Sixteen years ago today, I walked into federal prison to start my sentence. It's tough to admit, but I didn't grasp the full impact of what was happening until I was right there, going through the intake process and facing a crowd of strangers in the minimum security camp. It was a real wake-up call!

If you're about to go into federal prison, maybe my story from that day can help you prepare.

Early Lessons from My First Days In Federal Prison

Right after I got to federal prison, I realized how unprepared I was. I knew I had to immediately begin introspecting to understand why I ended up there, cut off from my family and watching my career slip away. That time alone made me think hard about what I had to do next. I found mentors, and they helped me see that I had to start something new—not just for me but to ensure I could repay my victims.

It took about ten years, but I managed to build a business that could support my family and pay back my victims.

I learned a big lesson in federal prison: focus on what you still have, not what you've lost. That helped me keep my head straight.

Gaining Perspective In Federal Prison

Inside, I saw guys who had it even tougher than me, guys without the chances I had before all this. Seeing their strength and how they dealt with their situations helped me see my own life differently. It reminded me that everyone has their own battles but getting through with dignity and purpose is what counts.

Taking the Lessons With You

Looking back at the day I walked into federal prison, I remember the emotions and the challenges, but also the start of a journey that taught me more than I could have expected.

Discussion Question: What are some clearly defined goals you have for your prison term?

Justin Paperny

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