BY PETER E. BORTNER
POTTSVILLE — Former District Attorney Claude A.L. Shields has written a book that many people might see as unusual for someone who spent a good part of his career putting people behind bars.
“It actually was relatively simple,” Shields, of Pottsville, said Thursday of writing “50 Ways to Stay Out of Jail,” his first literary effort. “The book is semi-humorous.”
Shields said his primary audience are grandparents of youths around 17 years old who do not listen anyone.
“When you cut through everything else, there’s a lot of good advice.” he said. “I hope it does some good. It will perhaps guide them in a direction that they’re … not coming to the attention of the law.”
Shields believes the “knuckleheads,” whom he believes constitute about 80% of criminals, could profit from some advice.
“They do stupid or foolish things for stupid or foolish reasons,” he wrote. “This book is for them or their relatives or friends. Most of the knuckleheads, by 30 years of age, either wise up or are dead or in prison.”
About 15% of criminals have some sort of mental illness, and Shields believes the book can help them if their families see it.
Then, he said, there are the others, the “truly bad guys,” roughly 5% of criminals.
“They are no good, they will never be any good and the best thing we can do is lock them up as long as possible,” Shields wrote. “This book is not for them.”
A graduate of Dickinson College, Carlisle, and Villanova University School of Law, Shields served four four-year terms as district attorney, the first Democrat elected to the position in more than 100 years.
He later served as chief of staff/general counsel to Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll and then as director of the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation of the Pennsylvania Department of State. He also spent time as a private lawyer and then as an assistant district attorney to current District Attorney Michael A. O’Pake before retiring from the law and doing some real estate investing.
He uses about equal parts humor, knowledge and wisdom to convey his message.
Defendants should talk only to their lawyers and St. Fu, Shields said. However, he said St. Fu has no religious connotations, but stands for shut the f— up, a piece of advice he said every person accused of a crime should take.
The book is easily readable, since it has 155 pages and is divided into 50 chapters, according to Shields.
“They’re all about three pages long,” he said of the chapters.
One of his favorites is Chapter 4, “Never Carry a Gun Unless You Are Bear Hunting.” He said the only three times he carried a gun were when someone was actively trying to kill him.
Eventually, he said, the problem solved itself — each of the three men died.
Many of the chapters’ names by themselves convey a message Shields wants people to hear so they do not get into trouble.
- “You Don’t Have to Win a Bar Fight, Just Don’t Lose It”
- “Listen to Your Lawyer”
- “Texts Are Forever”
- “You Won’t Get Away with Being the Getaway Driver”
- “Just Because You Are Paranoid Does Not Mean They Are Not Out to Get You”
- “Drugs Make You Stupid, Don’t be Stupid”
Getting older also is a way of not succumbing to the temptations of going the wrong way in life, Shields said.
“Turning 30 is one way of staying out of jail,” he said.
Shields has a book-signing event scheduled for noon April 10 at the Schuylkill County Historical Society, 305 N. Centre St., Pottsville.
For anyone who cannot make that event, Shields said the book costs $12.95 on Amazon Book. It also is available for $8.95 on Kindle, or free if you are a member of its monthly plan.
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