sentencing Consultant Finds Himself in Demand". Washington Post.
  9. ^ Hoelter, Herbert (October 2009). "Sentencing Alternatives - Back to the Future". Federal Sentencing Reporter. 22 (1): 53–58. doi:10.1525/fsr.2009.22.1.53.
  10. ^ "Proceedings from the Symposium on Alternatives to Incarceration". United States Sentencing Commission. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  11. ^ English, Simon (16 July 2004). "Martha Stewart turns to her latest status symbol, a trial guru". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  12. ^ Munson, Lester (7 March 2008). "Vick at Leavenworth but isn't in prison drug program". ESPN.com. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  13. ^ Zagorin, Adam (May 24, 1993). "Get Out of Jail, Not Quite Free". TIME.
  14. ^ Henry, Samantaha (July 28, 2009). "Madoff gets prison consultant to help get the best behind bars". Minneapolis Star Tribune.
  15. ^ "Commonwealth of Virginia v. Michael Vick" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Symposium on Alternatives to Incarceration" (PDF). U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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