June 17, 2020

I’m writing this blog for defendants who are preparing for sentencing or prison.

This blog is not for white collar defendants who talk about preparing but do nothing. Those defendants, from my experience, tell others “I will get around to it in good time”. In the end, they never actually get around to it nor do they get the outcome they should.

Many defendants, of course, do want to prepare, but they feel so overwhelmed they have no idea where to start. If you are in that camp, this blog is for you!

During my lengthy interview with Dr. Phil, he asked me to explain why some defendants are more successful than others. My answer went something like this, “Some defendants take preparing more seriously than others. It is that simple. Every defendant is overwhelmed, confused. Those that invest the time to overcome feeling overwhelmed and confused have better outcomes.”

If you are overwhelmed and are unsure what to do next, your first step is to embrace how seriously you take preparing. Preparing is not a part time job. You do not only do it on days you feel like it. You must do it every single day.

Going through the system is a big and very serious deal. Let me address some of the collateral consequences of a white collar crime conviction:

1: loss of career
2: loss of reputation
3: loss of freedom
4: and more, much more.

Given what is at stake, you cannot just wing it or “get around to it in good time.”

You must commit to learning on a daily basis. You must identify your most pressing priority, then break it down in pieces.

Perhaps that priority is holding your lawyer accountable, working to find a new job, growing your network, managing your marriage. Maybe that goal is ensuring this experience does not become a life sentence. If you need help identifying that top priority, schedule a call here.

Each priority you identify must be taken seriously. If you take it seriously, you will remain committed to learning. After all, learning takes a serious commitment.

Too many defendants reach the other end of their prison term with little or nothing to show for it. Because they did not take things seriously they missed opportunities to learn.

Advice to White Collar Defendants – Reflect back on your last month:

  • What went well?
  • What went poorly?
  • What could you have done differently?

Without that level of introspection throughout your journey you will never know why things went good or bad. Instead, you will remain confused and feel overwhelmed. Then you will default to what I too frequently hear, “whatever, life as a felon is harder. I am set up to fail.”

Advice to White Collar Defendants Who Want to Prepare--But Can't Get Started

Advice to White Collar Defendants Who Want to Prepare–But Can’t Get Started

Too many defendants simply do not see the value in preparing. Not only did I not see the value in preparing before I went to federal prison, I was lazy. I missed calls with lawyers. I did not take the time to understand how and why I became a federal defendant.

Laziness is one option—just be prepared to own the consequences.

Introspection is key because it helps you make changes in the future. If something went poorly last week, you can pivot and improve this week. But that takes work, serious work. Without that level of attention, you will miss opportunities to grow and strengthen yourself. Worse, you will not have the outcome you should at sentencing and in prison.

As I see it, the defendant’s first priority should be education. That education may include listening to podcasts, watching videos, reading books or learning from those who succeeded through the system.

I truly believe making a commitment to education and learning is the first step to getting started—and you must take that commitment seriously. I beg you not to be lazy, as I was before I surrendered to federal prison.

If you take your preparations seriously, you will be prepared to seize opportunities as they come to you. You will be aware. Rather than complain about what you do not have, you will focus on the resources you do have.

Advice to White Collar Defendants: I think Michael Santos was so successful in prison because he took his work seriously. Additionally, he took consistent action every day—and he documented it. If he can do it, why can’t you?

Advice to White Collar Defendants Who Want to Prepare--But Can't Get Started

Advice to White Collar Defendants Who Want to Prepare–But Can’t Get Started

Serious defendants take action each day. They do not waste time or procrastinate. They do not put off to tomorrow what they can do today.

If you do not commit to starting today, it will never really happen. Sure, you will have some good days where you get some things done. But it will not be consistent. And you will only be consistent if you begin to take small, incremental steps—and you must take those steps seriously. If not, you will never really know what works and what does not work. You will leave your future to chance.

I know if you are reading this you want to do the work. I know you want the best outcome–but never forget wanting is different than doing. If you are overwhelmed and not sure where to start, do this: commit to learning one thing each day and take action. And make sure you take those actions seriously, just as athletes and CEOs take their work seriously. You are no different.

Justin Paperny