I Received A Letter In Federal Prison


I received a letter during a mail call that changed my life in federal prison in January 2009. Like many prisoners, I was striving to find meaning through the journey. I immersed myself in reading, writing, and trying to prepare for a successful life after federal prison.

One question, however, continued to haunt me: what would I do upon release, facing restitution and a world in recession? I often shared these concerns with my friend (and now business partner), Michael Santos. As expressed in Lessons From Prison, he encouraged me to examine my environment, learn how others became immersed in this system, and to create a plan based on all I was learning.

Michael also urged me to document my experiences. Despite initial hesitation (I waited several months), I eventually embraced the idea and we began writing a daily blog about life in a minimum-security camp. I also began writing business schools, including DePaul University, to offer insights into ethics and white-collar crime. Despite receiving no responses for months, I continued writing letters.

In January 2009, I finally received a response from DePaul University expressing interest in my blog. They were reading my letters! They even invited me to participate in a documentary on white-collar crime. This opportunity changed my federal prison term and shifted the focus of my writing towards ethics, not just sentencing and federal prison.

Reflecting on my journey, I realize the power of memorializing and documenting our journeys. By documenting our experiences, we gain clarity and insights–by starting, we also learn when to pivot. 

Discussion Question:

If you know documenting and memorializing your growth will help at each stage of the journey, why haven’t you started?

Justin Paperny 

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