Don’t have regret over how you prepare for sentencing and federal prison

Below is the text from a radio interview I recently did.

Speaker 1: Federal prison and we hear stories a lot of people going to white collar prison. When you hear white collar prison, I remember Rick Overton, a great comedian, once called it rich guy prison. But I don’t think that’s what it’s like. So, I did a little research and was able to track down a guy who knows a lot about it. Justin Paperny, joins us on News Radio 11 in KFAB. Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin P.: Thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 1: I really appreciate your time today. I got to tell you, I think this is a brilliant thing you’re doing. White collar advice, is the website, where you’re actually helping people who’ve been convicted of white collar crimes, headed to, what people call, white collar prison, prepare for that experience. Can you just tell us a little bit of your own story, first?

Justin P.: I’d be happy to. I was a stockbroker for many years at Bear Stearns. Then UBS, after I graduated USC in ’97 as a student athlete. Despite a very successful career and book of business, hundreds of millions under management, I began making bad choices on behalf of a client who managed a hedge fund.

Justin P.: Essentially, I turned the other way when I learned that he was lying to his investors. An investigation began. He was sentenced to five years and at my sentencing, in February, 2007, I was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and the judge at my sentencing said, “You turned the other way for commissions. Most salesman don’t get caught. You did, and I’m punishing you.” Then I surrendered to prison.

Justin P.: Couple of months later, and while there, realized how many prisoners were unprepared for the journey. They did not like their lawyer. They worked poorly with their lawyer. They lied to the government. They put on weight. They smoked. They drank. Many were suicidal. And they had so much regret over how they prepared for sentencing in prison. So did I.

Justin P.: So, I sensed an opportunity in federal prison to help and I began documenting my journey, by way of a blog. Then I hand wrote my first book, Lessons From Prison. Upon my release in 2009, began disseminating the book to defendants and lawyers across the country, just giving it away, telling them, let them read the book. They’ll make better decisions than I did. And it’s 10 years in the making and we’ve had more than a thousand clients and really wonderful people, including people in this college, a cheating scandal case. We are representing, helping them get the best sentence and a productive prison term.

Speaker 1: Wow. First of all, really smart of you to do this and I think it’s a great thing because people really don’t know what feeral prison is like until they actually get there. I’ve watched some of your videos on YouTube and I’ve found them very eyeopening. Tell us about the experience, and what’s the difference between what they call, white collar prison, and just prison prison, for lack of a better term.

Justin P.: So, I filmed a video on my YouTube channel, White Collar Advice called, Is Federal Prison Camp, A Country Club? Because again and again, I hear that it’s one of these white collar prisons. One of my goals, before I drop dead, is to debunk this misperception that a minimum security camp is a white collar country club. More than 90% of the people in a camp or minimum security camp, are in for drug related crimes. Corruption. Only 10%, roughly, are white collar crimes. You’re still separated from your family. You’re still told when to sleep, when you can eat. I’m not eliciting sympathy here. I don’t need it, nor do my clients. I’m simply hoping to debunk this myth that it is a white collar club.

Justin P.: As I wrote in Lessons From Prison, I served time in prison with white supremacists, men who question the existence of the Holocaust. I saw men get hurt and lay on the basketball court and get terrible medical treatment, lay there for hours upon hours, before they would get rushed to a hospital. I’d see men get sent to segregation, or the whole, for six weeks if they smuggled an apple or hard boiled egg out of the chow hall.

Prepare for sentencing and federal prison

Justin P.: So it’s easy to say, because I think it’s good media, it’s good talking points. But it’s no white collar country club. It’s federal prison and as a federak prison consultant I convey the truth. It’s difficult and there are severe consequences if you behave poorly. And we help our clients, not just get through it, but make the most of the experience.

Justin P.: This might be off putting to some people, but I will say it, we have to find a twisted satisfaction in letting the US taxpayer, who is warehousing us, much of the time unnecessarily. We’ve got to find some satisfaction in letting them fund, whether it’s the rebirth of our life, our health, our mental capacity, our business. If we’re going to be there, we might as well make the most of it. And that’s what we help our clients do.

Speaker 1: We’re talking with Justin Paperny.

Speaker 1: Well, so what we’re talking about is what a lot of people referred to as, white collar prison. So, Felicity Huffman gets a two weeks sentence and my thoughts on it initially was, All right, if you’re going to give somebody two weeks, why give them anything at all? It doesn’t seem to me, like it really is anything that’s going to be that dramatic. You’ve been there. Could two weeks in a federal prison, for a person like Felicity Huffman, be that dramatic?

Justin P.: Without question, it can be traumatic. I’ve done a lot of media around this. People laugh and knock the 14 days. It’s still a long time. It can be traumatic in an environment that’s foreign to you. Without proper preparation, she won’t know how to act or respond. She will certainly be challenged, potentially by staff and by prisoners. I wrote earlier today, if I were her, I’d have asked after her sentencing, I’d have asked to be put into handcuffs and gone directly to a detention center in Boston for 14 days, in protective custody, just to get it over with. I think waiting 30 or 60 days to surrender to a federal prison, delays the inevitable and the healing that could have begun. But whether she’s in a detention center, which could be likely or a minimum security camp, yes, it’s an overwhelming experience.

Justin P.: You’re walking into a place where people have lived for decades. My mom taught me as a young boy, we learn from listening, not by talking. For her to succeed, she’s going to have to do a lot of listening, employ all of her diplomatic skills and if she can do that and avoid problems, this will be a little blip in her life and she’ll be able to move on. I suspect she’ll work again. I think she’s done a very good job of preparing and accepting responsibility and I count on her to succeed.

Speaker 1: So my view of this is, two weeks, big deal. It is a big deal.

Justin P.: It’s not so much the 14 days. It’s really 13 days, because she gets a credit the day she pled guilty. It’s the lifelong stain that accompanies a federal conviction. That’s the point. Whether it’s probation or 30 days, the consequences of a felony are lifelong. Banking, reputational, career, I could write a book about it. I have. So, it’s lifelong stigma.

Justin P.: That’s why, when even friends of mine, they text me, I was on Fox earlier today, they’re like, “Dude, 14 days.” It’s not the 14 days. It’s like I said, that scarlet letter F, the felony, that accompanies you for a lifetime. She’ll be on probation. There’s a lot for her to manage, and she wants to work again. So people think, Oh, there is no consequence for her. Nonsense. She’s not working. She’s embarrassed. She’s humiliated. She’s destroyed her reputation. She’s hurt her family. She’s suffered. And it’s a lifelong suffering. So I have to make that clear, when I hear people knock or laugh at the 14 days.

Speaker 1: Wow. So, describe what it was like for you, when you went in there, what it was like for you and how you recommend other people prepare. Because I know listening right now, there are people who could be on the verge of experiencing the same thing. Mainly the guy sitting right across from me, but that’s a whole different story. But, what were your experiences when you first got there and what did you realize quickly, that you wish you would’ve known, that you could have prepared for?

Justin P.: Well, I realized quickly, the federal prison wasn’t what we see sensationalized on TV. It wasn’t this monolithic institution like out of Shawshank redemption. That was a good thing. I realized that my greatest fear wouldn’t be violence. Anyone that tells someone they should fear violence in prison is lying to them or they’re trying to exploit them. The greatest value in many of these prisons, medium, lows, and camps, can be the inevitable boredom that exists in these prisons.

Justin P.: And many of these camps aren’t work camps, right? You can work in an hour or two a day, which for some men drives them crazy. So when I got there I realized, Hey look, if I learn what I’m supposed to do, there isn’t going to be any violence. Certainly there were some hiccups and pitfalls, mistakes I made, but all in all, I adjusted. I kept my mouth shut. I studied. I avoided staff. I avoided associating with prisoners that complained about the length of their sentence. One thing you don’t want to do is complain about your two year sentence for insider trading, when your bunkie serving 20 years for a mandatory minimum drug crime.

Justin P.: So, I did a lot of watching and listening and studying. Then I said, “I got to make sure this experience is productive.” And for me, as I filmed in a video I filmed last week, in front of a federal prison, some guys thought I was nuts and crazy. I woke at like 3:00 or 4:00 AM every morning. I went to bed at eight o’clock like I was an old man. But I wanted to create a routine, where I was avoiding as many people as possible. Because the drama, the gambling, the hustling happens in the evenings, in the TV room or out on the yard. And I had to avoid, just remove myself from that environment.

Justin P.: So by doing that, and waking early and working hard, when guys are going to hustle at 8:00 PM on the track, I’m in bed. So, I did a good job of creating an environment that kept me out of trouble. And for me, waking early at three or four in the morning, gave me time alone while the dorm was sleeping. I didn’t feel like I was in prison, sitting alone in a quiet room thinking about what the rest of my life would look like because of my felony conviction.

Justin P.: And that’s what I’d say to anyone who’s in trouble… Serve your time. Not to impress people. Don’t be concerned about what others think of you in prison. Serve your time under the idea that someday you’re going to be home and are you ready to overcome all the stigmas that accompany a felony conviction? I did that well, with the help of my partner Michael Santos, who’d been inside 22 years. And because of that, it’s the reason that I’ve been able to have success upon my release. It wasn’t by accident. I worked hard every day. Even when people said you’re fricking nuts, and I still get a lot of that now.

Speaker 1: Wow. Justin Paperny’s with us on the Chris Baker radio show. His website, I’m short on time here, but I have to ask you, I saw this on one of your YouTube videos and you mentioned it again, and that is avoiding staff. Why would you advise people to avoid staff?

Justin P.: So in society, if you have a problem, you go to the police, they fix it. Prison’s a totally different culture. If you’re speaking with staff and you’re lamenting about someone giving you a hard time in the chow hall or TV room. Staff that goes to have a talk with that member, to use some prison parlance that I hate, they say you’re a tattletale. Or worse, if you’re talking to the staff about Monday night football. Then 30 minutes later that guard is searching someone’s locker. Someone will surmise, probably incorrectly, Hey, wasn’t that white collar dude talking to that staff member? Now he’s searching the locker. He must’ve said something.

Justin P.: So, too many prisoners associate with staff. They suffer from this famous Stockholm syndrome where, they better associate with them holding them captive, rather than those with whom they’re in captivity. And I say, Why put yourself in that position? Don’t speak with the staff. Avoid them. It’s only problems. There are camp informants that are looking to cooperate with staff. So why put yourself in that situation? If they open the door for you, say thank you, but there is no reason to speak or form friendships with staff. They are incarcerating you, for goodness sake. They are not your friends or colleagues.

Speaker 1: Wow. Listen, if I go to jail, I’m calling you, okay. I have a million questions for you. I’d love to have you on the show again. I’m all at a time here, but the website’s fascinating, and Justin, I really congratulate you on turning, what had to be a devastating time in your life, into something that’s, first of all, so productive, but also, it’s very beneficial for people that are facing the same thing and I really do congratulate you for doing that.

Justin P.: I’m grateful that you’ve said that. I work with some of the greatest people, despite what people say about them, and it’s truly my privilege to help them and to have been on your show today. I hope to come back soon.

Speaker 1: Well, thank you very much Justin. We appreciate it and have a great day, sir.

Justin P.: You as well. Bye, bye.