Fifteen years ago today, I was getting ready to attend my going away to federal prison party. I was tipping the scales at a solid 210–exercise and discipline were two words that meant little to me. Two days later, on April 28, 2008, I surrendered to Taft Federal Prison Camp. I had yet to learn how beneficial the experience would be.

Why was it so beneficial? Well, I describe many reasons in our books and videos. The primary reason is that I spent time documenting the journey through my blog/release plan.

Over the years, our team has interacted with and interviewed people who built careers as:

  1. Leaders of US probation,
  2. The Federal Bureau of Prisons,
  3. US District Court Judges, and
  4. Prosecuting attorneys.

Each expert we interviewed expressed the importance of a release plan. They want to see a record that shows positive ongoing efforts for change: they want to see you are doing the work!

Documenting that journey can be a powerful tool for staying motivated and productive while inside.

Benefits of Documenting Your Journey Through Federal Prison with a Release Plan:

Clarity: A release plan provides a clear roadmap of what you need to do to prepare for your release, including your efforts to secure employment, housing and your efforts to grow your network.

Accountability: When you have a release plan, you are holding yourself accountable to your clearly defined goals and values. This can be incredibly motivating and can help you stay on track. Boredom tends to a problem in any minimum security camp. Without accountability logs, it is easy to drift and lose focus.

Progress: Your release plan allows you to see and show your progress over time, even if it’s small steps.

Programming: Your release plan should include First Step Act Programs (FSA) you are enrolled in and the benefits of each program. What did you learn from the FSA program? How is the program helping you prepare for life after prison?

Tips on Staying Motivated to Write Every Day:

Find a Routine: Establish a writing routine that works for you. In my case, I woke around 4 AM and went to the quiet room to write my daily blog. Then when I would leave the dorm to go to the chow hall at 6 AM, I would mail the blog home (when I was in federal prison, we did not yet have email). I LOVED knowing that by the time I went to eat, I had been productive and had already hit my writing goal for the day.

Set Goals: I set a goal that I would write a blog every day. Only write it if you are prepared to do it.

Be Honest: Be honest in your writing. Write about the challenges you’re facing and the progress you’re making. Never excuse or blame other people.

Share Your Work: Share your plan with potential business partners, family, and your probation officer. This can help them see the progress you’re making and can be a powerful motivator for you.

How Potential Business Partners, Family, and the Probation Officer Can Review the Release Plan

A release plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated regularly. Then share the plan with potential business partners, family, and your probation officer. This allows them to see the progress you’re making and to provide feedback and support as needed. It’s also a reminder that you’re actively working towards your release and taking steps to prepare for life after prison.

Closing Thoughts on Your Release Plan:

“Justin, what do I write? I have writer’s block.”


You are in prison. You are learning lessons. You are reading books to learn and formulate new content. As Ray Bradbury once said, “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”

Just do it! (By the way, I finished Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Great book. Make sure and add book reports to your release plan.)

Documenting your journey through a release plan can be a powerful tool for staying motivated and productive during your time in federal prison. If I did it, so can you!! Now, get started on your plan!