Fifteen years ago, on April 28, 2008, I surrendered to federal prison to begin serving my 18-month sentence. Fear, uncertainty, and shame consumed me. At the time, I didn’t know my prison experience would be one of the most transformative of my life, leading to personal growth and a newfound appreciation for freedom, family, and health.

In this video, I share 11 ways my life has changed after going to federal prison. For clarity, I learned many lessons–these are some that come to my mind this morning as I reflect.

11 Ways I Live Differently Because I Went To Federal Prison:

  1. Reflecting on what I lost versus what remains in my life.
  2. Developing a respect for money and understanding the actual cost of earning it.
  3. Gratitude for the struggles and challenges I faced.
  4. Appreciation for my parents and the support they provided.
  5. Embracing my felon status and using it as motivation to succeed.
  6. Making a daily commitment to reading or listening to a book and finding ways to implement that knowledge.
  7. Cutting back on television by 90% and using that time for more productive activities.
  8. Committing to exercise, regardless of circumstances.
  9. Avoiding the temptation to use food as a way to cope with stress.
  10. Always be mindful that the FBI could listen to what I say and do.
  11. Taking a stand on my beliefs and not being afraid to speak up.

I am grateful for the lessons I learned. I am also thankful to all of you who choose to learn more about our prison system and how people can succeed despite some difficult circumstances.

Thank you,
Justin Paperny