As "Bling Ring" Hits Theaters, Prison Coach Talks Transformation

The cast of The Bling Ring. In real life, the teenage burglars needed a lot of help. They targeted the young, rich, and famous -- people like Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Partridge, and Paris Hilton -- breaking into their homes, some of them several times, and stealing millions of dollars worth of cash and jewelry.

Now their crimes are being played out on the big screen. Directed by Sofia Coppolla, "The Bling Ring" hit theaters on Friday. Of the seven youths involved in the burglary ring, only one -- Rachel Lee, who has been labeled as the ring leader -- has so far refused to talk about the film. But her prison coach is speaking out.

"If somebody is really trying to change their life and not looking for their 15 minutes of fame, what good does it do to talk right now?" Lee's prison coach, Wendy Feldman, told the LA Times. Lee was sentenced to four years in state prison for breaking into Partridge's home; she was released to a fire camp, where she and other inmates helped fight brush fires, after a little more than a year.

Feldman played a curious role in the aftermath of the trial. Unlike a lawyer whose job it is to try to keep his client out of jail, Feldman, a criminal justice consultant and custodial coach, is there to help her client adjust life on the inside.

"I worked with Rachel to prepare her prison and to help give her the proper guidance for entry into Fire Camp," Feldman wrote on her blog, Notes from an Insider. "I also helped her family and still keep in touch with them."

She calls what she does "incarcervention" -- helping people learn how to cope while in prison and, more important, how to navigate their return to society after their sentences. She also helps figure out alternatives to prison, in some cases, and offers guidance for the duration of the sentence. Her focus is on rehabilitation, not punishment.

"When you are facing prison, so are your family and friends," she explains on her website. "I separate fact from fiction and prepare you and your family for life inside and after."

Feldman says that she understands the fear and stress of prison because she's been there herself. A former financial adviser, she served time in a Federal Prison Camp and Halfway house from 2007 through 2008 for stealing more than $4 million from investors and falsifying account statements to cover it up, according to a 2006 news report.

"What started out as a way to save face cost me and my family almost everything," she told the Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz at the time. In the letter, she said that an addiction to prescription drugs and an abusive marriage drove her to steal money, which she used to pay off other investors who were earning far less than she had led them to believe.

But the experience has transformed her life -- and allows her to help others with their own journeys.

"If a person is trying to really change and improve their life after such a catastrophic event that should be respected," she wrote on her blog. "I often say that prison can be a transformative experience."

"There is no mystery to the bling ring kids and no reason to continue the saga unless people want to understand that poor choices happen and it’s what one does with those choices, the teams they put in place and the family support that makes the difference and what matters," she added. "The media speculation can continue, but the truth is that this was a series of crimes that  became bigger and bolder not because the players were such criminals, but because of the fascination with celebrity and most importantly the excitement of getting away with things."