Concerns in Federal Prison

I spent the afternoon yesterday with my friend and client, Jonathan Schwartz. In the coming weeks, I am going to talk more about Jon’s story and his plans moving forward. For now, I wanted to share a part of the conversation I had with Jon.

As Jonathan prepares to surrender to federal prison he naturally has questions, a lot of questions. Makes sense…he is leaving the business world behind for a little while and he wants to make sure he masters life on the inside. Further, given his huge goals, it is imperative he avoids any trouble in federal prison. Additionally, beyond just avoid troubling he must learn to tune out or ignore any issues that are of no concern to him. I will explain…

Jonathan became one of the most successful business managers in the world because he learned to identify what is a priority and what is not. For him to have a productive federal prison term, I told him, he will have to do the same thing. Successful federal prisoners must disregard or ignore everything that is of no concern to them, or does not get them closer to the goals they wish to pursue up on their release. 

Concerns in Federal Prison

Concerns in Federal Prison

Jonathan overcame long odds in life to reach his level of success. Now, as a result of his bad decisions, which he totally owns, he will have another battle in front of him. The odds again are long. Regardless of his efforts, others, like Alanis Morissette, will discount his efforts to atone and seek penance. As I know so well, others will simply judge him for his bad past mistakes and deem him worthless and a duplicitous liar.

As I wrote in Lessons From Prison, the true consequence for a white collar defendant is not the federal prison term, but the life long stigma that accompanies the conviction.

Since surrendering to federal prison, for example, I have worked hard to create a new record. Yes, I am biased, but I think the record proves I am on track. I have lectured at The FBI Academy to train new agents; I have been a corporate speaker to some of America’s finest businesses; even before I was sentenced, I worked aggressively to pay down my court ordered restitution; and I have prepared hundreds of defendants and their families for prison. Still, it does not change the stigma that comes when someone learns I have been to prison. I should have given more thought to these consequences before I broke the law, I know.

“I cannot control what people think about me. All I can continue to do now is make better decisions moving forward and show with my deeds, not my words, how remorseful I am and how I will spend the rest of my life making amends,” Jon told me. I could not have said it any better…

For Jon to demonstrate his remorse and create a new track record that will make his victims whole and his family proud, he will have to avoid the nonsense that takes place in all federal prisoners. He must avoid the useless conversations, table games, and getting involved in the problems of other prisoners. Offering unsolicited advice, I told him, even with the right intentions can end horribly in federal prison.

I succeeded in federal prison because I determined early on what was a priority and what was not.

Jon, or any soon to be federal prisoner, must follow my lead. It should be of no concern to you what other people are doing. Further, their impressions or perceptions of you should also mean very little. Mind your business, lay low and stay obsessed over your goals. Why spend time in useless conversation or concerning yourself with what others are doing when you can be in the prison library writing the story of your life? 

Too many federal prisoners, I told Jon, especially the new ones, try to impress people with facts about their old life. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it is not. They talk about the money they made, the big deals they did, the big homes and cars they had. It’s a waste of time.

I am helping Jon identify his priorities. Those priorities will not include seeking approval or affirmation from others. He will ignore anything that does not get him closer to his clearly defined goals. If he is not extremely focused on ignoring what is of no concern to him, I told him, he will neglect the things that are most important to him: namely his family and making his victims whole.

The road ahead is long for any white collar defendant. I speak from experience. But with the right plan and program, success (big success) is possible. Jon has overcome before. He will do it again. Count on him to succeed. It is my privilege to help him.


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